Summer will be coming to an end as September closes and with that change will come a whole new fishing season of opportunity in the bay. Although not much will change throughout the month of September,as the weather remains hot and rainy, we will however begin to see a shift in patterns for some of our inshore species as we inch closer to cooler weather and lower tides approaching fall and winter.
Anglers will find themselves shifting gears from fishing the big swinging high tides of summer, to the extreme tidal lows that come with winter. Therefore, start to plan your routes and tracks on the water in the coming months before you set out, to ensure you will have enough water to make it there and back. For example, the flat on the west side of Tarpon Key near Fort Desoto will typically hold 3-4 ft. of water at high tide and 1.5-2 ft. of water at low tide in the spring and summer. However, this same flat in the winter months may only hold a foot of water at high tide and hold less than a foot of water or be fully exposed by grass and sand at low tide, making that route unusable for me in the winter. These coming months make for a great time of year to scout the flats looking for pot holes and undulation on the flats that predatory fish will use as ambush points throughout the year as bait flushes over the top. These coming months are also a great time to catch tailing redfish and fish getting into skinny water in search for their next meal.
Fall is the perfect time to catch bull redfish in the near shore waters of the Gulf, as these brutes travel up and down the coast chasing baitfish and spawning from September-November. If you are cruising down the coast, keep a sharp eye out for the incredible opportunity to see these big schools of redfish on the surface with their golden glow. Tides will carry the offspring into our estuary where the fish spend the first few years of their life and are heavily targeted by anglers until they reach sexual maturity at roughly 27 inches and then proceed to join the spawning stock (Myfwc.com).
Your best bet to catch a bull redfish can include a wide array of bait from pinfish, shrimp, and crabs to a more simple approach consisting of cut bait soaking in their heavily trafficked areas off the sandbars, near shore reefs, and mitigation areas. Be sure to “up” your tackle, as these aren’t your typical 20-30 inch fish, many of these bull redfish easily push 20+ pounds. I like to use a 6-8000 size reel paired with a medium-heavy to heavy rod and 40-60lb fluorocarbon leader with a 4-6/0 hook and a half or whole blue crab, cut ladyfish, or cut mullet for bait. A good bottom machine paired with the understanding of what is showing will help you to find these big schools in the deeper drop offs around Egmont key and surrounding areas. Keep an eye out for birds and frigates, as they are a great indicator of action on the surface and a great area to drop baits allowing for a better opportunity of hooking up to a wide variety of potential catches including Spanish mackerel, bonito, sharks, as well as schooling bull redfish.
Good luck and good fishing.
Hi – I’m Captain Skylar Wilks and I am a full-time Tampa Bay Inshore Guide, residing in Madeira Beach. I grew up spending my weekends and summers fishing with my Grandparents who live across the street from the Madeira Beach Marina. In 2011, I moved a bit further south to Fort Myers and attended Florida Gulf Coast University, with a scholarship to play Division 1 soccer. When I wasn’t playing soccer, I was spending my time learning the waters and fishing in Sanibel, Estero Bay, and the Naples area. In 2015, I graduated with a degree in Business Management and moved back to Madeira Beach to launch my fishing business, Inspired Fishing Charters.