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On the Water: September begins a change of seasons

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Sep 2, 2020

September is a great month to catch redfish. Greg Kruzan of Cape Coral caught and released this redfish in Charlotte Harbor on a morning fishing trip with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

As we roll into September, the end of summer is in sight as we gradually break away from hot muggy days and transition to the cooler days of autumn. This is great news for anglers fishing around Pine Island and Southwest Florida.  Days become a little less humid with a slight drop in temperature, a welcomed relief after the hot days of August and summer. Do not get me wrong, it will still be hot, but it will become much more tolerable as the month progresses.   

The summer thunderstorm pattern begins to fade away opening the door to spend longer periods of the day on the water. Also, with less rain, the clarity of inshore waters will improve along with salinity levels. September is a very active month in the tropics, so we need to keep our fingers crossed that hurricanes and tropical storms keep away. 

Just as anglers enjoy the change of seasons, fish also respond, as they become more active resulting in improved fishing.  With a drop in water temperature you can expect them to exert more energy and feed more consistently throughout the day. Of course, it’s fishing, there are days when you cannot buy a bite no matter what, but chances for success are tipped in your favor as the water cools. 

Offshore, as the water temperatures drop, look for fish to move closer to shore in shallower depths. There are recent reports of good grouper and snapper catches in depths beginning at 55 feet. Artificial reefs that dot our coast, along with hard bottom and ledges in 30 to 70-foot depths should give anglers good opportunities for a variety fish.

For the inshore angler, it’s a month to get excited about. The beginning of autumn is a great time to fish for snook, redfish and sea trout. As the shallower inshore water cools, game fish will become more active. Look for explosive strikes on top-water lures over the shallow flats early and late in the day.

Now until the first real cold front (most likely in October) presents us with our best red or red drum fishing of the year. Large fish will gather in schools of up to several hundred and on the right day can give you a fishing experience you will never forget. Look for them moving along the shallow edges of bars as they push a wall of water and crashing any bait fish in their path. Try to get well ahead of the moving fish to intercept their path — If you don’t spook them, make a long cast ahead of the lead fish and hang on. Most are way oversize, but they are a blast to catch.

Larger sea trout begin moving back into shallower water to feed; this is a great time to work a top-water plug across your favorite trout flats. Plenty of sea trout will be caught under the endless schools of baitfish — look for birds and surface activity. It’s been a great summer for bait fish, as they have been abundant, it’s a great sign for the future.

Snook will casually leave the beaches and Gulf passes and transition back inshore on the flats around oyster bars, shorelines and other structure or holes. This can be one of the best months for snook fishing as they will be active and foraging on a variety of baits.

Snook, sea trout and redfish remain catch-and-release only from the Pasco-Hernando county line up around Tampa, south to Gordan Pass in Collier County, basically blanketing our area of Southwest Florida. This closure is due to the devastating fish kills we experienced a few summers ago. No harvest will allow the stocks to rebuild quicker. You can still enjoy some great catch-and-release fishing of all three species, they just need to be released as quickly as possible.

All summer, snapper and shark fishing was great throughout the inshore waters. This trend should continue through the month. Target snapper if you’re after a great dinner and go after sharks if you are after a hard-fun fight. 

Other fish, including mackerel, jack crevalle, bluefish, pompano, permit, tripletail, tarpon and cobia, to name a few, are on the list of what we may expect to catch or have a chance at in the upcoming month. With a variety of hungry fish and favorable weather, it’s time to get on the water and see what you can catch! 

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, contact Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-410-8576 (call or text); on the web at www.fish pineisland.com; or via email at gcl2fish@live.com.

Have a safe week and good fishin’.

As a lifetime resident of Matlacha and Pine Island, Capt. Bill Russell has spent his life fishing and learning the waters around Pine Island and Southwest Florida, and as a professional fishing guide for the past 23 years.