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Early Front Brings Record Lows
Ablast of cold Canadian air blanketed the eastern seaboard this past week. Winds howled from the north over 25 knots most of the week and water temperatures fell some 20 degrees in just 2 days. The cool temperatures were just what we needed to get the water temperatures out of the 80s. Unfortunately, for most long time guides who had their favorite clients scheduled on the full moon in October, the weather resulted in several postponed trips. The blowing wind is nothing new to contend with, as that has been the norm the past 2 years. The drastic drop in temperature is another matter. With most Florida flats fish (scaled sardines included) being neo-tropical, the sudden blast sent everything running for cover or found them unwilling to open their mouths.
Water temperatures started making a slow recovery by late in the week. The staple sardines returned to the area on Friday. Fishing the more temperamental species the next several days, we will contend with northeast and east (east fish bite the least) winds. However, the cooled water will offer optimum fall fishing once we get the hi-pressure off of us just a little.
Snook, redfish, and jacks will be the primary targets. The trout that were still offshore prior to the front will return to the shallows in better numbers and we will welcome their arrival. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and mango snapper will be found in the bait pods as well as on inshore/nearshore structure.
If the water stays fairly clear, kingfish migrating to the south will come in from cleaner offshore waters. These will be the largest fish of the bi-annual migration. With the upcoming east winds, the nearshore waters will clear first. Bait schools will push up against the shoreline and the kings will follow. Clean water will be the key around rock piles, hard bottom, artificial reefs, and near the passes- particularly on the outgoing tides. October sees the opening of stone crab season. Savvy anglers should pay particular attention to the trap lines, as they will be freshly baited, situated over structure, and attract big kings! Spanish mackerel will be found in the same areas.
The high winds were not as disheartening for those in search of grouper. With a bright full moon, clear skies, and strong tides Im sure not much was missed. The good news is these fish will come to life now through the next 8 weeks. Further, they will be accessible in waters much closer to land. The size limit has now changed on these most delicious reef fish. Make sure the gags are 22 inches before they hit the ice and then some to allow for shrinkage.
Two tips will serve anglers wisely while on the nearshore structures this fall. While anchored and bottom fishing for reef fish, freeline a bait on the surface behind the boat. Some of the largest kingfish of the year, a sailfish or tarpon can be the reward. As well, keep a casting rod rigged and ready for a curious cobia that could appear at anytime as they make their way to south.
Snook will be the primary target inshore. By far these are the most sought after species on the flats. Based on the last high-pressure system, in which the fish turned just 2 days after the system, expect the same now. These fish are storing body fat in preparation for their winter hiatus and will feed strongly as long as the water temperature stays above 70 degrees and the sardines remain accessible. Many days will see the rules of snook success thrown out the window with all out frenzies in otherwise unproductive scenarios. The cooler water will see these fish offering challenging fishing. They will be tight to the structures and full of piss and vinegar (pardon my French). Next to spring, the next 6 weeks will be as good as it gets. If this most prized gamefish is on your wish list, now is the time to target them.
The schools (pods at best) of reds that were present just a few weeks ago will now be broken up. The beauty of this time of year is pulling up on the spots and getting reds, snook, trout, jacks, tarpon, bluefish and who knows what on one drop of the anchor. This will be the best way to target reds.
The front was a bittersweet event. While it kept most of us in port last week, we will now reap the benefits of the cooler water. With a good combination of cool fronts and long warming periods, fall fishing will remain peak for many weeks to come. Now is the time to go.
Screaming drags and tired arms!
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