Fall Fishing 101

We all know what October usually brings for anglers, and it’s finally here! Shall we deem it an early Christmas without wrapping paper? Perhaps we change Christmas in July to Christmas in October! Any way you want to look at it, October is usually the transitional month here in the Tampa Bay area when most fish begin to make their move, however, I think November is the best that Fall fishing gets.  Keep in mind that the weather plays a major role in fish movement so things can easily be delayed by as much as month or so.

 Snook will begin to move from the outer passes and beaches to the inner bay and back country areas as days get shorter and the water begins to cool. This push isn’t fast so don’t overshoot your target by going on a deep back country safari just yet, but do continue working the beaches and surrounding areas inward until you see the snook thinning out and then move inland further. Snook should stay on the beaches and passes until the water temp hits the 76 mark.  

October also starts the southerly push of kings, spanish macks and cobia. Look for the three species to follow closely behind the first good push of baitfish. Tampa bay sits in a very unique position when it comes to fish migration. We are sort of like a neutral pit stop where the water isn’t too hot or too cold and provides a nice place to fatten up for the winter before moving on. Most migrating fish seem to hang out in the bay area a bit longer than anywhere else in their travels.  

Redfish have already started schooling a few weeks ago as I observed first hand, though not as many as predicted. The schooling should increase throughout the first half of this month and begin to scatter toward the end of the month. I haven’t had a chance to get out in a few weeks due to helping out with the Doug Hemmer Benefit, but if the usual applies look for trout and reds to be on the grass flats in good numbers toward the end of the month. 

Also look for the tarpon to possibly give one last blast as they work the incoming bait train later this month. It’s hard to say if the bait will arrive here before the tarpon make that offshore or southward run, but if you keep your eyes and ears open you may catch the short one or two day frenzy when it happens!

As the later days of fall push in you’ll find water temperatures dropping and winds increasing as the fronts get stronger and closer, almost on a weekly basis. Many trips this time of the year get canceled, so having a backup plan or alternate fishing area protected from the winds is a good idea. It's a great time to fish, but getting on the water often proves more challenging than actually catching the fish!

As the water temperature drops most fish move to deeper water, especially in the mornings. Deeper cuts around mangroves, docks and islands are good places to start in the mornings when the water is at its coolest. As the sun rises and the water begins to warm, look for the fish to take advantage of this slight warming and head onto the flats for food and warmth.

Slowing your retrieval speed is essential this time of year, but can be a difficult task, and many find themselves unable to maintain the correct speed when using traditional lures like crank baits. The rule of thumb is that if you think you are retrieving slowly enough, slow it down even more! One of the things that I like to do when coming off a long season of using crank baits at their normal speed is to switch to jerk baits. This allows me to slow things down without having to put much thought into it.

Look to fish water in the 3-5 foot depth, working the edges of the flats or troughs. In the early morning I’ll work the deeper water and as the day progresses and the sun rises, I’ll move to shallower water. When you feel the conditions have warmed enough to warrant the fishes movement to shallower water, start by making several passes in the deeper water, followed by several in the shallows, and then try to work a few along the roll off point. Most fish will hang just off the roll off ledge and ease onto the flats as the day wears on. This method also applies to fishing around docks, bridges, etc.

That’s it! Apply that to your area and you’re sure to be successful—providing the fish are in the area!  As fall progresses to winter, continue to use this method.  You may need to make adjustments to your area of choice.  Be sure to read Winter 101, as I'll go into more detail on location.

For more in-depth instructions, methods, baits, etc.on fall fishing, check out my newest book entitled Florida Inshore Angler. Coming soon.

Keep your tip up^

Allen Applegarth

 NOTE:  Please keep in mind that most of the articles and information within this website are excerpts from my newest title not yet released.  As so, I am unable to publish the entire article and have pieced together points of interest that hopefully give you enough information to be successful and enjoy the read.