Hurricane Ian's near miss seems to have pushed us into our fall fishing season as temperatures post storm were definitely lower and have stayed 76 degrees. With bait schools off the beach increasing, the mackerel have now made an appearance and with a little luck, the kingfish won't be too far behind. Small to medium whitebait are now abundant, so filling the live well shouldn't be too difficult a task. A livewell ,teaming with pilchards, is an essential ingredient for success when fishing near shore hard bottom spots. Chumming aggressively will bring mackerel and other species, such as bonita, barracuda, shark and maybe a stray cobia around the boat and can also make the usually cautious mangrove snapper much more willing to bite.  The beauty of this time of year is that it is possible to catch snook and redfish as well as a half dozen near shore species on the same Tampa Fishing Charter.

Near Shore Reef Fishing in Clearwater

Inshore, cooler temperatures should also positively affect the fishing.  Snook will move to interior bays and bayous, spoil islands and onto flats inside the intercostal islands until winter's cold ultimately pushes them out. Although catching a trophy fish is a much more difficult task post spawn, larger fish can still be caught occasionally, and pockets of small to medium fish can provide great entertainment in backwater locations. Free-lining pilchards along mangrove shorelines can lead to aggressive strikes and some great acrobatics from these below slot fish.

Big Snook and Redfish

For another month or so, daytime high tides will remain strong enough to track down redfish along mangrove shorelines and oyster bars. As these tides weaken, fishing into mullet schools on productive flats will become an effective method. Recreational docks are another option. Cut baits (pinfish, ladyfish, mullet) and small live pinfish are good bait choices. Want to catch a really large redfish? Set up off the  mitigation reefs south of Clearwater, chum aggressively and put out a four or five inch pinfish. You may not catch a lot of redfish, but you could catch your biggest redfish ever...and there are always other species swimming around down there. 

Large seatrout should be returning around Thanksgiving, if they are on schedule.  Last year, these winter fish did start to arrive then, but not in the usual numbers...finally showing up solid in January. Kingfish were also strangely absent last fall, but should appear, hopefully in the next few weeks. Whatever the case, there will be numerous species available over the next month to keep anglers lines' tight. Good luck and good fishing.


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