Air temps cool as we move into fall, but fish continue to bite

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a little touch of fall in the air — at least on the water surrounding Anna Maria Island. 

A slight drop in the water temperature, some drier air and cooler nights and mornings is prompting us to want more of this fall weather. And it’s prompting the fish too. 

Snook are sensing this change as they finish their spawn along the beaches and begin to migrate back to the flats. I’m seeing more and more snook showing up in their usual staging areas to fatten up for the winter. And, with the plethora of bait that is in Tampa Bay right now, that won’t be a problem. 

Redfish are making a showing along the mangrove shorelines of Tampa Bay. Areas where oyster bars exist are always worth a look-see, but don’t exclude docks and piers. 

Along the beaches and in Tampa Bay, schools of Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish are cashing in on the abundance of bait that is present. Look for the diving shorebirds and chances are you’ll find some action on at least one of these species — if not all of them. 

And, if you’re into bottom fishing, mangrove snapper and gag grouper are being caught with some regularity in the waters of Tampa Bay. For the snapper, fishing structure such as reefs, wrecks or bridges is proving to be productive. I am also seeing them on the flats, although catching keepers with any consistency is challenging. 

As for the groupers, trolling with deep diving lipped plugs is working. If you’re not into trolling, free-lining a pinfish around the artificial reefs will work just fine.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m enjoying targeting catch-and-release snook on the grass flats and the mangrove shorelines, which are never ending in our area. Numbers of these fish are on the rise on the flats as they are on the tail-end of their spawn. They’re here and they’re hungry. 

I am also seeing quite a few catch-and-release reds in the mix, which my clients are enjoying. 

Catch-and-release trout fishing is still quite strong. Look for the bait schools on the flats in 6-8 feet of water and you should find the trout. 

Lastly, I’m finding schools of pompano on some of the deeper grass areas. Jigging with Docs Goofy jig works well.