by Captain Michael Manis
This is one of my favorite months as southwest Florida transitions out of summer but is still a month or so away from the first front that suggests winter is approaching. Cooler water temperatures put game fish on the move. This combined with moderate breezes provides opportunities from inshore shorelines to the beaches. Looking for redfish and snook, I still won’t venture too far into the backcountry, as I’ll stick to shorelines bordering the harbor’s perimeter. However, I will make my way off the beaches looking for migrating bonito.
Snook, in post spawn, are looking to fatten up and will begin making their way from the passes and adjacent channels. They’ll begin the transition to river, and backcountry creek systems where the brackish water will help them tolerate the cooler months ahead. As they’ll be keying on the scaled sardines that are so prevalent, baitfish patterns are my fly of choice. In addition, the stronger tides on the week of the 4th and the 18th should really put them on the feed.
Redfish will be schooling throughout the bays and sounds that surround the harbor. Keep an eye out for mullet schools as there’s a good chance the redfish won’t be too far off. Redfish in groups can be very competitive when it comes to food and mullet kick up a lot of small easy prey species like grubs, crabs, and shrimp off the bottom. The redfish version of the drive thru. Here too, the redfish are also keying on the scaled sardine so the same fly patterns I’ll use for snook are perfect.
Spotted sea trout are also a good bet. Look anywhere in two to four feet around any grass flat in close proximity to a pass. They like the higher salinity and cleaner water that flushes in from the gulf. All our inshore predator species are keying on the scaled sardine so here too I’ll stick with the same baitfish pattern.
For a change of pace, bonito are migrating down the coast following schools of baitfish. Take a run outside any pass and if it’s going off, you’ll know. Keep an eye out for diving birds as they’re picking at the scraps from the bonito blowing up on bait. It’s a feeding frenzy and you can get close enough to throw just about anything into the mix. It’s a great opportunity to get into the backing with a fly reel.
Lastly, schools of black drum are bouncing back and forth between the U.S. 41 Bridge and the perimeter canals of Punta Gorda. They eat flies and will also get you into the backing.
Until next month, good tides.
Captain Michael Manis
Punta Gorda Fly Charters