As we roll through the month of October here in Southwest Florida, things are moving and shaking out on the coastal waters both shallow and deep. Historically, October is a fishy month and for now it has yet to truly disappoint.
Respectable tides and an abundance of baitfish continue to fuel a steady pick of snook, jack crevalle and redfish along the beaches, area passes and middle bay systems. A Cooler Gulf water temperature has the bite remaining active throughout the entire day.
Adding to the mix this week has been an influx of pompano. The tastiest member of the jack family has made its return and can be encountered along the beaches, near sand bar edges and inside the deeper passes. Traditional tube jigs and sand fleas presented at or near the bottom will keep anglers hooked up and happy.
Pushing out to the horizon, changes to the offshore fishery are happening as well. While subtle compared to the inshore, red grouper are becoming harder to catch within 20 miles of the coast, shoals of herring are making a showing along with a noticeable mass migration of moon jellyfish.
However, darting and zipping trough schools of arriving baitfish and moon jellies are the first showing of fall king mackerel. Scattered in numbers, the first wave of kingfish can be found over active natural hard bottom areas and around many of the larger artificial wrecks and reefs.
These schooled-sized king mackerel are an outstanding and feisty target when employing light tackle. A surefire species to tangle with when heading offshore, kings are always eager to snap up a variety of live and artificial offerings.
Locally, Clark spoons trolled or cast, bucktail jigs, top water/sub-surface crank baits, live shrimp, blue runners, sardines and herring will get the job done. Currently, clear water conditions have been forcing anglers to forego wire leader and tie on 60-80-pound fluorocarbon to attract hook ups.
Anglers, expect all these bites to continue full-steam ahead and more exciting species to enter the area as the month progresses, After all, October is the true beginning of transitional fishing which keeps us on our toes with where to go and what to throw on each and every outing.
Offshore: Capt. Bill Harger aboard the Port of Naples Marina based Ms. B. Haven has been busy catching a solid variety of fish out on the nearshore and offshore waters of Gordon Pass.
Nearshore excursions have found Harger and crew departing early, solidifying a live well full of sardines and prospecting many of the regions artificial wrecks located within 6 miles of the beach.
Once at anchor, Harger has enjoyed catching success casting live baits over and around the periphery of the submerged structure. Taking the bait for Harger’s anglers has been a steady catch of Spanish mackerel, small/medium-sized king mackerel and bluefish.
For an added bonus and an opportunity of hooking up with a fish of lifetime, Harger has been deploying lager profile live baits to depth and enticing Goliath grouper. With many hooked and lost, Harger and crew have been landing 2 to 3 goliaths per session at an average estimated weigh of 100 to 150 pounds.
Pushing out into federal waters beyond the 9-mile mark, Harger has been targeting lane and mangrove snapper over select areas of natural hard bottom and ledges. Small bits of squid and live sardines have been the baits of choice.
Naples/Estero Bay: Mixed bag catches reign supreme in the waters surrounding Naples Bay and points north of Marco Island. Aboard the Grand Slam, catches of gamefish and seasonal action species have been coming over the rail. The overall bite has been steady with a few off days thrown into the mix due to very high tides and wind.
Snook continue to be my top target with the passes and beaches yielding the best opportunities. Free lined or lightly weighed scaled sardines are keeping the lines tight with most of the snook catches being medium-sized in grade.
When the tide has been right, I have been switching gears and casting brown and pink colored tube jigs. A slow retrieve keeping the jig tight to the bottom or substrate has resulted in fast action pompano, mangrove snapper and bluefish hook ups.
Ten Thousand Islands: Quite similar to last week’s catch report, Capt. Chris Turner has been enjoying snook and redfish catching success in the waters of the upper Ten Thousand Islands.
Concentrating on outside areas where there is a presence of natural forage and optimum salinity levels, the snook action could not be more active for Turner and his anglers.
Opting to fish/guide during the first part of the day, double-digit snook catches have been routine for Turner on most trips. Turner reports that the snook have been foraging strong around deeper shorelines and points possessing moderate to heavy tidal flow.
The redfish bite remains solid around oyster bar areas for Turner but not at the levels it has been over the last few reporting weeks. All of Turner’s gamefish catches have been fooled with free lined scaled sardines rigged on 1/0-3/0 circle hooks.