A day in the bay.
With a simple understanding of how the water moves into and out of these bays, you could literally spend an entire day successfully fishing. Rookery, Addison, Pumpkin, Fakahatchee and West Pass Bays all have unique attributes that make them prime locations for fishing but the basics will be the same. Tide and current will be the major deciding factor of whether the bay produces or not.
During lower tide phases these bays still allow for fairly easy navigation and the fish become a bit easier to find. Look for ditches and troughs that run parallel to the shoreline to hold the most fish. Deeper entrances and cuts that lead into or out of the bay can also be prime areas during lower water. Live bait tossed to downed structure will quickly draw the attention of snook, snapper, jacks, and trout as the tide nears its fall. Generally speaking, the larger the bait you throw the larger the fish you will attract. Scented soft-plastic jigs can also produce in the high-current areas provided they have enough weight to touch the bottom in the swifter water.
Tarpon, especially juveniles, will often use these funnels or bottlenecks to the bays as feeding stations. Look for rolling fish that will give away the location of a school of tarpon. Tarpon in these areas are often suspended in the water column and will require a few drifts to find the magic depth.
As the tide rises, more area will be accessible to both anglers and fish and often it is the best time to work a shoreline armed with artificials and a trolling motor. Noisy surface lures will work best in the early hours for snook and redfish. Suspending lipless hard baits or shallow diving plugs twitched close to the shore will also draw explosive strikes.
Remember that fall is a time for feeding, so fish will want a more erratic and faster retrieve. The locally favored soft-plastic paddletailed swim bait is perfect for this type of fishing. When cast parallel to shoreline structure and retrieved with a moderately fast speed, more water is covered. These baits perfectly mimic the small finger mullet that seem to be prevalent in the fall.
For fly anglers, fall is one of the best times to blindcast baitfish patterns in the larger bays. Mid tide seems to be the best for fly anglers where there is not too much water to force the fish far under the mangroves.
At some point during the day in a larger bay, the tide will reach its peak flooding many of the exposed bars and structure and driving fish deep into the roots and tangle of mangroves. This is when live bait suspended beneath a popping cork will draw them out. Flood tides in Fakahatchee and West Pass bays are actually preferred by some anglers as this will allow them to access the numerous shallow coves and pockets so favored by reds. Cut ladyfish skipped under flooded mangroves will also produce. Snook and redfish will readily gobble a chunk of ladyfish and this can often be the best way to target the larger fish.
HUNTING Deer hunters in Zone A will have the opportunity to head afield with muzzleloaders and then later in the month with regular guns. Zone A had now been divided into Deer Management Units 1 -3. Most of the regulations are designed to help hunters practice more selective harvesting and hopefully increase the size and quality of bucks taken. Most of the Big Cypress Management area is encompassed in DMU-A2 which allows hunters to only harvest bucks with at least two points on one side of his rack. Many private land hunters and clubs have implemented similar self-imposed restrictions that have proven to aid in deer management. Early season hotspots for those lucky enough to have a quota permit for the Addition Unit will be the area at the Southern end where it joins with the Corn Dance unit.
BEST BET 10,000ISLANDS
As the first cold fronts begin to cool water temperatures, gag grouper will become much more active, especially over the shallower reef and wrecks. Live bottom areas like those found close to shore just North of Doctors Pass can be prime spots to find keeper gags in early fall. This area consists of shallow rockpiles and ledges that can hold a surprising number of larger grouper.
Locating the best areas will require a good bottom machine as some of these rock piles are quite small. Look for subtle changes in depth or the thickness of the bottom line to indicate hard bottom. Bait schools will often hover over these areas as well making them that much easier to find. Pinfish, threads and jumbo pilchards with just enough weight to keep them on the bottom is a time-tested technique for shallow water gags.