Even though the weather remains very summerlike, keeping the air and water temperatures high, there are some very subtle changes happening. It took all summer but now that it is over we are seeing some normal afternoon and evening thunderstorms in the coastal region.
The heavy rains from these storms helps drop the water temperatures a bit, but the biggest change is the length of the day. When the daylight hours start to shorten, it triggers most of our fish species to begin schooling up, moving around and, most importantly, to feed very heavily in preparation for a spawn in some cases or in anticipation of some lean winter months ahead.
There have been good numbers of spanish mackerel around all summer, but now they are showing in waves. Their substantial cousins, the king mackerel, are probably right on our northwestern horizon.
There have been some reports of kings being taken in the offshore regions about 15 to 20 miles west of our beaches. Of course, the whole bulk of the pelagics will be cruising through our neighborhood in the next two months. The quality and duration of the fall run will depend on the amount of forage and the water temperatures. Some years a mild autumn has the run lasting right up to the first of the year.
Inshore usually begins to perk up as well. Because our bay waters only average about three feet in depth, the water temperatures drop precipitously and most backwater species head to deeper, more protected areas. Quite often in winter an angler can encounter trout, reds, snook, flounder, snapper, sheepshead and more in one small area. Look for areas with depth, structure, dark bottoms, tidal flow and bait fish of some sort.
Speaking of sheepshead, the bite around here normally starts around Thanksgiving and runs right through until April. They can be found in the bays around any good structure and then the big spawning sows start to congregate on the nearshore reefs in February.
Some of the best fishing of the year is on the doorstep.
Good luck and good fishing. Be careful out there!
Capt. "Zach" Zacharias
Docked on Palma Sola Bay at Parrot Cove Marina/Sunny Shores
115th Street West and 36th Avenue, Cortez, FL 34215
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