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Fall finds.

Cooler water temperatures will be more comfortable for the majority offish, and the shallows that super heated during summer will now be favored haunts for a variety of game fish, both large and small.

Pelagic fish like cobia, Spanish mackerel and king mackerel begin their fall southerly migration. We typically see an influx of these fish on offshore wrecks beginning in September and October and even closer to shore as we move into November. Watch for action to our northern reaches of the Suncoast off Citrus and Hernando counties for previews of coming attractions. Nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs from Pasco to Sarasota counties see bait pods that migrate south and out of the bays to hold where water temperature in these deeper habitats is more constant and slower to change. Kingfish work the hard Swiss cheese bottom off Sarasota and Bradenton where most anglers find red grouper staging up in about 50 feet of water. Anglers that fish the bottom with cut or live baits and toss out a flatline with a live bait will find red grouper along with migrating kings and Spanish.

With grouper season open through the end of the year, perhaps the most targeted species offshore is coming to a location near you. Summer grouper spend time in deep water as much as 30 or more miles off our coast in depths greater than 100 feet. But this month you could find good numbers of big gag grouper in 40 or 50 feet of water, less than half the distance away. The best part of fall offshore grouper-fishing is that instead of starting in 100 feet of water and working west like you might do in the summer, you might start in 50 to 60 feet of water and work your way back in toward wrecks, artificial reefs, and small ledges and relief for those often overlooked fish. An even easier way to locate a knot of grouper might be to troll some of the deeper diving plugs that run 30 feet deep or greater, working a zig-zag course heading west. As you hit grouper, save the waypoint for later. These temporary staging areas may be overlooked by the average weekend angler who has a short list of known spots for grouper. With each new cold front or blow, grouper will move and load up new areas, so a continued search will reveal new productive areas just about every time you are out.

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Triggerfish remain closed in the Gulf, however they are rarely targeted. But tripletail, those funny-looking fish that appear to have three tails, become more obvious to those who know where to look. Stone crab season reopened in the Gulf on Oct. 15 and trappers dropped traps on hard bottom areas where these crabs frequent. The lines and floats that attach to the traps to mark the trap's location will attract marine growth and small baitfish and crustaceans creating a mini-habitat where tripletail find comfortable. The food source is there and all you have to do is slowly drive by these floats until you see the fish. Sight-fishing these fish with a small shrimp or jigs make this kind of fishing truly a real trip.

Fall fishing might be my favorite time of all. Fish are in a cram mode for cramming all the food in they can get before winter arrives and the bait disappears. Snook drop their guard and before the season closure some big fish get very aggressive. Brisk-moving tides on the out-going that go into the negative zone can make for some banner days of fishing, and combined with the north wind of an incoming front you have a recipe for shooting fish in a barrel. These bottomed out low-water situations consolidate fish, making them easier to target. Reds and trout drop into the channels and potholes. Snook stage up in the ambush mode on the bottom third of the outgoing tide. Look for them on submerged points and bars, as they wait to whack unsuspecting baitfish that flow out with the tide.

You'll find redfish working the edges of mullet schools in hopes of finding crabs, shrimp, and other prey kicked up by the milling activity. Anglers working hard bottom areas near shore for grouper will find these big schools as they forage along the bottom making their way inshore in preparation for the spawn.

HUNTING Fall hunting opens up with a variety of activity in our area. Deer hunters in Zones B and C have a variety of options and restrictions, depending on where you hunt. The FWC website at http://myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates gives you the direction you need to look to for those restrictions and options. The fall turkey hunt for these zones also comes into play a portion of this month. Some small bore action with gray squirrels gets many hunters out camping in the woods. Hunters on wildlife management areas are also required to have a WMA permit unless they are exempted from license requirements.

* BEST BET

WEST CENTRAL

A doable inshore grand slam with snook, trout and redfish along with flounder can only be improved on by a brief jaunt offshore for gag grouper, kingfish, tripletail, and Spanish mackerel. Top that off with a few private stone crab trap pulls and a dinner feast fit for a king couldn't be better. There are so many tasty targets this month that deciding what to go for might be a matter of following your taste buds.
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Title Annotation:WEST CENTRAL
Author:Markham, Ray
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:915
Previous Article:Changing seasons.
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