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On the Water: September brings weather changes, plenty of fish

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Sep 1, 2021

Nick Mohr and his daughter had a successful morning recently fishing for tasty seatrout and mangrove snapper. They were fishing Charlotte Harbor near Bokeelia with Capt. Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

With the arrival of September, the end of summer is in sight. We will gradually break away from hot muggy days and slowly transition to the cooler days of autumn towards month’s end. Days will become less humid with a slight drop in temperature, a welcomed relief after a hot Florida summer. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be plenty of hot days, but they 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 improves along with salinity levels. September is a very active month in the tropics, so we need to keep our fingers crossed hurricanes keep away. 

Just as anglers enjoy the change of seasons, fish also respond. 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 can’t buy a bite no matter what, but chances for success are tipped in your favor as the water cools. 

Offshore, as water temperatures drop and the change of seasons begin, look for fish to move closer to shore in shallower depths and pelagic species heading south down the coast. Grouper, plus large snapper, should be caught with consistency in depths from 65 to 90 feet in Gulf waters. Artificial reefs that dot our coast, along with hard bottom and ledges in 30 to 70-foot depths, are great locations to catch a variety of different fish from small to large.  

Mangrove snapper fishing was excellent through the summer and should continue strong through the month. Snapper school up around some type of structure that could include bridge pilings, docks, piers, oyster bars, creeks, mangroves shorelines or any type manmade or natural submerged structure inshore. Offshore, they are found in numbers over artificial reefs and limestone ledges. Scale down your tackle with a light fluorocarbon leader of 20 lbs or lighter and small hooks. Best baits include shrimp (live or dead) small pilchards or pinfish, and a variety of cut bait. Chumming is a great option to attract snapper and get them fired up.  

It’s possible over the month to come across schools of large redfish roaming the inshore shallows. Often several hundred or more travel along the edge of shallow bars and shorelines eating anything in their path. If you come across a school, make a long cast in front of the lead fish, and hang on. These big reds generally run 30 inches or larger and are schooling until we get our first real cold front, likely in October. 

Larger seatrout 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 seatrout 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 more than abundant. Trout fishing will get better as the water continues to cool over the month. 

Snook will casually leave the beaches and Gulf passes where they spend the summer months and transition back inshore on the flats. Target snook around oyster bars, shorelines, sand holes and structure such as riprap, docks, piers and bridges. This is often one of the best months for snook fishing as they are active, on the move and foraging on a variety of baits.  

Other fish, including mackerel, sharks, snapper, jack crevalle, bluefish, pompano, permit, tripletail, tarpon and cobia, plus others, are on the list of what we may expect to catch or have a chance at in the upcoming month. 

Stay up to date with fishing regulations by visiting www.myfwc.com. Also, upload the Fish Rules app on your phone. It has current regulations and seasons with pictures to help identify fish.  

With a variety of fish and enjoyable weather, this is a great month to get out there 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.fishpineisland.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.