Fort Myers Fishing Report: November 2016

by Fishin’ Franks

This past October was a tough one, Red Tides all through the month and then Hurricane Matthew blew by. Add all this up and you get a November which could go either way.

The west winds driven by the bottom half of Matthew blew the Red Tide onto the beaches and into the ICW which then ended up along much of the shoreline and small coves. While the interior of Charlotte Harbor remained unaffected by the Red Tide, as the rivers were pumping millions of gallons of fresh water into the Harbor and Red Tide needs salt water to live, the Redfish were one of the biggest losers of the Red Tide. Just as the Red Tide was at its worst the big adult breeders were heading into the Harbor. Judging by the large number of monster Redfish schools along the bars on the east side and in front of Turtle Bay, it appears many more survived than were killed but big number of spawning fish did die.  What will this mean? Well we’ll find out in about two years. We had a bad spawn last year with lower than normal numbers of breeding Redfish, and this year right now we have a huge population of Reds in the Harbor. So we’ll see in a few years if the Red Tide impacted the spawn. If two years from now the fishing for Reds isn’t that great, we’ll know why.

Snook continue to be the dominant game fish in the Harbor even with the presence of large numbers of Redfish. Snook dominate the action in the canals, the beaches and the piers. Tarpon are also a common catch right now with smaller Silver Kings feeding in the canals. The cool thing about this is both Tarpon and Snook will take the same lures and baits, though Snook are by far the easier ones to catch. A Storm Twitch or a Bomber Long A-15, even the paddle tail shads are making the Snook throw caution to the wind and striking these lures with a vengeance.
 The difference between Snook and Tarpon fishing is that Snook are found right under the docks or within two feet of the seawall. Tarpon on the other hand are more of a middle of the canal fish. So if you’re targeting Snook, cast the lure under a dock or right along the seawall. If after a few casts you don’t get a strike cast out towards the middle of the canal for a Tarpon. When I cast for Tarpon I try to get the lure deeper into the water and more towards the bottom. If I am casting a paddle tail or jig, I will let it sink for a three second count before I start reeling in. This allows the lure to settle deeper into the water. To keep the lure closer to the bottom during the retrieve I hold my rod tip closer to the water while lifting the rod tip up will get you over the rocks and other debris on the canal’s bottom. For Snook, being in shallower water, the position of the lure doesn’t seem to matter as much so I keep the lure a bit higher which provides for fewer chances of the lure getting stuck on debris. So I will start retrieving as soon as the lure hits the water keeping my rod tip up 4 feet from the surface of the water. This makes the lure come in just under the surface and Snook love to hit up. The jaw of a Snook is designed for striking at food while it is in front of its face and higher up. The same is true of Tarpon, both fish can and do feed off of the bottom, but the shape of their jaw and where their eyes are makes it easier for them to feed from the bottom looking up. This is much different than a Redfish who’s built for mainly bottom feeding.

November should also be a good month for bottom fishing in the Gulf. After a storm, Grouper usually come closer to shore as will Snappers. Bonita and King Mackerel are here for the month unless we get a major cold spell, which is unlikely. In recent weeks both Mahi and Wahoo have also been spotted off our coast. So there is plenty of action offshore this month.

The big questions for the month will be, how long will the Red Tide last and how can you avoid it. Since Mother Nature will determine how long the Red Tide will be around that leaves us with keep moving to stay clear of the tide. Watch the direction of the wind for the Red Tide will follow the wind, the waves and the natural tide. When the wind makes an abrupt change in direction expect the Red Tide to move with the wind change. Just a week ago a guy asked me about the Red Tide and it was very near the shore and extended out only a few miles. Then overnight the wind shifted from the west to the east and the Red Tide reached out to fifteen miles the following day. So winds out of the west blow to the Red Tide to shore on this coast and easterly winds blow it out into the Gulf. Another thing to keep in mind is that a Red Tide may not go all of the way to the bottom. Often times in water deeper than 30 feet, the surface or near surface waters may be deadly to fish while the fish on the bottom are not effected at all. 

Anyway, the best bet for this month will be to stay in the brown back waters of the Harbor for some great action with Snook and Redfish or in the canals for Snook and Tarpon. If you are going out into the Gulf, you may have to put some miles between you and shore to avoid the Red Tides. But I pray they will be gone soon.