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On the Water: October fishing

By Capt. Bill Russell - | Oct 6, 2021

Look for big redfish cruising the inshore waters this month. Joe Wagner visiting from Ohio caught and released this red while fishing a live pinfish in Pine Island Sound with Captain Bill Russell. PHOTO PROVIDED

October is a refreshing time for anglers around Southwest Florida. After a long hot summer, we will finally see some relief with cooler days and a noticeable drop in humidity. This combination will set off good fishing opportunities as they will be hungry, active, and on the move.

Now is the time that schools of big redfish devour anything in their path across our inshore waters. Often there may be several hundred or more working across the shallows on an eating mission. Fishing for the big bull reds will peak in October as they begin their migration offshore once the first real cold fronts of the season begin to drop down from the north. Exactly when that will be only time will tell, if the weather remains mild the big fish can entertain us throughout the entire month.

Snook, large and small, are on the move as they transition from their summer homes around the Gulf Beaches and nearby areas and make way closer to their winter haunts. Snook of any size are a blast to catch. Live bait puts odds in your favor, but with cooling water and fishing becoming more active, artificial baits can be a good choice.

Good trout fishing is another benefit of cooler water. They are active and hungry, and at times feeding in schools under bait pods on the inshore grass flats. They may run in size from little guys to fish well over 20 inches. It’s also a great month to work top water baits over the shallow grass flats early and late in the day for explosive strikes from large trout.

Gag grouper are on the move as they make their way to shallower gulf waters and inshore areas. Landing a legal-size gag grouper over a shallow water wreck or reef is some of the most challenging fishing you will find. They hit like a freight train and run straight to the safety of the structure. Unlike deeper water, where you fish them vertical or from straight above, in shallow water you are away from the structure and make a long cast. They have the advantage, you break off more big ones than you land, but it’s exciting. And if you get a big one to the boat, season is open.

Inshore mangrove snapper fishing was great all summer. Many will make their way offshore by months end. Look for artificial reefs and ledges or hard bottom in depths from twenty to fifty feet to hold concentrations of fish offshore. Snapper should be holding in and around the gulf passes, where days with slower tides often present the best opportunity. Live shrimp with light tackle is the best way to go, and if you are anchored, a chum block is a great idea. Always have a heavier rig in the rod holder with a live flatlined bait. You never know when a big cobia, grouper, or some other species might come in to play.

Last year was a good one for sheepsheads and we should begin to see them later in the month. As they move in, there could be some big ones mixed with the snapper around nearshore reefs and along the beaches or structure around the coastal islands. Sheepsheads will not eat any type of fish, live or dead, shrimp is the go-to bait for most anglers.

Offshore, migratory fish are moving south off our coast and should provide good opportunities. Tripletail catches will become more common as the month wears on and stone crab season begins. If you are trekking out into federal waters, make sure and keep updated on fishing regulations. There have been changes to various species of grouper, snapper, and other reef fish recently. You can keep up to date with fishing regulations by visiting www.myfwc.com. Also, upload the Fish Rules app on your phone. It has current regulations with pictures to help identify fish.

October is one of the best months of the year to fish around southwest Florida. We should see plenty of days with great comfortable weather, hungry fish, plus the winter crowds have not yet returned. That makes for a great combination.

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.