This is one of my favorite times of year. The water starts to cool down and the bait is plentiful on the flats. As far as the fish go, it’s anything at any time–so be ready! Every inshore species is eating everything in sight. Snook have started to move back into their finger creeks, redfish have schooled up by the dozens and, soon, the gator trout will be moving in to begin their spawn.
This is the time of year for the angler who is curious or wanting to start trying artificial baits, since all species seem to be super friendly and eating anything. If you want some excitement first thing in the morning, throw topwater plugs such as a Rapala Skitterwalk or the MirrOlure Top Pup. You will definitely get some great explosions on the surface along with some big fish. Another bait I have the most confidence in is The Slick Lure. It’s a weedless, oversized jerkbait that slow shifts all throughout the water column at a slower pace. All three major inshore species love it and it’s hard for them to resist. You can get these baits at www.theslicklure.com or Armed Anglers in Holiday. I pair the Slick up with an Owner Beast 4/0 weedless hook, either weighted or unweighted according to preference.
Another species that should be targeted is shallow water grouper. With the water cooling down, the fish will move into shallow rock piles. Don’t overlook finding structure in the 8 to 10-foot range, because those fish will be in the rocks along with cobia and mackerel. Use Rapala plugs and other cranking plugs. Cast to the rocks just like you would if you were going after redfish on the flats. Use either a heavy or extra heavy 8-foot rod with a 6000 or better reel, 40-pound braid and 60 to 80-pound leader for that type of fishing. Otherwise, freeline pinfish or any of your favorite cut bait you like to use for grouper in deeper water. Just make sure the drag is locked down and ready to pull them up!