Fall is in the air and the fish are biting

A taste of fall is in the air. Or should I say in the water?

Fishing along the beaches of Anna Maria Island is host to some great fall fishing during the months of October and November.

The fishing highlight is the abundance of migratory species —Spanish mackerel, kingfish, bonita and sharks.

Vast amounts of bait fish are gathering along the beaches attracting a multitude of predatory fish hoping for an unlimited food supply. The predators of the bait fish —kingfish, Spanish mackerel and bonita — are patrolling the beaches in search of these large bait schools.

Lurking in the depths are the predators of the predators — sharks. And a lot of them. Blacktip and spinner sharks are the most frequent followed by hammerhead, bull and sandbar sharks. All of these are worthy adversaries for anglers hoping to hook into something big. Most of this action is occurring within a mile of the beach, although reaching out further to the artificial reefs is also good bet.

Moving inshore, catch-and-release snook and redfish are being targeted along mangrove shorelines and around residential docks. Early morning — right around sunrise — is most productive as long as you have a swift moving tides and clean water.

As a day presses on, moving to deeper grass flats is proving to be productive for catch-and-release spotted seatrout. Mixed in with the trout bite are bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish, which adds a nice variety to the bite.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m patrolling the beaches for migratory species. Not only is this action good, but it gives me a break from fishing the flats every day. Anchoring and chumming with live shiners is working well to attract Spanish mackerel, bonita and kings. Once the fish are in the chum, I’m instructing clients to cast live free-lined shiners on a 2/0 long-shank Eagle Claw hook.

This is method works most of the time. On some occasions, the kings are biting fiercely and getting above the longshank hook, which is resulting in my clients getting cut off. In these situations, I’m adding a small section of hardwire to the hook. This 4-5 inch piece of wire is enough to prevent kings from biting the line — you just have to make sure the water is not too clear, as the kings may see the wire and not bite.

Once we’ve boated our share of macks and bonito, it’s time to try for a shark or two. Fresh-cut pieces of bonita or legal-size Spanish mackerel are attracting the sharks. Most are black tips or spinner sharks, although I’m seeing some hammerheads, too.

On days when I’m not on the beach, but fishing the flats, I’m seeing many catch-and-release snook, as well as some catch-and-release redfish. The best bite in the backwater is spotted seatrout. On some flats we’re catching 20-30 trout without even having to pull anchor. That’s good action right there. Mix in are numerous ladyfish, bluefish and jack crevalle.

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