Today marks the last day of summer. With fall arriving it’s time to start switching gears a bit, but really this is the start of one of our favorite times of year. This is where targeting resident fish with slightly different tactics becomes the name of the game. With the average ambient temps coming down, so does the water temps. But cooler waters are one of the main ingredients as to why fall fishing the southwest Florida coast is so epic – and a local pastime.
Redfish are probably the number one Florida species to target as the water cools off – this is true in Charlotte Harbor as well. These guys do switch a bit with what they will hit as the bait in the area shifts from bait fish to crustaceans, but that doesn’t mean baitfish patterns are over – it just means prepare to change it up a bit throughout the day.
Snook fishing is definitely action packed in the heat of the summer months, as waters cool off snook tend to lay back a bit. They are here and are regularly caught during these months, but presentation and retrieve become more vital to entice the strike. You will have to read the day to decide on what method to use, but just know the snook are here and hungry – just have to feed them right.
The monsters of the summer migration is coming to an end, but the resident juveniles are here to play. Tarpon become more difficult to entice in cooler waters, especially the resident fish. However, when the sun comes up and the temps rise just a bit, the backcountry waters can offer you a great chance at landing one of these.
I like to bring three main lures for spin tackle (but think along these lines for flies as well):
- Suspending Twitch
- Soft Plastics
Not only does this variety allow me to work the water column from top to bottom, but it also allows me to imitate whatever is exciting the strike on the given day.
You may hear that when the temps cool off that it’s time to put the topwaters away. I find this to be far from true. Though admittedly the strikes on these does slow down. It seems to work best at daybreak on glass calm days. Even lethargic fish seem to be excited by this early morning snack. You definitely want to slow this action down a bit though, versus what you may do in the mid summer. A basic “twitch, twitch, pause” will be the order of the day with a topwater lure in the Fall.
Suspending twitch is a great standby lure for the day. This is especially true on bright clear days. Much like topwater, I’d still recommend slowing this down a bit, with the pause action, but when the strike occurs – you get hammered.
Our number one go to overall, soft plastic. Soft plastics should cover a few imitations all at once or with a small variety. Baitfish patterned paddletails work great when slowly worked along the bottom. But the real meat and potatoes of Fall fishing is to imitate small crabs and shrimp. Depending on the type of soft plastic you are using will change how you work it. However, an articulating weighted setup will be the ingredients to success here, the Articulus Jig is the preferred choice for weighted soft plastic hooks. This allows you to work the bottom of the water column with a unique action that is more in tune with how actual bait’s swim and work around the bottom. Simply change up speed and retrieval methods to mimic a plethora of bait species and get both lethargic and aggressive fish to strike.
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