With fall temperatures finally starting to creep their way down towards the Florida Panhandle, it’s time to start looking for fish to gather in big schools.
One of the most anticipated migrations is the annual flounder run. Although they’ll bite sporadically throughout the year, fall is the season when you can catch them piled up in the Intracoastal Waterway, deeper inshore and near-shore structures, creeks and passes. These fish can get so stacked up that they are literally lying on top of each other! If you find an area holding fish, you can either set up slightly up-current on the anchor and have the fish come to you or pull up from the fish and drift over the top of them. I find each way has its advantages depending on the location, water depth and speed of current. Jigs and soft plastic baits work very well in shallow, slow moving water but live baits such as finger mullet and pinfish on either a Carolina rig or drop shot rig work best for deep, swift moving water.
The Spanish mackerel are so thick in the bay right now it’s ridiculous. You can run across most parts of the bay within about 10 miles of the St. Andrews Pass and see schools of mackerel jumping out of the water all over the place. The best thing about them is they always eat – so it’s a great fish to get novice and child anglers hooked up on. The action is fast-paced and Spanish mackerel make lightning fast runs. Try trolling around the areas where you see them feeding or pulling up to the school and throwing plugs, jigs, spoons or any other speedy artificial lure.
On the flats, sight fishing for trout and redfish has been fantastic. The crystal clear water makes it easy to spot fish regardless of whether they are on grass or sand. Some of the fish have been a bit more skittish than usual, so it’s best to downsize everything from the start. I have dropped leader size to eight pound fluorocarbon and increased the length of the leader to upwards of 6-8 feet. Use a small, compact bait that will land quietly and needs very little movement to create good action. In clear water, don’t give the bait any erratic jerks or twitches because it will often scare away the fish.
As always, if you have questions about what’s biting, how to catch them or want to book a trip, give me a call or shoot me an email.