Getting Into the Off Season Mode

by Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Getting Into the Off Season Mode

Summertime is rounding up and 'busy season' is nearing an end here in the Florida Keys.  As we get into September, business usually grinds to a screeching halt!  Not necessarily because fishing is bad, but just because it's traditionally a slower month down here throughout the Keys--kids going back to school, hunting seasons starting to open up, and, of course, the possibility of storms (although we haven't had a major hurricane hit Florida in over 10 years!)

While I would say nothing in particular is in 'season' with regards to fishing in September, you really can have a shot at catching just about anything that normally swims here in the spring or summer.  While many of the migratory tarpon have moved on by July, there are plenty of resident fish that stay here all year long.  The same is true with many other species.

I always tell my customers that the conditions of the day will dictate what you might catch far more than being here at a certain time of year.  You can be here on a warm, nice day in the middle of December and have stellar tarpon fishing, or you could be here in April, during a late cold front, and have very tough fishing.  For those that aren't familiar, April would be considered 'prime' season for tarpon, while it is not on many guides’ radars in December.

If you are thinking of fishing here in September, another bonus is that the Keys are, for the most part, empty.  This means you can usually snag a good deal on a room and don't have to fight the traffic we contend with during busy season.  When out on the water, it is also nice to get a reprieve from seeing boats in every area you want to fish – you really feel like you have the place to yourself!  The fish are usually much happier when hooks aren’t being thrown at them every day; though that can be a double-edged sword, as guides won’t generally be in that 'day to day' routine of knowing where to be and when to be there.  I would still say the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

During this time of year, we usually start to see more drum showing up as well--especially later in October if things start to cool off a bit.  The redfish will also start to move in around many of the deeper island moats, creeks, and shorelines.  Snook fishing is usually a good bet at this time too.  We had a stellar showing of snook early in the summer this year, so hopefully it will be a good indication of a strong fall fishery.

In October we get the 'fall bait run', which can be a fantastic time to fish.  Some years, it lasts for several weeks, others, it may only be happening for a few days.  You can have some of the best tarpon fishing all year while this goes on, and bait is easy to catch, which is often half the battle in a day of fishing.

Other options during this time of year include fishing in the Gulf.  With some of the lobster pots back in the water, and soon stone crab pots, there is plenty of structure to chase tripletails around.  Cobia also generally start to be more prevalent once the water cools a bit, and, of course, there are some shots at catching lunker redfish and snook on those pristine, perfect fishing days out there.

Typically, the fall is also a great time for bonefish fishing as we get the higher flood tides in many parts of the bay, and water temperatures cool off a little bit from the scorching summertime heat.

If you are thinking of coming down here to fish this time of year, have a chat with your guide and they will steer you in the right direction.




Capt. Rick Stanczyk
Capt. Rick Stanczyk

Author

I fish a 1977 20’ SeaCraft open fisherman offering backcountry, gulf, and shallow reef trips catching everything from tarpon, permit, redfish, snook, sharks, cobia, goliath grouper, mackerel, snapper, and more. You can find me at Bud ‘n Mary’s (www.budnmarys.com) if I’m not out fishing, or call me at 305-747-6903 or email me at rick@seethefloridakeys.net



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