There's something oh so sweet about early fall-a time of
year most people overlook. Summer break comes to a close and school begins
again. Weekdays present some of the most serene sights with almost no boats on
the water, and seriously, just loads of fish still chewing hard. Along with
some absolutely fantastic fishing has come the realization that our snook
populations took a nasty hit by Mother Nature. These poor fish are showing up
in a few places, and though they aren't completely wiped out, they are still on
life support. Hopefully Mother Nature will give them a break this winter-they
could certainly use one!
INSHORE fishing for snook is optimal during the low-light
hours of the early morning or evening, but especially at night on the full
moon. With the strong freshwater releases out of Lake Okeechobee, make sure you
continue looking for them on the beaches and on the barrier islands until some
cooler weather barges in.
The flats fishing is going to start getting really exciting
with our redfish. Early fall is when our copper-clad crab-crunchers bunch up
and do there thang! Beautiful balls of schooling redfish can be found on the
bars of Pine Island Sound. Approaching these fish quietly and feeding them with
a long cast will help you get multiple hookups before the school spooks. A
super-fun technique we love to use on these fish when they are really schooled
up is to take a Zarra Spook with no hooks and use it to tease up the fish.
Once you get the hot feed going, whip a streamer fly right in there behind it.
Eight-weight fly rods with a floating line and a tan and white deceiver will do
Another awesome fish that is still going to be around for
several more months is the silver king. These tarpon have stayed in our bays
and rivers in huge numbers for an unusually long time and we predict we will be
releasing tarpon until late November this year. They've been blasting
free-lined finger mullet while we're drifting around the passes on the outgoing
OFFSHORE fishing for cobia and big mangrove snapper are
what's for dinner this fall. We have some sweet spots that are really popular
with the pelagics. Dropping a hand-sized pinfish on a 2-ounce egg sinker down
to your favorite nearshore wreck will no doubt get you bit and doubled over the
gunwale in no time! Some of these fish are real jumbos, so fish for them with
at least 50-pound PowerPro on a heavy-action rod. They aren't usually known to
run to the wreck for safety, but a big fish has a tendency to go deep and do big
circles, which means he has a good chance of finding that rigging line on that
shrimp boat down there.
On these same wrecks, oversized mangrove snapper to eight
pounds can be caught if you're sneaky enough. Fish for them on 20-pound
PowerPro with an 8-foot, 25-pound fluorocarbon leader and a small shiner on a
#2 hook. Drift it back through the chum line with maybe a few split shots, and
tide willing, you will knock them out.
Now that the kids are in school and we are only a few months
away from a brutal winter, come look us up for some great fishing and good
times with tight lines!
Captains Chris and Lacey Rush
September and October are two great months to fish the
Everglades National Park. Daytime air temperatures will average around 91 in
September, and 87 in October. Water temps will hover around 86 in
September, and 81 in October. Typical to our summer months, September
heats up by midday and the bite will drop off. We should still get some
storms early in the day, which will cool things off a little and produce an
early-evening bite. October shows a much-welcomed cooling trend, which
will help prolong the bite throughout the day.
We are seeing some fantastic schools of large live bait pour
into the area. The influx of bait is nature's way of telling the fish it's time
to fatten up, because believe it or not, fall is on its way.
If live bait is your thing, the large thread herring and
pilchards are here and they are following the tides. They will be close to the
shorelines at high tide, and will be out just a little deeper during the low
tides. Follow the tide line looking for the birds and you will be rewarded with
the best bait around. If you cannot get on the bait in a reasonable amount
of time, look for some nice 4- to 6-inch finger mullet near shore for some
fantastic snook candy.
Snook are around and in good numbers. The big mommas
are feeding on a strong, out-going tide around the outside barrier
islands. They will begin their move to the inside this time of year, and
can also be targeted around the "close in" back waters, before heading way back
in the late fall. Try those live baits for your best numbers. Artificials
are always fun and Gulp! Shrimp, DOA Baitbusters, and a good topwater plug will
The trout are around the shallow grass flats in good
numbers. The key to catching them is to hit your favorite spots during the last
hour or two of the incoming tide. Most of your bites will happen in the 3- to
5-foot depth range. They will hit artificial baits just as well, if not better,
than some live baits. I prefer a 3/8-ounce buck tail jig that has a little
flash in the hair. If you have some shrimp, put a tiny piece on the jig hook
and the smell will drive the trout insane.
Fall is one of our best seasons for consistent reds. It's
hard to beat the sight of tailing reds in the calm waters around an oyster bar!
I prefer to fish for them with live pilchards or thread herring, either
naturally on a circle hook, or under a popping cork. Live shrimp work
well under a popping cork, too. Of course, many artificials are equally
good. I really like a Gulp! new penny shrimp on a 3/8-inch red jig head, or a
gold Johnson Spoon.
Tarpon are still around, more so in September than October,
although not in as many numbers as early summer. The big gals will be out
feeding on the outside bays and flats early in the morning and again late in
the afternoon. Naturally, they are looking for ladyfish, thread herring and
pilchards. My choice is to live line one of these delicacies out to them on a
nice stout spinning rod. If you can sight fish the tarpon, artificials
will also work well. I like a large soft plastic bait like a DOA. Juvenile
tarpon can be targeted in the back rivers and will generally take a shallow
running C.A.L. jerk bait.
Other fun targets are around feeding on all of the live bait
in the area. For some drag-screaming action, you can usually get into some
nice schools of mackerel, bluefish, large jacks, and ladyfish. If you aren't
sure what to use, see Mike at Tall Tales Bait and Tackle in Naples and he will
hook you up with what you need.
Tight Lines, and remember to make someone giggle today!
Capt Pete Rapps
September and October bring the start of
fall. This means cooler weather, shorter days, and great fishing! September is
still a very hot month, but it is the turning point for many species as they
head into their fall patterns. This is truly one of my favorite times to fish.
Snook are one fish that I normally start
targeting in September as they are just getting done with their spawn and start
their journey from the beaches and spoil islands to the backcountry and flats.
All that has changed due to the cold weather snook kill. Yes, we still have
plenty of healthy snook, but the population has been hurt. I have targeted them
less this year and tried to let them be so we can have a good stock for the
years to come. I must stress that if you do catch these great linesiders, make
sure you only have them out of the water for a minimal length of time, and that
you handle them with care to ensure they will live to see another day.
One of my favorite species this month,
which was not hit by this year's record cold temperatures, is the redfish.
September and October are the prime months to catch big trophy reds. They are
schooled up on the flats by the hundreds in search of just about any food you
throw at them. In most cases, a trolling motor is a must for a stealthy
approach. Good places to start looking for fish are at oyster bars, points,
potholes, or good mangrove lines. Always try different techniques and bait.
Fish are a lot like us because they don't eat the same thing every day. They
like to eat a variety of foods, so make sure you try throwing more than just
My preferred tackle for redfish is a Daiwa
Tierra 2500 spooled up with 10-pound Fins Windtamer braided line. Match this
with an eight-foot Daiwa Coastal spinning rod for longer casts, and a 25-pound
fluorocarbon leader with a 1/0 Daiichi Bleeding circle hook and you'll have the
right tools for the job!
Going into the latter part of October is a
great time to start sharpening your artificial skills for trout fishing. Once
we see a few cold fronts and the water temperature starts to hit that mid
70-degree mark, the trout fishing in Tampa Bay really starts to go insane.
Trout fishing is some of the best fishing there is. They are easier to catch,
limits are laxed, and they love to eat artificial bait. If you're a novice with
artificials then this is a great fish to start with. Two of my favorite baits
to throw are DOA Shrimp and DOA TerrorEyz. DOA CAL is another great one.
When looking for good spots, just find a
healthy grass flat and good tidal movement. I also like to target potholes.
Remember, trout are very slimy and this slime is critical in protecting the
fish, so try not to handle the fish you intend to release. A de-hooker makes
this really easy to do and you should get one if you don't already have one.
So, whatever you decide to fish for this time of year, I believe you will have
a tight line and a bent pole.
Capt. Jason Prieto
This edition of GAFF brings world-class inshore fishing opportunities to
the Charlotte Harbor estuary. You will find a multitude of species throughout
this fishery that should be eager to take your bait of choice. Angling with
artificials will be at its peak, with extended mornings highlighted by topwater
explosions from tempted redfish and snook. Trout fishing will excel as well, as
will fishing for large jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, and plenty of others.
For those who prefer using live bait, expect banner days on the open water
flats and along mangrove shorelines.
primary fall species to target are snook and redfish. Keep in mind that we did
lose some snook over the winter and it is a good idea to have a quick
photo-and-release plan in place when you catch them. What I'm doing on my
charters to facilitate this is smashing the barbs on my Bomber Saltwater Grade
Badonk-A-Donk topwater lures, which enables a quick release without harming the
Good news: we discovered this summer-through daily
observation and counting-that our snook population did not incur the fatality
rate other localities did. It is yet to be determined if snook harvest season
will open this fall, but we should get the FWC determination on the
closure/opening very soon. I, for one, am fine with keeping the fall harvest
season closed (which will be a year) to allow the species to fully recover and
regain it prominence in our fishery.
will begin their fall push during this issue of GAFF. It is not uncommon to
find an abundance of schooling redfish throughout the Charlotte Harbor estuary
on any given day. Keep your eyes open for what looks like a "mullet school on
steroids" because it's likely to be redfish. Cut ladyfish chunks are hard to
beat, especially when tossed under a lively, green mangrove tree with plenty of
cooler water moving underneath. Remember to use a circle hook when fishing cut
baits. This prevents unnecessary gut hooking and increases your hook-up ratio.
My grandfather taught me as a boy that the best angler on
the boat is the rod holder, and this is a perfect opportunity to use it. Soak
your 1-inch cut ladyfish chunks and watch for your line to begin to walk away.
This is the sure sign of a redfish chewing your bait as it unknowingly hooks
itself on the circle hook. Another trick I like to use is trimming the tail off
of live pinfish to slow them down when I use them for bait. Redfish are less
likely to chase baits when it's hot and a tasty, slow-moving pinfish is the
perfect bait to entice a strike.
species are well into their schooling migrational patterns. Keep your eyes open
when running close to crab pot buoys for my fall favorite: the elusive
tripletail. If you're fortunate enough to enjoy fresh tripletail for dinner,
you will find it delightfully light, yet flavorful. FISH ON, FISH ON!Capt. Chris O'Neill
you're looking for the best in fall fishing, give me a call. I specialize in
family-friendly, world-class fishing adventures. The next three months offer
some of the best artificial and topwater inshore fishing action available on
the planet. Schools of hungry redfish and snook are waiting anxiously to eat
your bait as they forage in preparation for their wintertime migrations.