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On the Water: November brings good fishing opportunities

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Nov 4, 2020

Look for plenty of great fishing opportunities throughout the month of November as cool fronts begin to arrive dropping water temperatures. Fish are transitioning from summer to winter patterns both inshore and in Gulf waters. This is one of those months that it’s possible to hook into about anything that frequents our waters. 

It’s a great time for targeting redfish and snook throughout our inshore waters. As water temperatures cool, snook are on the move from their summer homes around the beaches and relocating throughout the inshore estuaries. If it remains relatively warm, they may be found feeding over inshore flats, oyster bars, shorelines and sand holes. If it turns cold quick, they will seek shelter in protected areas like canals, rivers and shorelines with deeper water. If bait schools remain plentiful, snook will feed heavily at every opportunity. Also expect to catch some big catch-and-release sea trout mixed with snook around islands and oyster bars. 

The schools of big redfish that prowled the inshore waters over the last few months well break up with the cooler weather. It’s still possible to run into a school, but most reds will be in pairs or small bunches. Look for reds tailing over shallow flats on the lowest tides and in the same areas as previously mentioned for snook. On cooler days creeks and shorelines with a hard-shell bottom can provide continuous action with smaller reds up to 20 inches. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge and St. James Creek are a couple areas that come to mind.

Gag grouper season remains open throughout the month with larger fish moving near shore and inshore. Most anglers target grouper in the Gulf waters, but if you find some underwater structure inshore, it could hold some good fish. Docks, piers, bridges or any type of underwater debris is a good place to look, and it doesn’t have to be very deep, often well less than 10 feet. Trolling large, deep-diving lures off our coast in 20 to 40-foot depths is a good technique to box a gag for dinner. Chances are good you may intercept a few large king mackerel moving down the coast as well.  

As the month wears on and the water gets cooler, large sheepshead are on the move and catches will increase nearshore and inshore. Fish them in the same areas mentioned for grouper, along the beaches and around deeper oyster bars. They generally show up over offshore reefs first then make their way inshore. Black drum are often caught with sheepshead around inshore structures including docks, piers and bridges. Smaller drum are often caught on shrimp, but the large ones prefer a chunk of crab. Blue crab works best — pop the shell off and quarter the crab to get four baits. Like sheepshead, drum are generally caught near pilings. 

The past couple weeks produced good numbers of pompano around the barrier islands from Sanibel to Boca Grande. This should continue through the month, as anglers slow bouncing pompano jigs in various colors are rewarded with one of our best tasting fish. Look for clean water with a good tide flow along the beaches or around drop-offs and channels. Always keep an eye open for pompano skipping in your wake when under way. If you notice one or several fish skip off your wake, it is most likely pompano. Not sure why they do it, but it’s a great way to locate them and they run in schools. Circle back around and fish the area and you will generally be rewarded.  

Baits schools a short distance off the beach were getting hammered by everything from tarpon to mackerel as October came to a close. This should continue as bait moves down the coast over the month. Look for birds and surface commotion to locate the action. Expect Spanish and king mackerel in the mix — rig accordingly with wire leader if you intend to land more than you lose.    

Most of the inshore snapper that we enjoyed all summer have moved offshore or around the Gulf passes. Dropping light tackle over artificial reefs and hard bottom should yield a mix of tasty fish, including mangrove snapper, grunts and sheepshead. Drop a live bait down on a heavy rig and stick it in the rod holder for a chance at a big grouper while fishing the light tackle. Look for red grouper, plus gags and snapper over hard bottom and ledges a little further west in depths from 60 to 90 feet. 

  It’s important to keep updated on current fishing regulations for the area you fish. 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. You can still enjoy some great catch-and-release fishing of all three species, they just need to be released as quickly as possible. For all up to date regulations go to www.myfwc.com. 

As the waters of Southwest Florida continue to cool this month, there should be plenty of good fishing to keep anglers busy on a variety of species.  

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.