Tampa / Clearwater Fishing in September
Capt. Stewart Ames
September 27, 2016
Clearwater - Saltwater Fishing Report
Tampa Fishing Guides look forward to two times of year in West Central Florida...winter's transition to spring and summer's transition to fall. Both of these "seasons" trigger several species to gather and go on the feed. The cooling waters of September generally kick off a strong redfish bite that can go on for several months. Early indications of this redfish activity are positive. There is already a great abundance of low to mid slot size fish, 20- 22 inches, but there are bruisers exceeding 30 inches mixed in as well. On the last few Tampa Fishing Charters, fish were hooked on the majority spots fished, supporting the belief that there are healthy numbers inside of St. Joseph's Sound. A wide range of baits will get the job done, but durable, dense baits, such as cut pinfish or ladyfish, are especially effective as these can be cast long distances with accuracy, and tend to stay on the hook well...less prone to being slowly picked off by the ever present pinfish. Also, do remember that redfish are habitual. If fish are located on a certain spot at a certain tide, these fish will likely be in that area around the same tide phase until a major factor changes...such as weather or tides weakening etc.. Tampa Fishing Guides work extra hard at the beginning of each new high tide phase to locate fish as, once found, these same fish will likely be available for the next 4 - 5 days.
September 1st signals the opening of the fall snook fishing season. This "season" does not necessarily coincide with the best time of year to catch fish however. Fishing pressure for these great gamefish is fairly intense and the regulations controlling harvest are very focused on protecting the bulk of the breeding stock of this species. As this is the case, snook are completely protected at their most vulnerable times...summer (May through August), when they gather in spawning aggregations on the beach and are easiest to catch and winter (December through February), when cold fronts may actually stun fish to the point where they become extremely lethargic and may float to the surface...where they could be illegally netted. For those intent on catching and eating a snook, now is the time. Fish size and numbers will be down from the summer months, but legal size fish are available along mangrove shorelines and up inside residential canals and bayous. This opportunity will remain real until strong cold fronts reach the area. These fronts can start occurring anywhere from Mid October to November. Tampa Fishing Charters concentrating on snook will target areas where snook have been sighted recently. The boat will be positioned 20 to 30 yards away from the fish. Live, unweighted whitebait will be presented to the area and allowed to swim freely. If no bites result, active chumming with pilchards may be used to turn these fish on. Tackle used at this time of year is generally beefed up to medium heavy action spinning rods with a minimum of 20 lbs. test to give angers more pulling power as areas fished generally have more cover...mangroves, dock poles etc.. Catching numerous quality fish at this time of year is a tall order, but securing a fish or two for dinner is a task that can be accomplished with some perseverance.
Bait has returned to the beaches and that has more than one positive effect. Certainly, having an abundant supply of white bait improves the success on any Tampa Fishing Charter. Additionally though, all this bait draws in everything interested in eating it. Fish that have been north or well west of Pinellas County Beaches for most of the summer will be drawn to the area to take advantage. Initially, Spanish mackerel will show up. Quality mangrove snapper, which have provided a great fishery for the last year, should be moving shoreward in greater numbers over the next month. The bait and the mackerel will attract larger predators, such as kingfish, grouper, bonita, barracuda, shark and others. Within 30 days, Tampa Fishing Guides may be targeting as many as a half dozen species on any given fishing trip. Six hour trips will offer customers the opportunity to fish inshore and offshore in the same day...running out early to chase gamefish on near shore reefs and returning mid day, on the higher tides, to chase redfish or catch a snook.
Fall is a great time to take advantage of a broad range of outdoor activities in the local area. Caladesi Island represents a great way to spend a day. For local boaters, it's a short trip over to the Caladesi Marina. For non boaters, the Caladesi Ferry runs on the hour both ways. Relax at the marina, stroll or fish the beaches, or walk the great hiking trail that traverses the interior of the island. Another near shore island, Egmont Key, located near the mouth of Tampa Bay, offers some of the same opportunities with some history as well. Egmont is home to Fort Dade, built during the Spanish American War.
Whether viewing the beautiful local waters or fishing on them, it's great time of year be appreciate what nature has to offer. Good luck and good fishing.
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