By: Captain Terry Fisher
The November 2023 Ft. Myers Boat Show had a great showing with a number of inquisitive folks asking a variety of questions at my exclusive seminar(s). The question that was mostly asked was,
‘WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO CATCH FISH’?
The answer: ‘Every Month”!
Every species of fish that we have in our rivers, creeks, canals and estuaries are here year-a-round. During seasonal changes, some species become less in number and sizes due to water temperatures, migratory patterns and spawning rituals. Below is a quarterly outline of what anglers may expect to catch throughout the year by targeting species that are more prevalent during specific months.
During the winter months (January, February and March) larger sheepshead migrate from the gulf to infiltrate the inshore piles, rocks, docks and mangroves of Pine Island sound. These fish are spawning and will eat shrimps and crabs. Sheepshead are a great delicacy and provide great action on light tackle.
Spanish mackerel are migrating south and will be in good numbers and bigger sizes compared to other months of the year. They are a blast to catch on light tackle. Look for them where the birds are diving on bait fishes both inshore and offshore as well as the passes between the outer islands.
Seatrout catches will be good in regard to number and larger sizes in the grass flats from 3 to 6 feet of water. ‘By-catches’ will be spanish mackerel, pompano, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
Offshore action will provide larger grouper and snapper species closer to shore (5 to 30 miles out) as the water remains cool.
In the coming springtime months (April, May and June) brings warmer weather along with warmer water. This is the beginning and continuation of the tarpon migration, spawning snook along the beaches and in the passes of the outer islands. Redfish become more active as they make preparation to spawn with larger ‘Bull’ reds in the summer and early fall months. They are usually smaller in sizes but will be plentiful. Triple tail, cobia will be around offshore and at times throughout some inshore waters. ‘Jacks’, mangrove snapper and ladyfish will provide the balance of action during these months on the inshore and close offshore estuaries.
Summertime months (July, August and September); expect smaller seatrouts on the grass flats along with lots of catfish. However, the Redfish action should be good with larger fish. Snook will be just off the beaches, under docks, around rocks and mangroves as the higher summer tides provide access to ‘back country’ locations that were not accessible during the first quarter of the year. However, the larger size reef species such as, grouper and snapper will be farther out as the water temperatures warm up, possibly requiring a 30-to-40-mile boat ride to get to their preferred summertime depths, of 120-160 feet of water.
Fall months (October-December) provide good opportunity for everything but big tarpon. Fall fishing is subject only to cold fronts. Winds become more likely to be out of the north and northeast during November and December months. October is likely to be one of the more productive months for large redfish. Get them while you can as they will be gone as the water temperature cools and the water levels are lower, due to the winds and winter tide patterns. When this happens, I suggest fishing the docks and deeper current cuts close to the passes during November and December for the better results for catching redfish and snook.
Shrimps and bait fish (pilchards, threadfin and pinfish) will be available throughout the year but will fluctuate in size and numbers depending on the quarter (winter, spring, summer and fall). Baits of choice will more than likely determine the success of the species being targeted. Artificial presentations are numerous and can be a lot of fun as well. I submit that higher water levels and water movement throughout a day will be the predominate factors for angler’s success of any species.
Every month, Southwest Florida has good to great fishing opportunities both inshore and offshore. Offshore requires low winds and vigil attention to type of vessel that is being used.
This is Captain Terry Fisher of Fish Face Charters (www.fishfacecharters.com). Call me direct at 239-357-6829 or email me at email@example.com to book a charter on my vessel or yours. I am available as ‘Captain for Hire’ on your vessel (by the hour) for either offshore or inshore fishing locations, proven techniques along with instructions that will guarantee every fishing and boating trip is a success.