Great conditions for some good fishing should be on tap for anglers over the next week for both inshore and offshore anglers. Slow changes of seasons bring better fishing action.
The action seems to be heating up as the weather begins cooling off. That’s about the norm for this time of year, even though our temperatures continue to be higher than the norm most days. One indicator of the changes is the increasing number of Spanish mackerel being caught in our area. These fish are migratory and move south from the Panhandle each year in the fall, showing up in big schools. Some stay around much of the year but there is definitely a migratory school that moves with the changing water temperature while following bait schools. Another indicator is gag grouper, which also begin moving shallower to feed on bait that moves in on hard bottom areas in shallower depths than are found during the summer. This summer, the bulk of legal sized gags seem to have come in depths ranging from 120-to 160-feet off the Suncoast shores. Fair numbers are now being caught inside of 100-feet. For Tampa Bay anglers, there seem to always be some resident legal gags that stay inside Tampa Bay in the Ship’s Channel running inside Tampa Bay at about 45-feet deep. Those numbers appear to be increasing.
Nearshore waters from 50-to 80-feet have seen more action with hogfish in recent weeks. It hasn’t been hot action but for the few anglers who have been targeting these fish with shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas, they are catching some decent fish.
Kingfish action isn’t far off. Deep water wrecks beyond 100-feet are beginning to produce some catches of smoker kings over 30-pounds. Most hard bottom areas in deeper water will also hold these fish whenever there are bait schools on them. The Old Salt Fishing Foundation has just announced the 27th Annual Fall King of the Beach Kingfish Tournament, to be held November 7th at 200 Rex Place in Madeira Beach. This year’s event will be somewhat different in the number of days of events surrounding the tournament, beginning on Tuesday, as well as when the actual awards will be given, which will be on Friday. For registration and information, as well as a special early registration prize, go to the Old Salt website, oldsaltfishing.org
If you’re running the edges of the Gulf, you’ll probably notice a lot more marker floats in the water. Stone crab season reopens this Thursday, the 15th of October and these floats mark the traps. These traps are located on rock outcroppings and hard bottom where stone crabs live, as well as where grouper, snapper, hogfish, and others like to congregate. The nearshore waters from 50-to 80-feet have seen more action with hogfish in recent weeks. It hasn’t been hot action but for the few anglers who have been targeting these fish with shrimp, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas, they are catching some decent fish. In addition to great habitat for these fish, the baited traps, floats, and attached lines will attract marine growth that in turn attracts tripletail.
Most anglers will agree that they are finding good numbers of redfish in most areas that include the closure from the Pasco/ Hernando county line south to Collier County. Snook, trout, and redfish have been closed and will continue thru May of next year. Catch and release fishing for redfish in many areas has been excellent. Some of these areas include St. Joseph’s Sound, Fort Desoto, Weedon Island, Cockroach Bay, the South Shore of Tampa Bay, and Terra Ceia Bay.
While snook are being caught in good numbers, there may be certain year classes in some areas that seem to be missing.
The same goes for trout. Where snook, redfish, and trout were hurt most, from Sarasota Bay to Boca Grande, the recovery has been slower. In my estimation, trout have never fully recovered to the point that they were in 2009-2010 before a big bout of freezes and red tide. However, most anglers still report catching these fish, but not in the same numbers or sizes as before the most recent red tide that prompted the closure.
Regardless of whatever area you fish, it’s always prudent to take care of the resource. Release all fish that are out-of-season or in closure alive, and keep only enough legal fish for a meal or two. The stark reality of living here in Florida is that most people think of it as paradise and a good place to live and to retire. In fact, last year nearly 1000 new people a day moved here to call Florida home. This year that number has increased to 1100 new residents moving here per day. With this kind of pressure on the resource, it’s especially important to preserve what we have to ensure a sustainable fishery and pay special attention to regulations.
Cooling waters means one thing…ACTION! Bass, bream, crappie, catfish, and most all other species that live in our lakes and rivers thrive when water temperatures drop below 80 and stay above 68-degrees. The next few months are golden for freshwater fishing as cold fronts move south. The cooler water becomes more oxygenated making all of these fish fight harder. Those hot summer days of soaking a live shiner for big bass give way to more aggressive fish that hammer artificial lures. Topwater walking baits like the Zara Spook or chugger/ poppers like the 12LS MirrOlure or Rebel Pop-R, and even prop baits like the Devil’s Horse will create some explosive topwater strikes. This is one of my favorite times of the year to fish, and it’s just ahead. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham