CONDITIONS: We can dismiss all the chatter this week about hurricanes, red tide and green algae and direct our “conditions” attention to what will obviously be the first vestiges of our late fall arrival. Following the front that is passing through the southern part of the Paradise Coast as I put this article together, we will have the arrival of sixty degree mornings come early next week. That, folks, will tumble the water temperature, which is the key determinant as to what species of fish you’ll see hanging on your line very soon and then, for all the winter months ahead. We’ll spell the species changes and techniques out for you in the sector paragraphs that follow……weather change like this is A BIG EVENT here after we sweltered and ducked t-storms for the past five months. Associated with the change in air temperature, next week some final t-storms (hopefully) early weekend as the front finalizes and then the temp drop will kick in. Expect morning air temps of 60-62 late week. That will tumble the water temps to 72-74. The tides will be coming off a full moon, so hang on for some fast moving water especially in the incoming tide mornings. Lastly, you’ll face some gusty west winds before the weekend and then it will settle back easterly, but stay gusty for the balance of the week.
BACKWATER: Even at the beginning of the fall-winter cycle, you should see different action starting in these next two weeks and continuing through mid March. The most dominant change is the arrival and ultimately the dominance of the sheepshead feeding to prepare for the annual spawning cycle triggered by the falling water temperatures. At first the sheepshead will be small to medium size with a seldom few keepers (minimum size 12”) and that will morph to lots of BIG sheepshead as the spawning cycle matures. Quickly now, with more detailed catch techniques in later weeks……it’s a piece of shrimp, cut crab, or a morsel of shellfish on a lindy rig dropped to the bottom on structure (dock, piling, bottom structure) and with a repeated soft lift technique. The other winter favorite is the black drum which can be sizable at 18-23” it’s casting over soft bottom beside a drop off using the same baits but moving the bait ever so slowly across the bottom. Medium weight tackle is recommended. And you’ll also begin to see a pair of favorites in the deeper holes along the ICW and off the beaches where there is good current; the pair feed together i.e. the whiting and the silver trout. Both are fun to catch with the same lindy rig; are great on the table and there is no size limit. So, stay tuned in future weeks, we’ll be giving you more info on these three species along with other developments
NEARSHORE: As reported backwater, the water temperature dip will not only influence the activity nearshore but also the species showing up in the population. The species that invade this sector of the waters have been existing out deep for the summer months and with the reproduction urge awakened will transit from west to east thus passing through the area we label nearshore enroute. Look for sheepshead action in the nearshore reefs first as the vanguard moves to it’s spawning “ground”. Those same techniques sketchily explained in “backwater” will work out here also. Add that to the continuation of the good topwater pelagic fishing (mackerel, bluefish et al) and you see how your potential for a “good day” have been enhanced. All of that should advance this week and the weeks following in November.
OFFSHORE: Note on conditions here first…….be cautious over the weekend. We will have some residual west winds that can be gusty making the sea conditions bouncy and uncomfortable. That should ease nicely as we enter the week. The temperature drop out here has a tendency to move the cold water dwellers i.e. gag and red grouper closer inshore as that is the temperature progression. Those trips deep for grouper may be replaced with one’s a few miles closer inshore over hard bottom. Action on the wrecks and reefs will also show increased activity as the pelagics that summered in the Panhandle will be heading back to the warmer water south of us here……i.e. the reverse migration. And, finally, remember those thousands of stone crab pots that have floating markers that can attract those tripletail. Keep a lookout in transit and double back for some good action and some delicious eating.