Fall Fishing in Southwest Florida is welcome with moderating temperatures both air
and water by local fishermen. After hot wet summer, around the last week of September to 2nd
week or third week of October, the first mild fronts make it down this far. Water temps moderate from about 89-92
These fronts are generally not big wind events. The temps will come down maybe 5-10 degrees and the humidity eases
making for pleasant fishing and boating conditions. These lower temps and shorter days will trigger
the fall bait run, and with it, some of the best fishing of the year.
Tarpon will chase the bait back south from the north and Cobia and the Mackerels (King and Spanish).
Sharks, Grouper and Snapper will be fat and spawning close to shore and in the bay. Deeper trips required for summer Grouper
will shorten from 90-100ft to 65 to 85ft.
Fall fishing has taken over Spring Fishing as my personal favorite, as there is more bait and the tarpon bite is stellar.
Snook are on a tear fattening up for winter and the biggest spawn of the year the August and Sept New and Full Moons.
In the Bay–
look for schooling ladyfish and mackerel in the bait schools under birds. A pinfish or shiner on a popping cork
will result in a quick hookup on Tarpon or Sharks or Large Trout. In the Mangroves, pitching cut ladyfish
under the limbs on a higher tide and soaking on the bottom is a high probability of success.
Find spots with good water flow and a little deeper than the surrounding area Cut ladyfish on a Popping cork
next to the Mangroves near the Creek Mouths can work well too.
In the Gulf
In the Near Gulf focus near the passes and along Sanibel and Captiva Beaches. The nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs will be loaded up with all the species. Pinfish, Threadfin, and Whitebaits should be eagerly devoured.
Gag Grouper should be closer to shore during that time. They can be caught on about any bait but a frisky Pinfish, Pigfish or ThreadFin Herring is hard to turn down. Gags can take 10-15 minutes to turn on, so be patient. The biggest bite will usually be on the first drop! So, by all means, be ready for that instant hit. There is no virtue in loose drag when fishing gags near structure. Tighten it down and win that first few feet you win the war. Unfortunately, the season on Gags is closed during the most productive months when they are easiest to reach to protect the spawning fish. Gag Season closed from Jan 1 to June 1. Still, great fun to catch, very few fish pack the powerful hit of a gag grouper and the challenged of getting them out of their lairs.
I like to freeline baits over structure too for the passing or circling cobia Bonita, Mackerel, Snapper love the 3-5″ pilchards or
whitebait, and you can’t beat a small jig/shrimp combo either. Summer/Fall shrimp tend to be small, but still effective.
There will still be Fish along the beach in the surf, as they begin to make their way to the passes and the lighthouse
and back into the Back Bay, their wintertime residences.
Another great option for Gag Grouper is to troll Deep Diver Manns Stretch 25’s and Yozuri’s around Reefs and bait schools.
Dont be surprised if a Cobia crashes the party.
Red Grouper will be in closer in the 75-85 foot ranges vs the summertime runs to 90-125 Feet. Gags will be on structure and or
hard “swiss cheese” bottom wherever you can find it, whether its the passes or near shore wrecks and reefs. Learn to read your bottom machine.
The activity below the bottom echo is a true tell. I will be posting section focusing on interpreting bottom echos and side-scan sonar.
King Mackerel will be over the same area’s and will destroy Yozuri’s if they are in the area. Again Birds and Bait are the key, and they all like to hold over hard bottom. Further out in the gulf, Mangrove Snapper, Red Grouper, and Yellowtail Snapper, along with Permit on the higher-profile structure is fun to catch and even more, fun to eat. When you start seeing flocks of birds sitting on the water, there was a feed nearby, it’s worth trolling or the area as the fish are likely there but just in between feeds.
Get out and enjoy the conditions with the edge off the heat and bite strong!
Capt Paul Primeaux
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