Fall offers great inshore redfishing in Southwest Florida - actually world class shallow water redfishing.
Lure fans will have a great time using topwater plugs of all varieties on schooling reds. The classic largemouth bass lure, the Arbogast Jitterbug, is a super early morning topwater for reds. Try slow moving buzz baits as well as spinnerbaits.
A 10-pound red absolutely crushes a spinnerbait and quickly will erase all memories of that 10-pound largemouth you caught. The same red will try and kill your buzz bait and will provide a terrific jolt when he connects with the hook. Use a trailer hook on any buzz bait for a better hookup percentage. As with spoons, gold is the go-to color in our tannin stained waters.
Capt. George Tunison
Snook returning from their summer long beach vacations are slowly making their way back to their eventual wintering locations and can show up just about anywhere. These will be hungry fish looking to fatten up for the cool period which is not that far away and also makes it a great time to hunt for your once-in-a-lifetime snook trophy.
A 12-inch or bigger ladyfish under a balloon, free lined, or dead on the bottom will catch trophy snook. Fish around heavy structure with strong current flows using strong equipment to insure you actually get to see your fish. If you are a lure guy a big topwater plug or MirrOlure is my choice.
Keep these fish in the water for the healthiest release. Hanging a 25-pounder from a Boga Grip causes internal damage. Lift horizontally and always belly support any fish if you are after a good photo.
Don't count out the tarpon. They are still here and willing to bite both day and night. Capt. Roy Bennett reported rolling tarpon at the river mouth and a lucky angler that jumped two of them this past week. That same ladyfish combo works here as well.
Tarpon are still cruising the river bridges at night waiting for your baits both live or dead.
Never discount the catfish as prime year-round bait for tarpon. Nothing beats a nice hunk of kitty fished on the bottom for our river tarpon. Catch a catfish and cut out the chunk from the back of the dorsal to the start of the tail. Insert a circle hook lightly through the skin/meat on one end and cast out letting it settle to the bottom. Do not bury the hook in the meat or you won't hook up. Wait quietly and fish multiple rods around the boat.
Thursday, while returning from a redfish charter in Charlotte Harbor, we suddenly saw birds appear. A couple of acres of water turned to a froth as thousands of ravenous mackerel drove small bait fish to the surface in a feeding orgy with macks skyrocketing out of the water as they slashed through the bait with birds picking off the leftovers.
Your first instinct is to run to that spot only to find the action has moved 200 yards before your first cast. The smart angler spots the fish then anchors and chums bringing the fish to him. In open water this is the way to go as you usually can't stay on top of these fast moving sprinters and will end up gas poor and frustrated.
If you can't stand to sit and wait then the next best option is open water trolling near birds. Small spoons tied to swivels work great and the old Clark Spoon is a good option.
A lot of these problems are solved when fishing the passes as the bait, birds and macs usually will be bunched up and more accessible. If not in the passes the fish could be just off the beaches to several miles offshore.
Let the birds guide you to the fishing. Take your trusty binoculars.