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Lining up just right.

What is not to love about November in the 10,000 Islands region? The weather is near perfection, boat traffic is still at a minimum, water temperatures are dipping to desirable levels, and the fall migration of bait is invading the coast and all that equals a wide variety of angling options throughout the area.

The redfish schools will continue to bunch up in the region on just about every outside point from Whitehorse Key south to Lumber Key. While that area is quite large, focus on the outside islands that have a distinct hard bottom adjacent to it, but have deeper water to at least one side of the island. Find this scenario and you will be golden, or better yet, copper. Shrimp under a popping cork will yield some slot-sized reds, but for those over-slot fish, it is tough to beat having a livewell full of pilchards and they are traditionally easy to locate in the month of November. If live bait is not for you, a 1/4-ounce gold spoon, or a dark-hued paddletail swimbait or scented soft-plastic shrimp will all put redfish in the boat this month.

The stone crabbers have had their traps soaking in the water since Oct. 15 and the tripletail bite should be in full swing on the crab trap buoys. Approach these buoys with a "flyby" spotting system with the big motor running, then pull up to them with a bit of stealth when you spot them. Not much beats a medium-sized live shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook to entice these fish.

It won't be long before the wintertime influx of sheepshead is upon us. Remember that even though the largest sheepshead of the year are caught November through February in the region, you'll have to scale down your tackle a bit to get them in the boat. Focus on the many urban docks to the north in Marco Island and Naples as schools of these bait stealers congregate around dock pilings this month. A1 or 1/0 circle hook on 15- or 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders with a half of a medium-sized shrimp is truly all you need to sight fish these tasty bandits.

The fall bait migration should in full swing this month throughout the region and that means a nice dose of southbound migrating tarpon. While the migration is generally shorter than the spring run, the boys of fall tend to cooperate a little better in my opinion. Live threadfin herring, ladyfish, mullet and blue crabs all get the nod this month when chasing silver, but 4- to 6-inch swimbaits in near black hues are a great alternative for active rolling fish. Focus on the outgoing tides in major passes such as Dismal and West Pass, along with outgoing tide staples such as Big Marco Pass and Caxambass. To the south, fish will set up in the wide array of large shallow bays adjacent to deep water or passes, making them a popular targeted species for the feather flingers.


Offshore anglers have to flip a coin before departure this month, as two very good perennial bites should be in full swing in November. With the fall migration of bait descending south in the region this month, hordes of big king mackerel will be destroying bait pods fairly close to shore, but then the gag grouper will be as shallow as they are all year. I prefer a near dawn departure to target the kings in 25 to 35 feet of water just outside of Big Marco Pass and then move to the gags a bit deeper in 35 to 45 feet as the sun starts to rise. Both can be caught trolling at this time of year, which is a great and effective way to cover water in non-traditional trolling boats such as bay boats. Focus on hard bottom areas and deploy large, deep diving crankbaits on 17- to 20-pound monofilament when trolling for the gag groupers and then work higher in the water column with a variety of skirted trolling lures. While these can be done in conjunction with each other, take special attention to having an effective spread and pay attention to your speed. Once you receive a bite, note your trolling speed and all the details of the spread, so that you can duplicate it. If trolling isn't for you, the gags can be caught with knocker and chicken rigs tipped with a variety of cut bait such as threadfin herring and squid, but those in the know are using live pinfish. In addition, nearshore blackfin tuna, the largest Spanish mackerel of the year, some southbound tarpon and even some schools of bull redfish are all in play any given day on the nearshore waters this month.

HUNTING The second part of General Gun Season for antlered deer by all legal centerfire rifles, pistols, shotguns, muzzleloaders, cross-bows and bows is open from Nov. 19 through Jan. 1 in Zone A. In addition, fall turkey General Gun Season is open the same dates throughout Zone A. If you are itching to hunt prior to Nov. 19 this month, jump on the fantastic quail hunting the region has to offer as that season kicks off Nov. 12. As of this writing the daily bag limit for quails in Zone A is 12 per person with a possession limit not exceeding 24.


10,000 ISLANDS

While you can certainly catch triple tail in just about any month throughout the region, November is quite special. The sea of crab trap buoys that were set in mid-October should have substantial growth on them come November and in turn, should be attracting droves of tripletail. Our region sees a lot of just keeper-sized fish, but be on the lookout for free floating giants when out searching the crab trap buoys. Many an angler, including several on my boat, has caught their largest triple tail when spotted not relating to anything at all. A 2/0 circle hook tipped with a nice medium shrimp free-lined and sight casted to the camouflaged experts is a safe bet to get them to eat.
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Title Annotation:10,000 ISLANDS
Author:Dall, Steve
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Nov 1, 2016
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