Weather becomes a significant factor in both the spring and the fall in West Central Florida.  As cold fronts start to enter into the weather equation, it's a bad news / good news scenario. The bad news is that cold fronts generally mean strong winds and colder temperatures which translates into dirty and cooler water.  Dirty water negatively affects fishing for species like Spanish Mackerel, kingfish, and bonita, as these fish will move west (away from shore) in search of the cleaner water that they prefer.  Winds will typically clock around almost 360 degrees when these fronts pass...meaning that there will be plenty of wind from the south, west and north...all of which muddy things up. Also, when water temperatures drop, inshore fish can be put off the feed for a few days...depending on the severity of the front.  The more drastic the temperature change, the longer the fishing will be negatively affected. Early season fronts, such as those being experienced now, don't have a big temperature affect so inshore fishing is generally not disrupted for too long.  On the bright side, since cold fronts, consistent with their name, do bring colder weather, water temperatures will become more favorable for almost all species...for a while. Look for the next few fronts to bring in a strong push of kingfish, and other near shore species.  Additionally, several hard cold fronts will bring in the big winter Seatrout...a fishery that will last through next March. Snook and redfish will still be available as well, as long as water temps stay upwards of seventy.  Under this, redfish will still eat but snook get noticeably more picky.  Once nearshore ocean temps drop into the low sixties, the fast action on kingfish and mackerel will likely begin to diminish as well.  

KINGFISH, MACKEREL, BIG SEATROUT

The arrival of large schools of thread fin herring, in conjunction with the cooler water, is the best indicator that the kingfish are here.  Sabiki'ing up some threads and slow trolling around and through these schools is probably the best way to put a kingfish on your line.  Another approach, which can be highly entertaining, is to catch as many pilchards as a live well can hold, head out to the same area, anchor, drop a chum block and start shoveling the whitebait overboard. Any self respecting fish in the area will find it's way into this chum slick. When fish are drawn in like this, action can be fast and furious, with mackerel, kingfish, bonita, cobia, barracuda and sharks all possible. Hooking these fish on 10 and 20 lbs outfits will test the best anglers.  Larger tackle, of course, can be used for those more interested in filling the cooler.

The big high tides of summer are rapidly fading so dock fishing for redfish becomes an option worth trying.  Fish proven docks on the higher phases of the tide.  The best terminal tackle rig for this fishing is a 4 foot length of 30 pound flourocarbon leader going to a 2/0 circle hook.  Immediately above the hook...an inch or so....secure a PSS2 sized split shot (usually the biggest one available in most tackle stores). Next, center cut a pinfish or grunt to produce a 1-2 inch square cut bait. Hook this bait from the gut cavity out, with the hook protruding from what would be the stomach of the baitfish as this flesh is the toughest.  With the same technique used to skip a rock, cast from the side so that baits can be skipped right up under the dock.  The sinker must be very close to or right above the hook to maximize skipping potential. Shooting these baits under a dock will generally produce a quick bite on any dock that has occupants.  After a few casts, move to the next dock if no bite results.

FALL SNOOK AND REDFISH IN TAMPA

Snook will become active in backwater areas over the next month, until the hard cold of winter arrives. Chumming is best to locate these fish.  Remember the 5/5/50 rule.  When chumming, if a snook boils, it is generally telling you that it can be caught...but here's the trick.  A cast must be made in the next 5 seconds, within 5 feet of the boil.  If this cast is made, there is at least a 50% chance of catching that fish.  As this is the case, it is often best to chum first and wait before casting so the angler is the prepared to throw a bait immediately at an active fish.

Expect to see a few larger Seatrout showing up in the next few weeks.  Although big volumes of fish may not roll in for a while, there are usually some smaller groups of the big winter fish that show up in advance.  These early fish typically hit artificials well as water is still relatively warm so pitching jigs and minnow imitating hardbaits is a good approach to cover a lot of water.  That said, nothing beats a whitebait for catching trout so having a few of these in the well can't hurt.

Fall weather is generally the impetus for people to start enjoying more outdoor activities again. Alafia State Park offers hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking opportunities and is just a short 30 miles east of Tampa. If an activity to elevate your heart rate is of interest, Empower Adventures offers Zip Lining right in Oldsmar. Florida....about halfway between the Pinellas County beaches and Tampa. Good luck and good fishing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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