Welcome to the Okeechobee edition of Coastal Angler Magazine. Around the big lake, September marks the beginning of a transition period providing a hint of what’s to come.
In the first half of the month we’ll see little change in our weather. For all intention purposes, it’s still summer and we’ll still be experiencing hot humid weather and those afternoon thunderstorms. As we get further into the month and as the mainland starts to cool, we may experience our first cool fronts of the fall season. We look forward to the arrival of these fronts for they generally mark the end of the summer hurricane season.
September also marks the gradual cool down of the water temperatures in our local lakes. This cool down and the associated decrease in daily sunlight puts the bass on notice that the spawning season is approaching. They’ll quickly put on the old feed-bag to bulk up for the spawn and in doing so come out of their summertime hiding places and move into more accessible pre-spawn habitats. These areas are generally the deeper grass beds just outside the spawning grounds which means tis the season for crank baits, jerk baits, and spinner baits.
For saltwater and inshore fishermen, September 1st marks the beginning of Snook season for both the Atlantic and Gulf Coast areas. As a reminder, Lake Okeechobee does harbor Snook and the lake and the tributaries flowing into the lake fall under Atlantic Coast regulations. That means the slot limit for Snook harvested on Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River is not less than 28-inches and no longer than 32-inches in total length. For waterways flowing towards the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Caloosahatchee River, the slot size is not less than 28-inches and no longer than 33-inches in total length. In both management zones the daily harvest limit is one fish per day. Also remember to harvest Snook you’ll need a saltwater license and a Snook stamp even if you catch the Snook in a freshwater environment. For fishermen headed to the Gulf, recreational Red Snapper opens though on a strange Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule through September and October and on Labor Day. There are also some reporting regulations to follow so visit www.MyFWC.com for details.
For hunters, gator season is now upon us so let’s make it a safe year. For the deer hunters in Zone ‘A’, the muzzle loading season runs from Sept 3 to Sept 16th after which general gun season opens on Sept 17th and runs through Oct 16th. Zone ‘C’ hunters can begin hunting with bow and crossbows on Sept 17th. For waterfowlers, September marks the beginning of the fall hunting season. Waterfowl such as Canadian Geese, Teal, and Wood Duck all have specific start and stop dates so check the schedules on www.MyFWC.com for the appropriate day and place. Just a reminder that what is shot up into the air must come down so respect your fellow hunters and local fishermen by maintaining a safe distance. The same is true for fishermen, unless you like getting rained on by birdshot, stay 300 yards away from blinded duck hunters. In general ‘Mind the Gap,’ 50-yards is lethal, 100-yards is hazardous to your health, and 300-yards will clear you of those 10-guage Howitzers.
September also marks the beginning of the winter snowbird season. In September you’ll see a few early arrivals but mostly those that come here in September are here for a quick visit to check-up on their winter accommodations. The State of Florida has taken quite a few hits these past few months with all that talk about algae issues on the lake and the coasts as well as the recent Zika virus mosquito issue, so let’s make this year’s visitors feel at home for they could have easily gone elsewhere.
Lastly, not to stir the pot, but did you begin your Christmas Shopping yet? Just kidding.