by Capt. Greg Stamper
Here we are on the last quarter of the year and fishing between now and December is usually some of the best we can get. October brings the beginning of dropping water temperatures. These water temperature drops begin migrations of fish from North in the panhandle. Schools of fish and what eats them begin moving South down Floridas’ West coast shoreline. Depending on how cool the water gets and when, bait schools will push South staying in areas for days or weeks at a time. The further South the bait moves the longer they stay in those areas. True cold fronts rarely reach Southwest Florida till December so starting now we can have schools of what’s eating the bait hanging around for long periods of time.
In the backcountry the primary subjects will be Snook, redfish, jacks, and trout this month, with tarpon sprinkled in. We managed to find a bunch of small and medium snook and a few reds toward the end of September, after battling with red tides.
Snook and Redfish will continue to be catch and release only, throughout the entire Southwest coast. Till further notice this will stay in place as it should, but we can still catch them. October typically brings the redfish together in schools and often anglers will have the ability to see them cruising. These schools of redfish usually throw a significant wake when moving places, making for easy pickings. Topwater plugs are a popular choice in October as anglers can cover a lot of water easily. Cut baits like ladyfish, mullet, or crabs are another option should you put out “spreads for reds”. Finally, free lining live baits along or around oyster bars or shorelines always works well.
There’s a good chance that the big tarpon will start showing up certainly by the end of the month. Personally, I like fishing for them on the low wind days. If it’s the 100+ pounders I’m looking for when it’s calm you’ll catch glimpses of them rolling or free jumping in areas. You can run up and down our beaches on days when its calm and find schools working bait. Typically, we will target them with threadfin herring or crabs and fish up current from them drifting the baits behind us moving on the trolling motor. On the days when it’s a bit windy we can always target the juvenile tarpon that are plentiful in our back bays. These juvenile tarpons were a saving grace for trips during red tide and are a lot of fun as they range from 10-40 pounds. Most creeks, canals, and rivers throughout the area here will have them, you’ve just got to have time on the water to figure out the when and where.
The fall also begins a push of bonitas, kingfish, tripletail, and other species into our area for many months. These fish can be found nearshore easily within the first 10 miles. Depending on what you like to do, targeting these fish can be done many ways. Bonitas and kingfish often show themselves by making commotions on the waters surface or sometimes free jumping. You can troll plugs, chum them up straight to your position, or do the run and gun approach from school to school once you’ve located an area they’re in. Tripletail is a bit different, now we start checking all the buoys, markers, or floating debris we see until the stone crab season starts making things much easier. November typically is when we start seeing the 10-20+ pounders but you never know.
Finally, as we’ve begun the recovery from red tide, I hope the areas impacted most will begin to heal. These areas are usually where I picked up pompano in great numbers, spotted seatrout up to 8 pounds and a gauntlet of miscellaneous species such as mackeral, ladyfish, sharks, etc. in October. I did not fish these areas from July 27th till September 25 as red tide seemed to constantly be in different places throughout the area the entire time. However, I fished a few of these areas on two different occasions since and did find a few. These areas aren’t back to normal by any means, but hopefully a few more weeks of good conditions will change things up.
Capt Greg Stamper