I love this time of year for fishing. Fall fishing can be some of the most explosive fishing of the year, from late September through the first several cool snaps that begin dropping water temperatures down into the low 70s. Recent observed water temperature is around 87 degrees in the Gulf and slightly warmer inside the bays. But as fall settles upon us, the face of the Suncoast will begin to change.
Shorter days and longer nights will begin the cooling of the air and water. Cooler water means more dissolved oxygen in the water and fish will be invigorated by it. The extra energy to chase down a lure will be exhibited by fish crashing a top water lure or torpedoing a jig or spoon.
The next few weeks will be prime for the remaining Snook that are spawning to begin their move back up rivers, creeks, and into backcountry areas, where they will hang for the winter to try and ride out the cold spells. It’s an excellent time to target these fish for catch-and-release, since most fish caught will be out of the slot of 28–33 inches in length. Careful handling of these fish is a must for survival. While they are very hearty and have a low mortality rate for release, care needs to be given to these magnificent fish that will be released. I choose to fish artificial lures and for Snook, I love fishing top waters like the big Top Dog from MirrOlure, CAL Jigs with Shad tails, or a DOA Shrimp.
Big fish move into our area over the next couple of months, and lots of them. Snook, Trout, Redfish, Flounder, and more, all looking to chow down and fatten up for the winter ahead.
From Sarasota Bay from East around Tidy Island and West to the entrance of Cannon’s Marina and North to Ruskin and along the South Shore of Tampa Bay, schools of Redfish and balls of Trout will hold in deep potholes and on channel edges on quick dropping negative tides around new and full moons. Throw CAL Jigs and Eppinger Rex Spoons for Reds in the holes and channels. Up skinny on early mornings, you can find big Trout hanging in the shallows to seek harborage from predators like dolphin. These fish love a finger mullet, and few imposters are better at mimicking these baitfish than the Shallow running DOA Baitbuster and the MirrOlure MirrOmullet XL. Excellent for quiet skinny water fishing, these unassuming presentations will create some surface explosions matched by few others.
I don’t know if it’s the seasonal change in the temperature or just the ‘feel’ in the air, but you can tell it. Every year at this time, I fall in love again with a feeling—it might be the change in ambient light at the close of a day, the glow of the sunset, or the awakening of a new day with a cool morning’s sun peeking over the Eastern horizon. Whatever it is, it’s a definite change in the air that humbles me, makes me breathe and renews my zest to fall again for fishing.