September is a transition month from the hot summer to a milder fall season, and we begin to see small changes in weather as we move closer to October.
As we approach the end of this month, the daily storms should begin to wind down. But we’ll still have to contend with daily afternoon westerly sea breezes and 90-plus degree temperatures.
In early September, I take time to make sure all my maintenance on the boat is completed and my gear is in good working order. I continue to run my charters early in the day so we can beat the heat and catch the morning bite. As we move further into the month, I begin to run charters a little later, focusing more on tides with less concern for the water temperature.
The Spanish mackerel bite slowed down in August but I expect there will be another run in mid-September through October as these fish migrate south. Spanish mackerel will be around until the water temperature starts to drop through the 70s and into the 60s. I fish them with live greenbacks and usually chum with a frozen chum bag or cut-up white bait.
We’re starting to see more and more redfish in and around some of the mangrove islands and oyster bars that dot the South Shore area of Tampa Bay. Look for areas with deeper water at the base of mangrove islands or oyster bars. I like to use a pinfish under a bobber in deeper areas near oyster bars.
I don’t expect to catch a lot of redfish in one spot as they haven’t yet begun to school up in earnest. That will happen later in October. One or two fish out of a spot is all I expect. I just move around from one place to another tossing our baits around the edges of the sand holes. Be patient and give each spot enough time for the fish to show up.
I sometimes entice redfish with small pieces of cut-up ladyfish as either chum or bait. I just toss it out in an area I plan to fish. Capt. Jason Prieto and Capt. Will Shook, who both fish the South Shore area, are reporting more and more redfish catches.
The trout bite was good in August and I expect it to continue as we move into the fall. I still like to find them in grass in the 4-foot-plus depth range. I fish for trout with a popping cork using shrimp or by free-lining with white bait. Another good bait is a small pinfish about the size of a half dollar.
The Florida Wildlife Commission voted to open snook harvest on the west coast of Florida this month. I’m not in agreement with the decision. From observations, belief is that the snook recovery is working but is not yet complete. Although the snook catches are up for this past year, we’re still not catching the numbers of snook we caught prior to the 2010 season — not by a long shot.
I fear every charter boat captain and saltwater angler on the west coast of Florida from Tarpon Springs south will go out and try to catch their limit of keeper snook. The limit is one per person, so long as the snook measures 28 to 33 inches and you have a snook permit.
We will be targeting the exact-size fish — the ones that will be spawning next year — we should be protecting and will be putting an enormous amount of pressure on this species. I’m going to ask my customers not to keep any snook, and I encourage other anglers and charter captains to do the same. This species is much too important to Florida as a game fish. If you catch a snook, congratulations. Take a picture of it and carefully return it to the water. Just because the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission says we can keep snook doesn’t make it right. We each have to make our own decisions. I’m sharing mine.
September can be a slow month fishing South Shore waters. Nonetheless, it’s still good to get out on the water and experience this beautiful area. Sometimes fishing can be used just to spend time with friends or family. Catching fish is the bonus!
Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.