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Changing seasons.

The schools of overslot reds that have tantalized anglers for the last few months have now mostly moved offshore, though you might get lucky and catch this year's last call around the ICW spoil islands or along the edges of Captiva Pass or Redfish Pass. Slot-sized reds are pushing inland and are starting to show in the river mouths and in the canal systems. Ladyfish chunks on the bottom will catch redfish in the rivers or in the canals, but will attract plenty of attention from catfish, too. Big white baits, almost sized for tarpon, or pinfish will also take reds and might cut down on the number of catfish spines you'll need to dodge.

It's been a good year for trout in Charlotte Harbor in terms of both numbers offish and size offish. Almost any patch of sea grass might hold trout this month, but there are locales where these fish tend to congregate in the fall. Favorite areas include the finger channels west of Captiva Rocks, the fringes of ICW spoil islands all through the region, the immense flats near Jug Creek Shoal and around the mouths of Whidden and Catfish Creeks in Gasparilla Sound, and the flats inside the bar between Burnt Store and Two Pines. Popping cork/shrimp combos are a proven producer, but small topwater plugs might be more fun and often produce a larger grade offish.

The Gulf passes and inlets are busy places this month. Swarms of Spanish mackerel move in and out on the tides, terrorizing schools of bait as they go. Bluefish, ladyfish, blue runners and jacks can all mix in with the mackerel and at times the action will be frantic. The barnacle-encrusted maze of pilings at the Boca Grande Phosphate Dock and the jumbled rocks at the Venice Jetties are starting to attract a few sheepshead, and the action on these fish will pick up as fall progresses. Schools of pompano are flitting around the perimeters of the passes and around the spoil islands just inside near the ICW. Bouncing a sand flea or a shrimp/ jig combo along the bottom in these areas works well for pompano and will also produce a mix of trout, mangrove snapper and flounder. Yes, flounder. For most of the year flounder are an incidental catch for SW Florida anglers, but there is some semblance of a flounder run in November, when it's actually possible to target the flatfish on the bay side bars behind Gasparilla Island and Cayo Costa.

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The offshore crowd should find the peak of the king mackerel run this month, but it's tough to pinpoint in advance because each year's run is different in timing, duration and location. We expect to find kings somewhere between 20 and 90 feet of water at some point, and once they appear they may stream south through the area for a few days or for several weeks. Here's some good news: Much of the area where kings can be found is over good grouper bottom, and the fall inshore gag migration is now underway, too. Deep trolling gives you a shot at both kings and gags, and you'll probably also pull a mix of bonito, big jack crevalles, Spanish mackerel and maybe even a blackfin or a bull redfish.

HUNTING Most of this region falls in hunting Zone A, but there is a large area west of the Peace River that falls in Zone C. Some of the hunting seasons are later in Zone C than in Zone A, which causes grumbling among Zone C hunters who have to wait while their buddies across the river are already in the woods. There is an upside to this: If you can acquire access to properties in both zones then you get to hunt two different opening days the same season. Some seasons are not affected by the hunting zone maps. Quail season and Phase 2 of Dove season open on Nov. 12 statewide. Snipe season opens Nov. 1 (though November is pretty early for snipe in SW Florida), and duck season begins Nov. 19.

* BESTBET

SOUTHWEST

Your best bet this month is to take advantage of the last month of snook season. There are stacks offish at the El Jobean trestle and under the Matlacha Bridges, both of which have been locally famous producers of fall snook for generations. These are primarily night fisheries, and both live bait anglers and pluggers can be successful. Live bait guys fish finger mullet, white baits and small live ladyfish. Lure guys generally fall into two camps: those that swing subsurface swimming plugs across the current, and those that swim paddletail jigs or swimbaits such as DOA Terror Eyz just off the bottom.
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Title Annotation:SOUTHWEST
Author:Allen, Ralph
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:787
Previous Article:Weekend getaways.
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