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Bring on fall.

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Snook season re-opens this year on September 1 in the Florida Keys. A short trip to the nearest channel or creek, which separates the islands from one another, is all that's necessary to do battle with these fish.

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In deeper or very murky creeks where the snook aren't visible from the surface, like Broad and Jewfish creeks in the Upper Keys, you'll need to fish areas where the current moves water past likely snook hangouts like ledges, mangrove-backed sand spots and areas of manmade structure. Anchor upcurrent of these areas and drift back a jig tipped with a live pilchard or pinfish. It should be just heavy enough to bump bottom as you let the bait slowly drift back with the current. This approach works very well for fish laid up in the current looking for a meal to pass within striking distance.

In shallower waterways like Tavernier Creek or Snake Creek the fish tend to favor sandy areas very near the mangroves. Here it's best to entice the fish away from the line-cutting roots with a few live pilchards chummed several feet out from the channel edge. Once the snook start taking shots at the freebies you can coax a bite with just about any tackle including flies and plugs. Anglers using pinfish for bait should try floating one past a likely stand of bushes on a large cork. Cast upcurrent and let the cork drift past the mangroves. Tackle should be heavy enough to pull a hefty snook away from the shoreline on the bite.

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Backcountry flats anglers will find the high tides have changed certain normally unfishable flats for the better, flooding them with both water and all kinds of fish, including redfish, jacks, sharks, sheepshead and snook.

Fly fishing aficionados looking to tangle with a snook by sight-casting should plan on spending their time in the backcountry poling likely flats. Sight casters will appreciate the versatility of an 8- or 9-weight rod rigged with a floating line. I like an all-purpose backcountry leader no more than 10 feet long that tapers down in a couple sections and terminates with a 30-pound bite leader using either mono or fluorocarbon.

Spin fishers should rig up with a light rod spooled with 8-to 12-pound mono. Double the main line and add a 30-pound mono leader. A %-ounce jig tipped with a shrimp will be irresistible to all but the pickiest fish. Sight cast to individual fish as your partner poles the flat. Try to splash the jig several feet in front of a moving fish and as the fish closes the distance move the jig slowly away from the fish. A head on shot gives the best opportunity for a bite.

This is one of the best months of the year to tangle with a big shark in the Keys. There're all over the Atlantic side offshore wrecks this month. Thirty to 80-pound tackle is the norm. Barracuda is an excellent choice of bait when fishing for shark. Try butterflying a whole one when targeting monsters of this caliber. Rig up using single strand wire and a swivel rated at least three times the breaking strength of your mainline. For example, if you're using 30-pound tackle try No. 10 wire and a swivel rated for 100 pounds. Hooks need to be the right size as well, for 30-pound tackle try a pair of 9/0s. Upsize everything as needed for heavier tackle. Rig the hooks in tandem according to the size of your bait. One hook should go in the nose of the bait with the other toward the tail in the filet, and both hook points should be exposed. Put about 10 feet of wire between the front hook and the swivel. Attach a doubled mainline to the swivel and you're set on the rigging. To get this rig down to the strike zone take a 5-foot piece of 30-pound monofilament and attach a couple pounds of lead to one end then tie the other end to the back hook. Once you're over the wreck, send the bait down till it's just above the wreck, then apply just enough drag to hold the bait. When you get a bite let'em eat for a couple seconds before locking up the drag. Then get ready for an all-out battle.

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DIVING It's a mixed bag with a little bit of everything going on, summer species like dolphin still on the prowl in the pelagic area, while grouper and snapper will still be evident on the deeper reef and wrecks but becoming more frequently spotted inshore as well. It's really the last reliable month to target summer species before I switch over to winter spearing techniques and species with the impending drop in temperature not far off.

BEST BET KEYS

It's the second month of lobster season, and there's been enough time since the opening to give the lobsters a chance to come back to some of their favorite holes and ledges.

While these tasty treats won't be as easy to find after the mayhem of the first few days of the season, if you're out on the water frequently you are bound to find a few to take home for dinner. The month of September is also traditionally calm, and with the winds picking up starting in October, these are some of the last weeks to take advantage of the good water visibility of summer.
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Author:Herum, Matt
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:912
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