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Looking for the Lee.

It's that time of the year when you really have to roll with the punches. As the weather patterns change, so does the fishing. Cold fronts will begin to funnel down the state. These cooler brisk winds can wreak havoc on your fishing and boating plans for the weekend, but they can also trigger certain species into biting. If you know what to fish for and how to do it, you can have a successful weekend.

As the front first pushes through, you can expect the offshore fishing to pick up. Winds will most likely be from the northeast at about 20 to 25 knots. This will make for some sporty conditions out there, but big seas are what sailfish prefer. Most of the action will be outside of the edge of the reef, but keep an eye out for sailfish busting on bait around the reef.

Capt. Jamie Connell likes to chase after them by using a kite, which allows him to put out a couple of extra lines on the opposite side of the boat, increasing the odds for more hookups. His preferred bait is a goggle-eye, but live threadfins and small blue runners will work as well. He usually fishes anywhere from American Shoal light to the west end of the bar. He looks for color changes, debris and frigate birds in order to start his drift.

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Blackfin tunas also get frisky with the cold fronts. The bait of choice for them is live pilchards. These fast moving predators will hang around all winter. You can also target them by trolling skirted ballyhoo and cedar plugs. I recommend running them a little farther back than you usually would troll your baits and to increase your speed by a knot or two.

In the basins and channels surrounding the flats and mangrove islands, expect a great bite of spotted seatrout. They give you a good option when conditions turn a bit sporty and you need to produce a bite. They are a trip saver for light tackle and flats guides that need to get out there on challenging conditions and get their clients hooked up. You can spot them in the basins as they work the bottom. We call this mudding, due to the murky water they churn up. You can target them in many ways, including using live shrimp on a jig, but my favorite way is using Gulp! baits. They are easy to use, require no refrigeration, and you can always have a few packs on the boat for those windy days.

When you get back in the basins, look for seatrout, bonefish or permit mudding or any kind of disturbance on the water. After you cast your jigs, allow them to sink to the bottom and gently work them back to the boat.

When you get a strike, make sure you don't set the hook too hard, because you could easily pull the hook right out of a seatrout's tender mouth. Spotted seatrout are also known for their weakjaws, so if you intend to release the seatrout you catch, be aware of how you fight them and handle them.

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Do not be surprised to find snook or redfish in the backcountry basins as well, especially if you are seeing pilchards.

Some of the most common areas for finding trout are Jewfish Basin, Waltz Key Basin, Spanish Banks, Pontoon Bank, and the south side of Nine Mile Bank, to name a few. You're also likely to run into Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper and sharks back there, especially if you chum fish to your boat.

Allow a day or so for the conditions to be safe after the front pushes through and make sure you do not get caught in the initial line of storms that will push through before the front. Some of the roughest weather I have experienced has been during the prefront storm systems and I make it a point to try and avoid them.

DIVING It's all about finding visibility. Usually the leeward side of the island chain will have the best diving conditions. If we have a mild November, you will have a lot more opportunities to get in the water, but if it's a windy one, your time may be better spent doing something else.

If you do find some good visibility while lobstering, keep an eye out for grouper, as the season closes at the end of next month. And unless you're conditioned to the water temperatures by frequent diving this time of year, you might want to bring a wetsuit, especially toward the end of the month.

* BEST BET KEYS

It's all about keeping your options open in November. You can have summer-like conditions that will make for good fishing on the reef or you can have strong, gusty winds that will keep you fishing on the leeward side of the islands or in protected basins and channels. Having live shrimp or pilchards will allow you to have the best chance at hooking up as the weather changes. A lot more pilchards will be moving in this month and they are a valued commodity for both inshore and offshore fishing. Throwing a castnet is pretty much the only way to get them. Pilchards last in a livewell and they're even good baits for yellowtailing and snapper fishing when they're dead.
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Author:Gonzalez, Pepe
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Nov 1, 2016
Words:896
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