It’s official, fall is here. Days are beginning to get shorter, the morning air just a bit cooler and water temperatures continue to edge towards the 70s. These are all great signs for some of the best fishing of the year.
If you’re a shallow water fisherman this is the time to get out on the water. As water temperatures cool, look for the flats fishing to heat up – big time. Trout fishing will start to take off as the bigger fish move into shallow water areas and backcountry, staging up around potholes around the grass flats. My bait of choice will be Cajun Thunder Back Bay floats matched with a medium-sized whitebait that’s hooked with a No. 1 Daiichi or the all new Ohero Trident hook. Since bait has been a bit small lately, using the No. 1 circle hook is very important.
Snook fishing will also begin to take off as we see most fish head towards the flats and backcountry areas. There’s nothing better than free-lined, frisky whitebait suspended under a deep mangrove line. Snook are ambush feeders so finding areas with good cover and/or good tidal flow are good tactics for catching them.
Don’t forget that red fishing will continue to be strong through month’s end. Schools will continue to be around, milling the flats along South Shore. Key on moving water and activity on the surface. Fishing the big schools of mullet is always a great way to find big reds.
If you’re looking to throw some artificial bait, I’ve found a new bait that’s really made a difference: the Z-man chatter bait. If live bait is your preference, you can catch reds with a number of baits. Shrimp and greenbacks are my top picks but don’t rule out some cut pinfish. They’re suckers for cut bait.
Tampa Bay is also a great spot to fish for grouper, mangrove snapper and many other species. Grouper have been biting well around the wrecks and reefs that litter the edges of Tampa Bay lately. Fishing these spots used to be more difficult but with the new chats and GPS technology, finding a great grouper spot inside the bay is a lot easier.
My Lowrance HDS 12 is updated with just about every wreck in the area and its sonar always provides pinpoint accuracy. You’ll find that many other species will be mixed in with grouper since just about every fish likes structure of some type. You can expect to catch mangrove snapper, mackerel running the surface and, every once in a while, big cobia roaming these same areas – so make sure and bring the right tackle for the job.
You never know what you’ll catch in Tampa Bay.
Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or [email protected]