Capt. Billy Norris
Southwest Florida fishing provides the ability to target a variety of world class fish in multiple diverse habitats. From the rivers/estuaries, to the backwaters, to nearshore and offshore wrecks and reefs, anglers have hundreds of options on what species to target and what styles to use. Some favorites this time of year are tarpon, permit, cobia, snapper, grouper, snook and redfish. This past month has been excellent on the water! Backwater has been on fire, and nearshore/offshore has been just as productive!
Nearshore: The weather still hasn’t cooled down too much, but the water temperature has dropped from roughly 91 degrees to the mid 80s. This is great news because fall and winter fish are beginning to arrive early. The mangrove snapper bite on the wrecks this past month was the best I’ve seen in a long time. Limiting out has been the norm, with most of the fish being larger individuals. In fact, the snapper have been so big that we have been letting keeper snapper go because we know were going to get bigger ones! To target mangrove snapper, go with long 20/30-pound test fluorocarbon leaders. Snapper can be very picky, so I like to start with 6’ of 30-pound fluoro, but if they won’t take the bait, I’ll go down to 20lb test. Smaller fish and an occasional larger individual will eat shrimp, but they are definitely a second-choice bait. I prefer to use either cut sardines/threadfins, or live pilchards. Chum heavy when fishing for snapper, and many times they will actually get up in the water column right behind the boat. We also have been catching some nice cobia on the nearshore wrecks and reefs. In addition, we have pulled in some monster redfish and snook offshore this month. The permit bite has also been fantastic. Permit have excellent eyesight so use lighter fluoro, however, luckily they have rubbery mouths with no teeth, so even big fish rarely chew through leaders.
Beaches: The tarpon have been around in schools up and down the beaches from Redfish Pass all the way south to Naples. Finding a school is key and you may have to spend a substantial amount of time looking for them before you find them. Once you do, make sure that you have beefed up gear that is capable of tangling with the silver king. Tarpon can be picky, so ensure you have a variety of baits. The beaches have also been covered in acres of bait of all kinds including threadfins, pilchards and pinfish. Sharks, Spanish mackerel, and bonitos have been crashing through the schools providing tons of action. There are also tons of snook up and down the beaches, very close to shore. Using a trolling motor to cruise down the beach and sight fish them can be a thrill!
Backwater: Snook, redfish, big jacks, and trout have been providing constant action in the back. Snook seem to be making a great comeback. For bait, pilchards or pinfish will get you hooked up with the linesiders. Trout also seem to be making a great comeback, and for the first time since 2018 we are catching them (and big ones) on a consistent basis. Target trout on the grass flats by drifting with baits under popping corks. Big jacks are around in large schools as well, both on the flats and near the mangroves. The star of the show has undoubtedly been redfish. The September redfish bite was unreal. There were redfish nearly everywhere throughout the bay, passes, and mangroves. Pinfish were our go to baits this past month, with pilchards being a close second. Important to remember, snook, redfish and trout all remain closed in our local area.
November is here and we are about to enter one of the greatest times of the year to fish! The temperature will be more tolerable, the water will start to cool, and the summertime rains should start to fade away. Concentrate on redfish in the backwaters and be ready for the arrival of kingfish. As the water temperature cools, we should start seeing more and more of our fall/winter fish arriving.