Sept-tober

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I have said it before and I will say it again. September and October are two months that offer anglers lots of opportunities in the backcountry and ocean side flats of the Upper Keys. While September is known for calm conditions and hot days with the occasional passing tropical system. October tends to be a bit windier and marks the beginning of the winter cold front season. Either way you look at it, these months are excellent times for anglers looking to catch a flats or backcountry slam. 20140921_083748-1When in the backcountry my focus tends to be on tarpon, snook and redfish in areas around or slightly west of Flamingo. Finding and catching bait in this area is never a problem, all it takes is a block of chum and a cast net to fill your live well with a days worth of premium baits. A live pinfish suspended on a bobber and drifted around overhanging mangroves is a great way to target redfish and snook during the falling tide this time of year. Most tarpon will not turn down a pilchard or mullet drifted back with the current around the mouths of outflows from the main land.  Typically bigger baits mean bigger fish. Snook season begins September 1st,  with a slot limit between 28” and 33” in Monroe County and Everglades National Park. When fishing for bonefish, permit, and tarpon my charters begin and end in areas with a lot of water being exchanged from the oceanside to the bayside. During September it is hard to beat an early morning incoming tide that brings in cooler waters on the flats, making conditions more comfortable for bonefish and permit searching for food. Late afternoons and early morning low tides are also excellent times to find tailing fish. September is also a great month for sight fishing with fly tackle; the calm conditions and clear skies make finding your quarry a lot easier. If you never have, watching a fish pounce on your fly is one of the most exciting experiences in the entire world. 20141011_120001-1When the first cold fronts arrive in October it is common to catch gag grouper in the backcountry especially around the Shark River area on the west coast. Last year I experienced several trips where we caught legal grouper and snook during the same trip, making for happy clients and great dinners. During October we experience a fall mullet run here in the Upper Keys that attracts some large tarpon, snook, and snappers to our area. However it is very common to catch jacks, barracuda, seatrout, and sharks with these fantastic baits.  Easy to locate and net, finger mullet are the best live baits out there and just about everything that swims eats them. These migrating schools make any point, creek, or pass excellent ambush locations that will typically hold fish waiting for the next passing school. Needless to say when fishing with fly tackle I typically throw mullet patterns with great success in these same areas. Once we get our first cold front fishing the flats can be productive all day long for bonefish, permit and tarpon. Typically as the fronts become more frequent and intense they tend to push fish south as the temperatures drop making the ocean side flats a more productive area to fish. Look for bonefish to school up and move across local flats while permit can be found cruising the deeper edges of flats usually during the lower stages of the tide. Shrimp and small crabs are typically the best baits around while shrimp patter flies tend to be slightly more attractive flies this time of year. For those of you who know me, know that to me, fishing is more than just a game, it is a way of life. So fish hard and fish often!


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