September and October are two great months to fish the Everglades National Park. In September, daytime air temperatures will average around 91 with water temps hovering around 86. In October, daytime air temperatures will average around 87 with water temperatures around 81. Typical to our summer months, your best opportunities will be early in the morning until the sun really heats things up. I, for sure, will be wearing my signature Coolibar hat to shade the hot sun! By lunch time the bite will drop off drastically. We still get early day storms, which will cool things off a little and produce a late-afternoon/early-evening bite. October will bring 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 that 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 big 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. Look for them around the Indian Key and Picnic Key areas. In a lower tide, go off shore just a little to find the tide line. Look 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 in good numbers. The big mommas are feeding on a good-moving, out-going tide around the outside barrier islands. They will begin their annual 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 produce. Snook season will open again, but remember how many fish were killed in the big freeze last winter. I personally saw entire bays of dead, belly-up snook in January. We hope everyone will be releasing even the slot-size snook to help build up our stock over the next few seasons. There are plenty of other good-eating fish out there!
The trout are around the shallow grass flats in good numbers. The key to catching them is to hit your favorite spots 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 bait. I prefer a 3/8-ounce bucktail jig that has a little flash in the hair. If you have some shrimp, put a real small piece on the jig hook and the smell will drive the trout insane. Also, try a popping cork with a live shrimp or a DOA shrimp, or in calm waters, nothing beats the explosion of a topwater strike.
The fall is one of our best times of year for consistent reds. To some, there is no better sight than a school of tailing reds on 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 as good. I really like a Gulp new penny shrimp on a 3/8-inch red jig head, or a gold Johnson spoon. Shark are around the shallow flats and river mouths in big numbers. We are catching a good amount of bull, black tip, lemon, nurse, bonnethead, sharpnose, and spinner sharks. Any cut bait or larger live bait will work great. I especially like to use mullet or ladyfish. Hook your bait up to an 8/0 circle hook, tied to about 4 to 6 feet of 80-pound wire leader, let your line out and hang on. When they are around, it won’t be long until you have a customer! 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, larger jacks, and ladyfish on jigs or live bait.
Hailing out of Chokoloskee Island Park Marina, Chokoloskee, FL, Capt. Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from men, women, and children of all ages, experienced or not, or those with special needs. Pete is extremely patient and loves to teach. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See his online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first-class website at www.CaptainRapps.comContact Info: Capt. Pete RappsBackwater Fishing Charters(p) 239 571-1756(w) captainrapps.com(e) firstname.lastname@example.org