By: Capt. Billy Norris
Say goodbye to extreme heat and get ready for our cooler-weather fish to start showing up. Everything is set up correctly for it to be an awesome fall/winter fishing season, and everyone who works on the water is ready for it!
The water temperature has finally started to drop. Although it hasn’t decreased much so far, the Gulf temps are down from 86 degrees F to around 80F right now. It’s only a 5-6 degree temperature drop, but that can make a big difference, especially concerning our migratory fish. Our coastal waters are FULL of bait schools. Every stretch of beach has pelicans, terns, gulls, and frigates diving in the water after a myriad of baitfishes. The schools are a mixture of threads, pilchards, glass minnows, spanish sardines and more. The cast net has been coming up with such a variety of baitfish that you have tons of options for how to fish that day. The birds are diving from above, but the schools are being hammered from below as well. Preying on them from the water are all sorts of predators, from small to large. There are jack crevalle, spanish mackerel, blue runners, and sharks tearing through the shoals all day. In addition, more prized gamefish including tarpon, bull reds and snook have been present as well, taking advantage of the opportunity to gorge themselves on the easy prey.
All of this action is setting us up for a dynamite winter bite! However, there are a few factors that need to remain consistent to make sure that we have a good winter. First, NO HURRICANES! It is one year since Hurricane Ian devastated our coast. We’ve come a long way, but our area is still greatly damaged and recovering from the aftermath of Ian. In addition to the damage that it did on land, Ian caused our winter fishing last year to be so-so at best. Due to the massive discharges of polluted water flowing from the coast into the Gulf, many species simply skipped us altogether last year, most notably kingfish. We typically have a world class kingfish bite all winter and into spring, but last year I never found a kingfish inside of 30 miles. I believe that this is a direct result of the discharge. The Gulf came up and swallowed the coast, and when it receded back to the ocean, it took with it everything that contaminated it. Sewage, fertilizer, septic, oil, etc., all were in a mix of toxic soup that infiltrated our waters. I was shocked though at how fast nature took care of the problem, as our waters are once again pristine. However, the kingfish normally start to show up right around Thanksgiving, and last year that just so happened to coincide with said runoff. I think that they simply showed up and then passed our waters by due to the poor quality. If we can avoid a hurricane between now and the end of the 2023 hurricane season we will be in great shape. The second factor that needs to remain on course is NO DUMPING of water out of the Caloosahatchee. Although not great for the wetlands, we are approximately 24 inches below annual rainfall this year. Not great as far as the Everglades are concerned, but it does provide some relief due to the fact that they are currently not at capacity at Lake Okeechobee. If we can avoid a dump of discharge water, which inevitably leads to red tide, we should be good!
The nearshore wrecks and reefs are providing excellent fishing right now! Lately we have been landing some nice cobia, gag grouper, and plenty of large reef snook. If you are heading offshore to fish for grouper or snapper, make sure that you check updated regulations, as NOAA and fisheries have once again changed and altered regulations and closures. Very soon, we should start getting our kingfish showing up in the area as well, so time to bust out that steel leader!
Fishing has and should continue to be awesome. Snowbird season is almost here, so get ready for traffic, crowded boat launches, and all the other fun that it brings with it. But, if you have the chance to get out on the water this month, it is pretty much void of other anglers, and you can have a great day on the water!
If you would like to book a trip with us, give us a ring at Pale Horse Fishing Charters (239)285-7710 and be sure to follow us on facebook and instagram for up-to-date catches!