As we roll into October there will be great opportunities for fishing both offshore and inshore.
The waters of southwest Florida come alive with bait and you can be sure where there are concentrations of small fry there will be plenty of predators for some rod bending fun. Our waters hold a large supply of forage or bait fish most of the year, take the amount that is already in our waters and add the large masses moving down the coast as water cools in the northern gulf and the potential is there for some wild fishing when bait and predator collide.
You can target a specific species of fish or just get in the mix of a feeding frenzy and see what's there. Often a host of different species are ganged up on the same bait pod, its common to catch a half dozen or more different species from one area. Don't be surprised if there are some larger fish lurking, keep a heavy rod rigged and ready for that cobia, tarpon, shark, or whatever else might make a presence. While targeting a specific species of fish can become challenging and often frustrating, looking for action with whatever might be feeding around bait schools will give you plenty of action and fun. Plus, that elusive fish that you were targeting might just show up when least expected.
Look for big redfish to continue schooling through the month of October. Pictured is Mike Faulkner of Bokeelia with an oversize 30 plus inch red. Mike pulled the fish from a large school in north Pine Island Sound while fishing with Captain Bill Russell.
Offshore, look for bait balls from just a few feet of the beaches out into the gulf about as far as you dare to travel. Birds are the best indicator to locate the schools, watch for terns, gulls, or other birds grouped up and dipping to the water. Look for what appears as rain (bait fish) on the water, even though the sky is bright and sunny, watch for feeding activity and the silver torpedo shapes of mackerel sky rocketing from the water, if you see that you are about to have some fun. Grouper diggers should return to the docks with impressive catches with many of the fish coming from depths between 35 and 70 feet for the gags and 50 to 90 feet for the larger reds. As the water cools down larger fish should move closer to shore. Also, American red snapper season is open, at least for a short time period, for those anglers willing to make an extended run out to 100 foot plus depths.
Inshore, watch for the same key signs as offshore when over open water or deeper grass flats. Looking along shorelines and shallower water you are more likely to notice the same raining or nervous bait with fish busting them at the surface. This is where you can expect to catch snook, redfish, snapper, and some big trout. Don't ignore mullet schools, there is almost always something hungry and often big, either mixed in or hanging around the perimeter of the schools. Large trout and redfish look for food flushed out from the schooling mullet, and there is always the possibility of a large bull shark or two cruising around the perimeter of the schools, often in only a few feet of water. If you are a wade fishermen take note and keep your eyes open.
Anglers throughout our waters are reporting an unusual number of pompano; schools were concentrated over sand bottom along bars where shallow water meets deep water. Shrimp under popping corks and Silly Willy jigs are the best way to cover some ground. Watch for pompano skipping in your wake to give up their location.
October is one of the best months of the year to fish. It has it all, great weather (not to hot, not to cold), the waters are not crowded, and at times an unlimited number of hungry fish. Put those with an endless supply of bait to fuel all those hungry game fish appetites and it's a great time to be on the water.
Have a safe week and good fishin'.