By Neil Taylor (and contributors)
Around the state:
Rebirth for anglers all over the state starts in the month of September. August is very much like January, a time when people may take a hiatus from fishing. February and September are both times when people take advantages of the changes that are occurring in our waters. Heading out of summer and toward Fall, there are fantastic, exciting opportunities coming back for kayak anglers. Will it be a month of tropical depression? “Hurricane Anxiety” has not been a malady for Floridians for a few years now but if there is a month where it is likely to happen, it’s the ninth month. If tropical disturbances skip the Sunshine State again this year, expect to see great reports from kayak anglers all over the state! The people of Texas can tell you: A big storm getting close enough can really mess things up for a while. September is peak time to get a storm. Will this be the year for Florida??
The Tampa Bay region–
September will mean “redfish” all over the Florida Gulf Coast. Shorter days, with slightly cooler temperatures and hordes of large schools of redfish of varying sizes, these fish will be feeding with more zeal than the previous few months from the Pensacola area, through the rest of the Panhandle, Big Bend, Nature Coast on down to the Everglades region. During the spawning time of red drum, the large breeder female schools approach the west central Gulf Coast, piling up near the passes and often swimming onto the first flats inside the passes. Bigger rods and reels are necessary for these larger redfish. The smaller “slot” sized redfish will be ganged up in bigger groups as they maraud the shallows all over the inshore Gulf waters.
Normally a good snook fishing month for the Tampa Bay area, numbers are considerably lower than normal years. The FWC has extended the closed season on this species and considering continuation of the closure for harvest. The fish that are caught will not be in big schools but there are snook possibilities around. Keep these fish in the water as much as possible, give them the proper support if they are lifted and then quickly get these fish back into the water, revived and released. Down into the Southwest Florida region, snook numbers are much better. Many of these fish will be found in the swashes on the beach and can be targeted with lures and flies by simply walking a beach until you spot the fish in the water.
Tarpon are off the beaches around the Tampa Bay area and can be caught in the shadows of the bridges at night or during the other peak tides in the early mornings. Anglers in the Big Bend and Panhandle area should get out after the tarpon this month before they migrate south as September wears on.
Speckled trout stocks are outstanding. With an extensive recovery since the last episodes of red tide in 2006, this species provides a lot of outstanding action for anglers in Southwest Florida all the way to the Panhandle of Florida. The best time to find feeding trout will be “early or late” and usually they will be staying in deeper waters the month of September for the west central to southwest part of the Gulf. In the Nature Coast area to the north and west, trout fishing should get very good during a longer period of the daylight hours.
The best of the rest: Flounder are a great fish to catch if you know where to find them. The “pass” areas will hold these flatfish up and down this coast. Targeting sandy bottom areas where the sand meets another kind of structure, whether than be seagrass, rocks, a wreck, oyster bar, or bridge piling and you may be into some flatties. Baits or lures have to be kept down on the bottom to get strikes. August closed out with catches of large flounder a regularity. Work them in to your fishing plans and enjoy one of the best eating fish the Gulf has to offer.
Mackerel and pompano will also be caught this month. King mackerel will be in the northern Gulf and well offshore all of this month. Spanish mackerel will be, well just about everywhere! Mature bait school will translate to masses of mackerel crashing through those bait pods all over the state. Pompano will be off the beaches of northwest Florida, inside the passes of west central Florida and on the deeper grassflats behind the barrier islands in the south Suncoast region.
Around the Panhandle region–
September is still hot but the water temps will begin cooling off. Fishing early in the morning & the late afternoons will still give you the best bite. The flounder will begin moving good and 1/4 or 1/2 oz jighead with a curly tail soft plastic, gulp or bull minnow work great. Visit Brad at Sunjammers or Robert at TNT Hideaway if you are in the Panhandle.
In the Southwest “Suncoast” area of Florida, Steve Gibson with Southern Drawl guide services (Sarasota area)-
Redfish are the best bet in September, with large schools of oversized redfish on the flats of Sarasota Bay and southern Tampa Bay. Snook will cooperate around light docks and shallow flats before dawn. Spotted seatrout, bluefish and pompano are plentiful over deep grass. In addition, tarpon action should be good around the mouth of the Peace River and in Charlotte County canals.
The East coast of Florida,
September usually means the fall bait migration. The “bait run” will bring along with it the sucking pops and waterfall style runaway dances from mullet trying to evade snook, trout, reds and other species as they pass under mangroves and over drop offs during their move south inshore. Using a chartreuse or clown colored top water plug has also be productive for me if you cannot net any bait. Trout will be found in deeper waters and along drop offs. Reds will be found in singles on the grass flats and near the inlet. Use colors like the 12 Fathom Mullet or SlamR in Greengo or Pearl White as the waters are dirty and grassy. On the ocean side, you will find the snook and redfish along with tarpon following these delectable morsels. Diving birds will be the tell tail sign of the mullet pods. The best way I found to land the predators on the beaches is to tie a swivel to your line then a 2 foot leader with a sliding sinker, then attach a 3/0 circle hook. Use live mullet or even a pinfish. Cast just past the wave break or just into the pods as they go by.
In Northeast Florida: Redfish, trout, flounder, sheepshead are our standards. Pretty much everyone I know who knows what they are doing can go out and catch any one of these species. The sun a little less intense, our action has been very good. We are hoping for great fishing and no hurricanes.
In the greater South Florida area: Much the same, we have had great opportunities both inshore and off. From several years ago but the lesson remains the same: “We had another inexperienced kayaker try the offshore thing. He is lucky to be alive. He did not have enough experience and he was in a very inadequate boat. Please, if this is your pursuit, consult with someone who knows what they are doing and let them make sure you have a boat that can handle it. Or, just wait until you are at the right level to do this.” We expect September to be an exciting time down here.
The tip of the month:
Getting out and wading? Secure your paddle. The paddle is your “motor” for getting back. Most lost paddles are a result of just laying it across the beam of a kayak. Waves or wind can cause a paddle to spin and blow out of a kayak, something that you may not be aware of until so much time has passed that the current has carried it far away. Solutions: A paddle leash, a bungee strapdown system with a button to pin your paddle to your kayak or jamming the paddle into an area where it will not come free. Without your paddle, difficult to move around out there. Use care in making sure you do not become separated from your paddle.
Get out and into the action but as always: Be careful out there!
Neil Taylor, www.capmel.com site administrator