With sunrise pushing to almost 7:30AM as October begins, it's clear that shorter days are on their way, and that fall is around the corner.  Generally speaking, this is good news as a variety of species come into range of the inshore / nearshore fisherman at this time of year.  For starters, the difficulty in catching bait diminishes.  July and August can be challenging as a multitude of small bait shows up...basically this year's hatch...and larger baits can be harder to find.  Pilchards grow fast though so they will become abundant both on flats inside the intercostal waterway as well as out on the beach.  Although the inside bait is generally preferable, as it tends to get bigger sooner, within the next month, the size of the beach bait will likely catch up. The beauty of beach bait is that catching it can be very easy. Tampa Fishing Guides really enjoy throwing on large schools of beach bait as it can be a "one and done" experience.  Finding large, dense schools of whitebait running along the beach in 3 feet of water is as good as it gets.  Throw once, fill the live well with 500 baits. No chumming is required and there are no weeds to clean up. 

The only difficulty created by having a "blacked out" bait well in October is deciding what to go fish for.  Although kingfish have not yet arrived, there are numerous near shore species available, ranging from grouper (mostly short but with an occasional legal fish), mackerel, mangrove snapper and bonita. Occasional appearances of other species such as cobia, barracuda, flounder and large jacks should be expected as well. All of these fish can be caught by anchoring over rocky areas and near shore reefs.  The faster species among them may also be caught by working the edge of large bait schools that have begun to show up a few miles off the beach. A crippled bait on the edge of a school will usually be singled out by a circling predator.  The most effective approach though is one of patience.  Set up in a likely area....the best being one that is both rocky and holding bait...and chum aggressively.  Mackerel will show in the first 15 minutes typically, if they are anywhere close by, and other species will be progressively drawn in.  The best part about this type of fishing is that a Tampa Fishing Charter that is targeting snapper may find a legal grouper or those having fun with non stop action on mackerel may, all of a sudden have an opportunity to catch a much larger predator such as a barracuda of 50 lbs blacktip shark.  As the month winds down, kingfish may well make an appearance, adding a whole new larger and faster dimension to this nearshore fishing.

October still boasts some substantial tides on the full and new moons though so inshore fishing should still be quite respectable.  Tampa / Clearwater fishing for large redfish has been fairly consistent over the last 30 days and, with no strong cooling patterns on the horizon, should continue. The best fishing has generally been found in and around mullet schools.  An excellent approach to locating the redfish, that associate with these schools, is to spread out numerous baits through the whole area that the school encompasses.  Although this process can be a bit time consuming, the rewards can be significant as numerous, large fish can be caught in rapid succession.

Catching a snook is still a high probability proposition although techniques have changed a bit from a few months ago.  No longer stacked up near local passes, these fish have spread out and can be found anywhere from the beach, to spoil islands to the backwater bayous and creeks. Beach locations that held dozens of fish will hold far fewer now. Fall fishing requires heavier tackle as docks, mangroves and other inshore structures now come into play and these fish will use them to secure their freedom. Heavy chumming with whitebait is often required to trigger activity. Be patient.  Approach a suspected snook holding area quietly, set up and present baits.  If nothing happens, bring the lines in, chum for a while and watch for activity.  If fish begin to attack baits, the probability of hooking up is greatly increased.  This is where the 5 / 5 / 50 rule comes into affect.  When a fish boils, if the angler can make a cast, within 5 feet, within 5 seconds, there is at least a 50% chance that a strike will follow. When a snook boils on a bait, one of two things have happened. It has eaten the bait and therefore is probably sitting just below this spot enjoying it's catch...or, it has missed the bait and is in the area still looking for it.  Either way, a bait dropped back into this same area quickly will likely be eaten.  For the fish that succeeded in catching it's dinner, there's not a big concern that the fish won't eat again as almost any size snook can eat numerous whitebaits.

With cooler temperatures, it's a great time of year to enjoy the great outdoors in the Tampa Bay / Clearwater area. After an exciting win against the Giants, the 2-1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be a team to watch this year. There are two more home games this month...the Patriots on the 5th and the Panthers on the 29th. If beautiful scenery and a day at the beach are of interest, visit Honeymoon Island State Park. This world class beach offers everything from sunbathing to shell collecting to kayaking and fishing. Good luck and good fishing.




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