The weather last week prevented me from doing much fishing (as well as most local anglers) so I just figured I'd roll the two weeks into one.....
We've definitely hit a seasonal shift. The night temperatures are in the low 70s again (69 last night) and water temps have come down with it. When this happens you can bet the inshore fishing will turn on and it definitely has. The redfish bite in particular has been very good both day and night. Live baits of shrimp, croakers, bull minnows, etc. will work as will many artificial baits fished around most inshore structures right now. I've had pretty good success early morning around grass patches and shallow drop-offs with topwater lures like Rapala Skitter Walk and Mirrolure Top Dog Jr. I've been fishing a falling tide and the bite has lasted until around 8:30AM or so at which time the reds fade from the shallows. Oddly, I haven't caught many Speckled Trout on the morning topwater outings, but they have been very thick under the lights. For the nighttime outings, I've been arming myself with a 7WT flyrod and a light spinning setup and heavily favoring the fly tackle. The Specks are fattening up with glass minnows right now so the smaller flies and lures have worked much better.
The inshore bite doesn't stop there either, the Flounder are starting to become more abundant in the lower bays and around the passes which means they will start heading out in to the gulf as fall progresses. Fishing around the jetties right now at Perdido Pass with bull minnows and small croakers should score some flatfish if fished right around the edges of the rocks. Expect Black Snapper to be there as well. I've had some very good action with Black Snapper inside the pass around deeper boat docks. Most of the fish I've caught have been averaging just below the 12" minimum size but there are more than enough keepers. Live shrimp and small croakers have been best for the snapper.
The offshore conditions have been tough with only a couple windows allowing boats to get out. The Tuna bite at the rigs has been very spotty. Its either 100mph or dead it seems. There were some very nice fish caught in the past two weeks out there including a couple Yellowfin in the 175-190lb range. The majority of the action has been trolling small ballyhoo, skirted and unskirted.
In case you forgot, Red Snapper season opens next week! We're very excited about another fall Snapper season for many reasons of course, but one main reason is that for the first time in a few years, all species of bottom fish in the Gulf will be open to harvest. This will make the offshore runs even more productive for those who plan accordingly and rig for multiple species. There are a good number of spots within 25 miles of the coast that will provide good action with Gag and Red Grouper, Amberjack, Triggerfish, Scamp and more in addition to the Snapper. Most of these fish can be taken on traditional bottom rigs such as "Carolina Rigs" with a sliding weight or two-hook "chicken rigs". It also pays to have a freeline or drift rig both lightly weighted or unweighted to allow a bait to suspend high in the water column. This is the best method for adding King Mackerel to the box as well as large Red Snapper. I prefer to fish my Snapper drift rigs with a small 1/2-1/4oz egg weight rigged "knocker" style where
the weight slides all the way down to the hook. This will carry a bait downward but will do so very slowly in the current like an injured baitfish.
Another fun and successful method for catching both Snapper and Grouper is by jigging. We use a wide range of styles, sizes and colors of jigs but my favorite Snapper jigs are those made by Squidtail lures in both 5oz and 10oz. I prefer bright colors as well. I usually let the jig hit bottom and start out with a very subtle, light bouncing action just above bottom to try to entice Grouper and Scamp. After a full minute or so I'll start taking long upward sweeps of the rod, dropping the tip quickly to create slack in the line and allow the jig to flutter downward while picking up the slack with a couple turns of the handle. I'll repeat this motion until the jig is at the boat and then I'll drop and repeat the whole process. The faster motion is generally more effective on Snapper and Amberjack that will be feeding higher in the water column around the structure. Jigging can also be more enjoyable in the fact that there's no need for re-baiting.
If light tackle is your thing, then chumming over structure and raising Snapper to the surface is going to be the most rewarding. I love fly fishing for Snapper in-particular. Once chummed to the surface, you can sometimes actually pick out which fish you want! Chumming like this will also increase your chances with Cobia, which will still be in fair abundance over both artificial and natural bottom structures. Always have a pitch bait rigged for this opportunity. Cobia, large and small, will take a wide variety of baits and lures including large, feather jigs, plastic eels, live pinfish, cigar minnows, etc. You don't want to have to rig something after a fish has been spotted, you want to have something pre-rigged ahead of time. Most Cobia will hang out around the boat for some time, but occasionally they will show up, lose interest and leave which makes a quick response more critical.
What, where, when and how are not the only things to remember as you head out this season either. Remember to have your venting tool and dehooker on board with the rest of your gear. Also, Triggerfish are once again in season, but under the new bag limit of two per person at 14" fork length.
I'll be fishing over the weekend, mostly inshore, but I'll be out for Snapper Tuesday-Thursday weather permitting. Hopefully I'll have a good report to write :)
Sam's Bait and Tackle
27122 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Al 36561