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Fall Changes Pick Up The Fishing Pace

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On: Thu, Oct 4, 2012 at 10:26AM | By: Captain Ray Markham

Sometimes very subtle changes in the atmosphere create big changes on the fishing front. Fish feel the cooler, not-so-hot-days, shorter periods of daylight, and tidal flow changes that only mean to them that fall has arrived. Over the next month or so, water temperatures will drop significantly, and patterns that fish have responded to will follow suit. Pelagic fish have already begun to move into the area. Spanish mackerel have shown up in some monster schools off the beaches and up inside Tampa Bay. Most follow bait schools, but pinfish that are thick on the flats are even shuddering in nervous behavior as these fish move in and out of Terra Ceia, Sarasota, and Tampa Bays on the tides.

With water temperature running around 80 degrees at sunrise, an early start continues to be best if you want to target Spanish mackerel and bonito. Areas around the Skyway Bridge and following the Egmont Shipping Channel are holding pods of baitfish that get hammered. Flocking birds after sunrise are a dead giveaway to the feeding mackerel. But macks aren’t all that’s on the attack. We’ve been finding an array of fish feeding on bait schools. Inside the bay, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle, and ladyfish have been pounding baitfish. While I might normally throw a weedless Eppinger spoon for redfish on the flats in grassy areas, these weedless spoons are perfect for mackerel too, since floating grass has been an issue at times. CAL Jigs with Shad tails are working well. Weedless jerk baits rigged on weighted worm hooks rigged Texas-style are working too, when a weedless bait is called for. But, as a rule, a simple jig or flashy spoon of about any kind will work; whatever it is, the retrieve speed has to be fast.

A wire trace will help prevent cutoffs, but will also reduce bites. 40-pound Ande Fluorocarbon leader will help reduce cutoffs, and still get the bite. A smooth drag is especially important with mackerel and bonito (false albacore), since they hit hard and fast, and can pull 100-yards of line off a reel in seconds. A light drag is also important when using braided lines, because they hit very hard, creating a lot of shock, and take line quickly. As line pays out off the reel, the actual drag pressure increases, so about 10-to 15% of the line strength should be set for drag pressure. Normally I set drags for inshore fish at 20-to 25% of the line strength. A reel capable of holding a minimum of 150-to 200 yards of line should be the reel of choice for bonito to 10 or 11-pounds on the Boga Grip like we’re catching. At times we will have to fire up the outboard to get some line back, but the runs these fish make are outstanding and certainly worth the price of admission.

Inside the bays, we’re finding good numbers of redfish on the rising tides around mangrove islands. The breeder-sized fish we saw a couple of weeks ago seem to have taken flight on the full moon this past weekend, but some of the smaller slot fish are still around. Early starts produce some excellent top water action for redfish. Find a small cut in mangrove islands, some hard shell bottom, grassy areas with mullet, and you are golden. The MirrOlure MirrOmullet XL has been my top water lure of choice in the recent conditions we’ve had. Light winds with a small chop or ripple on the water is perfect for this bait. A steady zig-zag retrieve with twitches of the rod tip make this bait a deadly addition to my fish-catching arsenal. I’m fishing this bait on a 6’2” medium action St. Croix Avid baitcasting rod with a Shimano Curado 200 GS reel and 15-pound Power Pro braided line with a 2 ½-foot Ande 20-to 25-pound fluorocarbon leader. This reel has a 5.5:1 gear ratio. It’s the one time that I prefer a standard speed reel. The high speed reels with gear rations of 6.3:1 and higher are great for most everything else, and especially for crank baits.

Flounder fishing remains good, but it’s not a fish that you just fish for without fishing to specifically target them. The right habitat must be worked with the correct bait and retrieve. CAL Jigs with Shad or Curly tails have worked well along with DOA Shrimp dragged across the bottom.

Snook are beginning to move to the backcountry. Some larger breeder-sized fish have been seen on the flats in small passes that enter the bays. Snook are also moving up inside the Manatee River and holding on boat docks that have baitfish. Find a school of glass minnows and you’ll find snook, for sure. We’ve caught them to 28 inches on CAL Jigs with Shad tails and MirrOlure MirrOdines.

Trout fishing with DOA Deadly combos is almost a guarantee that you’ll catch fish. This rig continues to produce legal fish in 3-to 5-feet of water around Rattlesnake Key and in Joe Bay where we’re finding trout to 20 inches early in the day.


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