Water temperatures start to cool, migratory action heats up

Fishing the inshore waters surrounding Anna Maria Island is beginning to improve as we move into fall. Cooler nigh temperatures seem to be bringing water temps down slightly, triggering the beginning of migrations for a number of species.

Baitfish such as scaled sardines — or shiners as we call them — are in abundance in Tampa Bay and along the Gulf beaches. This, in turn is causing a mass feeding of many predatory fish. 

On the flats, catch-and-release snook, redfish and spotted seatrout are gorging themselves in preparation for winter. You’ll find mackerel, jacks and ladyfish in on the feed over deeper grass areas and along the beaches. Finding structure in Tampa Bay also is providing action, especially if large schools of bait are present. In these areas, mangrove snapper and gag grouper should be present, as well as large Spanish mackerel. 

For those who fish offshore, anticipations are high for the upcoming migration of kingfish. With large amounts of threadfin herring being reported offshore, that bite shouldn’t be too far off, but we need the water temps to drop a few more degrees. 

Blackfin tuna are in the crosshairs of the offshore fishers. And the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved regulation changes for tuna that will go into effect Jan 1, 2020. The changes create a recreational limit for blackfin tuna of two fish per person or 10 fish per vessel, whichever is greater, and extends these regulations into federal waters. 

Lastly, gag grouper will be more apparent as the month marches on.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m targeting a variety of species. Fishing the flats around mangrove edges is yielding good action for sport fishers on catch-and-release snook, as well as some catch-and-release redfish. Both are responding to free-lined live shiners. When targeting these fish, accuracy in casting is imperative because most of the snook and reds are laying under the roots and bushes. On some occasions, chumming heavily brings out the fish, but only briefly.

Fishing deeper grass flats is resulting in great action on Spanish mackerel and catch-and-release spotted seatrout. In some areas, I’m seeing a bite on every bait cast into the water. There are ladyfish and jack crevalle in the mix, which adds variety to the bite.

Lastly, I’m seeing pompano over deeper grass flats. The bite is random, as these schools are on the move. But on days when I’m lucky enough to nail them down, it is game on.