Fall has long been regarded as grouper season by anglers who know the big fish follow that cooling water inshore. But, this year the regulations are complicated by a Gulf-wide closure of gag grouper beginning November 1. Other species, such as the black and red grouper featured on the cover, remain available and subject to bag and size limits through January 2013. In this issue, we straighten out the regulations and offer some good tips on catching all kinds of groupers on lipped trolling plugs, “Grouper on the Go.” For a great mixed-bag fishery, where groupers live side-by-side with cobia, seatrout and snapper, check out “Florida Bay Days” and learn about the fantastic fishing on the leeward side of the Florida Keys.
There’s something familiar about these two inshore fishing hotspots, one on the lower Gulf Coast, the other on the upper Atlantic. The names Matlacha and Matanzas not only sound and look alike, but refer to wild, Old Florida destinations perfectly suited for adventurous anglers. Backwater redfish, big seatrout and even flounder are biting here; find out where to launch, where to fish, where to stay, and even some interesting history. For the diehard snook-fisherman who doesn’t mind a little catch-and-release, we have an Inshore Seminar on jig tactics for Gulf Coast canals.
While you’re pulling plugs for last-of-the-year grouper, don’t forget to put out a spoon or two for migratory Spanish mackerel, kingfish and wahoo. In the Offshore Seminar, we discuss why these lures are so effective for so many species, and give some proven strategies for rigging and deploying them in all Florida offshore waters. Learn, too, what goes into building a successful program for developing artificial reefs, from Tournament Insider columnist Brett Fitzgerald.
Come November we’re moving into waterfowl season, which in Florida means it’s fair game for a remarkable mix of migratory and resident duck species. Certainly among the most coveted and difficult to hunt is the wood duck, whose populations are spread across the Florida Panhandle and Peninsula. Find out how to pattern woodies, starting with their unique habitat needs, and the surprising critter with whom they share a home. Also see the regional Action Spotter reports for quick updates on what’s open and where you might take to the woods this month. And, don’t miss Tommy Thompson’s exclusive Sportsman’s Kitchen; this month, a mouth-watering recipe for venison.
There’s more to bass fishing than selecting the right lure and perfecting your casts. Knowing where the fish are holding is the biggest piece of the puzzle, and technology has just made that piece a lot easier to place. Side-finding sonar is now available in affordable, compact packages designed for small outboard boats, but it takes some know-how to put it to optimal use. Find out how Florida pros are integrating these systems into their fishing.
As recreational fishing interests gear up to address inequities in the federal fisheries management system, Editor Jeff Weakley examines one of the documents that summarizes the state of affairs, “Fisheries of the U.S.” An annual report from NOAA Fisheries, the document showcases the predominantly commercial nature of saltwater fish catches, and helps explain why federal councils and management plans seem so out-of-touch with average citizens. We’re guppies, compared to the goliath grouper-sized commercial fleets of Alaska, Louisiana and the mid-Atlantic. Even at the state level, Florida still lags behind some other states in the Southeast in recognizing the benefits of recreational allocations, as magazine Founder Karl Wickstrom reveals in Openers.