St. Augustine Inshore – September Fishing Report
It’s been a long hot Summer but… Fall and (hopefully) some cooler weather should be on the way. How do you beat the lingering heat… Get out at first light or wait for the last few hours of daylight, right around dusk. Those are typically the best times to catch the fish while they’re feeding this time of year. It’s a great time of year to toss top-water plugs inshore during those lower light conditions and along the beach the tarpon will be feeding early and late as well.
One thing you absolutely have to look for to find the fish this time of year is the bait, especially the finger mullet, and it has been getting thicker by the day. Whether it’s finger mullet, shrimp, or pogys, if you find the bait, you’ll find the fish. The bait can be easily located by looking for nervous water (small disruptions on the surface, similar to a very small boat wake). You can be sure that redfish, trout, and flounder will be hanging around the schools of bait looking for an easy meal. Don’t overlook the banks along the ICW on the lower tide stages this month. A lot of the baitfish will come out of the creeks and hang along those ICW banks, especially the ones that have oysters scattered on them. Again the bigger fish will be in close pursuit.
Get ready for the “floods”! September brings one of the most unique and exciting ways to catch redfish on the First Coast. We will have some great “flood” tides this month and the reds will be up in the grass tailing away. You can use a trolling motor to scout out the best grass flats but wading or poling your boat is usually the most effective way to catch the tailing reds. Start looking for the fish before the tide gets too high (usually at least an hour or two before the high tide depending on how high it will get). Small plastic baits like those made by Saltwater Assassin will work great in the grass. Rig your lure weedless on a Saltwater Assassin hook and try to present it well in front of or past the fish and then slowly drag it towards him. A direct hit to a tailing red will usually send him darting off the flat like an out of control torpedo. Sometimes they are so focused on finding food that they seem to never look up to find your lure. That’s when a small glass rattle inserted into your soft plastic or tied to your favorite fly will do wonders to get their attention.
Don’t give up on the tarpon just yet… the silver kings should still be feeding early in the morning on the bait pods just off the beach as well as on the big schools of mullet at all the area inlets. Free-line a pogy or mullet around the bait pods and hold on. You’ll also find some big tarpon behind the shrimp boats in the by-catch slicks. If the tarpon don’t want to play, do some trolling along the beach for some line-screaming kingfish action (there will be plenty of them out there). There will also be plenty of smaller tarpon inshore in the canals and deeper creeks and flats. A back hooked free-lined finger mullet, a free lined select shrimp, or medium sized pogy, will all make for a great tarpon snack.