With the shorter days and the sun slowly moving to the south, coupled with a few inches of rain, water temperatures are now in the mid to lower 80s. These baby cool fronts are starting to line up, which will just improve our fishing as the fish put the feed bag on to store up some winter weight.
The big spawning Redfish are beginning to show up in a number of inshore fishing flats following the schools of hatchling pilchards. From the barrier island beaches to the main shoreline flats and estuary systems, these oversized Reds (most out of the slot 27 to 36 inches and 12 to 15 pounds) can be caught on the pilchards that are cast-netted in the first hours of the morning.
The beaches and flats just inside the passes hold these prime-time baitfish. Watch the birds; they usually give the location to start catching your bait. I like to get a livewell full—500 to 800 baits—so I can do some live chumming for these aggressive predator gamefish.
In areas with good tidal movement, watch carefully for boils, swirls, and actual surface blow-ups, a lot of times in and around the mangrove shorelines, deep holes on a flat, and most any kind of structure. Also fish the mullet schools! You’ll also find nice groups of Snook and or Spotted Sea Trout in many of the same areas.
Take them all on with a light tackle spinning outfit spooled with 10-lb. braid and a 4-oz. fluorocarbon shock leader tied to #1 or #1/0 live bait hook.
Near shore nice-sized Spanish Mackerel are on most of the inshore artificial reefs and the Kingfish run will be right behind them; look for the water temperatures to hit the high 70s, with bird activity, and all the bait schools on the reef.
Recently the Gag Grouper have been moving inshore, following the two-inch juvenile Spanish sardines. The birds also give away these locations. Find a good rock pile or some hard bottom ledge in the area, drop a big pilchard or hand-sized pinfish, and hold on!