It seems like the warm weather tried to hold on a little longer this year, but with a strong front approaching this weekend we are surely going to see some changes in the fishing. Here's what's been happening for the last couple weeks and a little bit of a forecast of what's to come as the cooler temperatures set in.
The mackerel bite just offshore is still very good. We've been getting Spanish Mackerel from the beachfront and out up to 10 miles or so but the majority of the action for King Mackerel has been between 6-20 miles out on larger reefs and rigs. We had some excellent action with King Mackerel this past Monday around shallow rigs just off of Ft Morgan. Most fish were 10-15lbs but there were a few 20+lb fish thrown in and larger baits could've helped trigger bites from larger fish. Trolling is a good way of locating the mackerel but casting to them with lighter gear after locating them can be a blast. Pull deep diving plugs or planer/spoon combos until you find the fish and then throw large casting spoons or jigs.
Inshore, the Redfish and Flounder bite has been getting better and better as the air has cooled. The bull reds have shown up off the beaches and around popular places like Dixie Bar at Ft Morgan. Both live and dead baits will take the big reds and mullet and menhaden are tops. Pulling deep diving plugs will locate fish off of the beaches as well as a "run and gun" approach for fish on the surface. Always look for birds and watch your depth finder for bait and schooling reds.
Flounder can be expected from the upper bays to just offshore. The flatfish will be moving through the bays and ICW and working their way out of the passes to the beachfronts and close in wrecks. Bull Minnows and Finger Mullet have always been my favorite baits but working soft plastics and bucktails can be even more productive with more ground covered in a shorter time. Bounce the jigs along the bottom around docks, jetties, nearshore wrecks, etc.
Speckled Trout will start moving into upper bays and coastal creeks within the next few weeks but there are still plenty of fish in the lower bays and even off the beaches. Once coastal water temps hit 70 degrees or so, the fish will begin moving further inland.
October surf fishing was tough. There was an ever-present buildup of weeds on the beach and keeping baits on the bottom without them being covered in vegetation was a constant issue. Even with the extra salad, the Pompano and Whiting bite was good enough to put in the effort and it'll only get better over the next couple weeks. Some of my best Pompano trips have been in the opening week of November. The Sand Fleas and Ghost Shrimp are generally plentiful and the high pressure and dominant north and northeast winds usually keep the surf in a "fishable" state. Finding good runouts or variances in the sandbars are key to successful surf fishing and the beaches have been looking good over the past couple weeks. My general fall surf spread consists of two lighter rods baited with ghosts shrimp or sand fleas for pompano and a heavier rod baited with cut mullet or whiting for bull redfish. I fish the lighter setups closer to shore just beyond the breakers and put the heavier setup much further out into the trough. A good November surf session can produce several different species in a couple hours. I prefer incoming tides for Pompano and Whiting and an outgoing for Redfish, although the Reds still bite well on incoming tides as well.
There are still plenty of bottom fishing opportunities offshore despite a few species being out of season. I put very little effort into bottom fishing in the past week and still managed to produce with Yellowedge and Gag Grouper, Vermillion Snapper and a few others. This is also a great time of year to target Scamp. Focus on waters in excess of 150ft for chances with Scamp and larger Grouper. Natural bottom areas will produce more with "in season" species and less with Red Snapper.
Our close in bluewater bite did slow down a bit over the past week but there is still plenty to offer within 40 miles of the pass. I fished a few days in the area around the Nipple and Elbow over the past few weeks and had good action most days. Last Sunday saw a big change in the pattern. There was a lot of bait, but holding very deep and the lack of surface bait slowed the bite tremendously. Still, the water temps are right and the fish should remain in that area for a couple more weeks. I watch the water temperatures and look for water above 74 degrees. The tuna bite has been getting better and better at rigs inside of 90 miles. There were some very nice fish caught this past weekend including a new Alabama and Gulf record Bigeye Tuna that weighed in at 236lbs. That fish was caught aboard the "Heck Yeah" Captained by Bo Keough. The crew also caught several nice Yellowfin Tuna. Most fish caught over the past weekend were taken trolling and chunking.
November is usually a top month for Wahoo. These fish will be stacking up on the 50 fathom line and on rigs and other structures near the edge. Trolling mixed spreads will connect with Hoos, but my favorite two methods are pulling a spread of deep diving plugs or live baiting. Deep divers can be extremely effective and I prefer plugs that are rated to 20' or more. The Rapala X Rap 30 and Mann's Stretch 30+ are my two favorites. You can pull these right out of the package but I generally upgrade the hooks to 4X trebles or inline J hooks. I usually pull three plugs to keep things clean and tangle free. For live baits, its hard to beat a 6-8 inch hardtail. I usually rig them on a stinger rig with a 1/0, short shanked, J hook in the front and a 4X treble in the back. You can drift these or bump troll them. I also like to use a downrigger when bump trolling and sometimes fish three or four baits at once. The Wahoo bite will produce all winter as long as the weather cooperates.
Greater Amberjack, Gray Triggerfish, Red Grouper and Red Snapper are out of season in federal waters. Some of these species are still open in Florida waters. Go to MyFWC.com for Florida regulations and seasons.
I'm anxious to see what happens after this front pushes through. Good Luck!
Sam's Bait and Tackle
27122 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Al 36561
I haven't taken enough pics lately but here's the new Alabama State record Bigeye Tuna caught by the crew of "Heck Yeah"