Local Fishing Report
Gulf of Mexico
Grouper are the targets of most offshore effort this month and two species: gag and red grouper, are the most commonly harvested grouper in SW Florida. Most gags are caught one of two ways: by deep trolling in water out to about 70 feet in depth, or by bottom fishing on ledges in almost any water depth. Deep diving plugs are the most-utilized tools for deep trolling, but large planers and downriggers are also effective. Want to start a fight in a room full of grouper trollers? Ask them what's the best lure and color. These guys (and gals) have some very strong opinions, but you'd probably get a lot of votes for Magnum Rapala X-raps, Bomber CD's and Mann's Stretch plugs in red/white, chartreuse, or mackerel patterns. Red grouper are also being caught, and sometimes side-by-side with gags, but there are differences in the two fish. First, red grouper of keeper size are less likely than gags to be found in less than 60 feet of water. Second, red grouper are somewhat less aggressive than gags and they're usually caught more readily on bait than by trolling. Also, red grouper are happy on flat rock bottom, while gags often congregate around ledges or breaks. Lastly, gags are migratory, moving into shallower water in the fall, then back deeper by mid-winter. By the way, grouper aren't the only offshore fish being caught. Sharks, amberjack (catch and release due to closed season), mangrove snapper and a few stray kings are all being taken at wrecks and artificial reefs, and it won't be long until the fall mackerel run really gets underway.
Calling all tarpon hunters: September is the last month of the year when you can count on finding tarpon before most of the adult silver kings depart for the winter. Yes, some years they stick around into October (and sometimes even later) but any large fish caught after the first of October are really a bonus. Look for schools of bait in the upper harbor, especially near the mouths of the Peace and Myakka Rivers and watch for tarpon rolling or feeding around the edges. Snook season opened September 1, and action continues to be good for fish holding off mangrove points and around creek mouths. Grass flats in Turtle Bay and Bull Bay have been producing lots of trout, a few pompano and some blacktip sharks and the bars around the mouths of those two bays are good spots for Spanish mackerel and stray bluefish. Look for the fall flounder fishing to pick up on the back sides of the barrier islands and around the passes, though next month will bring better action on these odd looking but delicious fish. Slot sized reds have been caught in fair numbers along the mangroves during high water all around the harbor, even in the upper reaches where the water is almost black. It's time for schooling over-slot reds to appear on the flats and bars. It's also been a busy year for mangrove snapper in Charlotte Harbor, unless you're a diehard redfish or snook angler who is tired of feeding your baits to the mangos.
*Triggerfish season opens January 1, 2018 (closed all of 2017!!)
*Greater Amberjack opens January 1, 2018 (closed all of 2017!!)
*Snook season opened Sept. 1
Let's Go Fishing!
Capt. Ralph Allen