By Capt. Rick Grassett
Fishing should turn on this month. Schools of reds will begin to break up and scatter on shallow flats. There should also be good action with snook and big trout in shallow water. Snook will gorge themselves at night around lighted docks in the Intracoastal Waterway. There should also be good action in the coastal gulf with Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), tripletail and cobia. You might also still find tarpon anywhere from upper Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay to along the beaches.
Spotted seatrout has reopened to harvest in southwest Florida with a three-fish-per-person bag limit and a six-fish boat limit. Trout must be from 15 inches to 19 inches with one allowed per vessel over 19 inches. I feel that it’s important to protect these larger trout, which are usually female breeders. Snook remains closed to harvest in the Charlotte Harbor area. Full regulations and details can be viewed at myfwc.com.
Snook will move from passes and the surf as water temperature cools and days get shorter. They will stage around docks and bridges in the Intracoastal Waterway and along sand bars, potholes and along mangrove shorelines. They may blow up on top water plugs or fly poppers in shallow water early or late in the day. CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms or DOA Shrimp should work well around docks and bridges and on shallow flats. The 4-inch CAL shad tail should work very well on the flats since larger baits will be prevalent there. I like larger flies, like Lefty’s Deceiver and my Grassett Flats Bunny, for snook on the flats for the same reason. Fly anglers should also score with small white flies or Gurglers around lighted docks and bridge fenders. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.
Tarpon will still be an option this month. I find them in upper Charlotte Harbor this time of year. Look for them feeding in ladyfish schools or rolling in deep water to find them. DOA Baitbusters and Swimming Mullet are my top producing lures for large tarpon. Fly anglers should score with many of the same flies that work for sight casting to them along the beaches. I use 12-weight fly tackle with a floating or clear intermediate sink tip line for large tarpon. You’ll also find juvenile tarpon from 10 to 30 pounds in many creeks and canals. Spin anglers should score with DOA Shrimp or TerrorEyz on snook tackle. Fly anglers can handle the smaller fish on 8- or 9-weight fly rods with sink tip fly lines and a scaled down version of any fly that large tarpon will eat. I’ve also found tarpon feeding in the coastal gulf this time of year. They are usually scattered over a broad area, feeding in bait schools. This “reverse migration” may only last for a short while but it can be really good!
Big schools of reds that are more common in August and September will break up into smaller schools, singles and doubles by the end of the month. As water cools and baitfish school up, reds will feed in shallow water. I like to pole my flats skiff to hunt for reds in shallow water. Focus on baitfish or mullet schools to find reds. CAL jigs with shad tails, including the 4-inch CAL shad tail and DOA Baitbusters are some of my favorite lures to locate reds with. If the tide is very low, weedless-rigged CAL shad tails or DOA Shrimp rigged backwards will work well in the thick turtle grass. Once I’ve located fish, wading is often the best way to approach them when fly fishing. I like a long leader (12 feet) on a floating fly line with a lightly weighted fly with a weed guard, like my Grassett Flats Minnow. When you have good sunlight, you may be able to sight fish them on light colored bottom, like sandbars or potholes.
leader (12 feet) on a floating fly line with a lightly weighted fly with a weed guard, like my Grassett Flats Minnow. When you have good sunlight, you may be able to sight fish them on light colored bottom, like sandbars or potholes.