I can’t believe we are already knocking on the door of September. The Labor Day weekend is upon us and that means the last ditch family get-togethers are happening before the cold weather sets in.
Umm, no…not here.
Even though we join in and celebrate the traditional end of summer, we are still a long way from cooler weather. However, the next couple of months are special when it comes to fishing.
September is a prime time for going after snook along our beaches. The schools of bait are there and the snook are coming off their annual spawn. They’ll fatten up as the days get shorter, a sign that it’s time to start making their migration back to the creeks and rivers where they will winter over until next spring.
For artificial spin or fly anglers they’ll eat most anything that even slightly resembles a baitfish. You can most certainly toss live pilchards at them if you wish, but they’ll readily respond to the fake stuff. Just make sure you do your best to match the size and color of the forage they are chasing.
I’ve found that the early mornings and evenings are best for targeting snook, but don’t be too worried about the timing. If you only fish in the afternoon, go for it. Just be a bit more stealthy in your approach. Snook have amazing eyesight and if they see you before you see them, all bets are off.
Snook season normally opens in our area on September 1st, but not this year due to the extended red tide event we, and the fish, suffered through last summer. They are catch-and-release only from the Pasco/Hernando county line south to the Gordon River in Collier County. This closure also applies to redfish and seatrout.
I believe this temporary rule change was needed and I’m happy to report that it seems to be working. The snook and redfish catches have been very good with only the seatrout lagging behind in some areas.
Speaking of seatrout. Estero Bay has been sorely lacking in catches of them. Last summer’s water quality was evidently not to their liking and they moved elsewhere for what is now an extended stay. It’s not all bad news. Recently there have been catches of small ones along the beaches in cast nets. There have also been some hook and line catches in New Pass and Big Carlos Pass. As we move toward cooler weather I believe they’ll return to the flats. They seem to like the lower water temperatures of the fall season and Estero Bay has had very warm water most of the summer. Based on experience I think a cool-down may be what’s needed for them to return. There’s been plenty of food available so hopefully this is the last piece of the puzzle.
I don’t think there’s any better time than September and October to tangle with redfish. As a matter of fact, many Southwest Florida fishermen call the latter month “red October” for a reason. They are just about everywhere. Huge schools work their way across the flats of Pine Island Sound looking for anything that gets in their way.
They are primarily crustacean eaters, so a crab or shrimp is high on my go-to list of baits. Rig up a popping cork with about 18 inches of leader and then tie on a lead-head jig tipped with shrimp. As the schools move across the flats they’ll push a small wave of water in front of them. Make your cast about 15 feet ahead of the push. Just before the reds gets to the cork give it a gentle pop and that ought to do the trick.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman, retired spin & fly fishing guide and host of REEL Talk Radio on ESPN 99.3 FM from 7-10 a.m. every Saturday morning. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association. Capt. Rob also shares his fishing knowledge in a series of fishing classes at Bass Pro Shops.