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On the Water: September brings a welcome change
September 6, 2017

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Wow! It's hard to believe just a few months back we were experiencing an extreme drought in Southwest Florida. Talk about going from one extreme to another as endless rain pelted us for days on end. With the non-stop rain and flooding issues, fishing wasn't a priority for most over the past week. Let's look ahead to September.

With the arrival of September, it's only a few weeks before we break out of the hot days and transition to the cooler days of autumn. This is great news for fishing around Southwest Florida for a few reasons.

First, you would have to place relief from the summer heat and humidity. Days will become less humid with a slight drop in temperature; after the hot days of August this will be welcome. Don't get me wrong, it will still be hot on many days, but it will become much more tolerable as the month progresses.

The summer thunderstorm pattern will begin to fade away, opening up the door to spend longer periods of the day on the water. Also with less rain, the clarity of inshore waters will improve along with salinity levels. And that is very good news following our extra rainy end to August. With all the excess freshwater run-off, this may take a little longer, but barring another tropical system we should see improvement as the month progresses.

As water temperatures slowly drop fish will become more active, resulting in improved fishing as they exert more energy and often feed consistently throughout the day. Of course, its fishing, there are days when you can't buy a bite no matter what, but your chances for success are tipped in your favor. You may need to target areas with higher salinity levels the first half of the month for better results, generally this means in and near the passes or close to the Gulf.

During the heat of summer it's often necessary to run a long distance into the Gulf to find the bigger grouper and snapper. As the days shorten and water temperatures drop, look for these fish to gradually move closer to shore in shallower depths. Also pelagics like king and Spanish mackerel, plus cobia, should begin working down the coast into our waters.

Artificial reefs that dot our coast could yield constant action with a variety of fish from large to small. On any given day you may hook anything from snapper to snook to goliath grouper. Bring a variety of bait and tackle and be prepared for everything.

For the inshore angler, this should be a month with almost endless opportunities. The beginning of autumn is always a great time to fish for the big four (snook, tarpon, redfish and sea trout) inshore species. As the shallower inshore water cools, game fish will become more active. Look for explosive strikes on top waters lures with all four feeding much more aggressively.

Tarpon are not in the huge pre-spawn schools of spring, but there will be plenty around in all sizes, large and small. Redfish will often be in large schools prowling the inshore waters. From now until the first real cold front (most likely in October) presents us with possibly the best red fishing of the year. Large fish will gather in schools of up to several hundred and on the right day can give you a fishing experience you will never forget. Look for them moving along the shallow edges of bars as they push a wall of water and crashing any bait fish in their path. Try to get well ahead of the moving fish to intercept their path. If you don't spook them, make a long cast ahead of the lead fish and hang on. Most are way oversize but they sure are a blast to catch. Tarpon and redfish are often less affected from low salinity levels than other species. Some of our best years for fall redfish fishing have come after very wet summers.

Larger sea trout will begin moving back into shallower water to feed; this is a great time to work a top water plug across your favorite trout flats. Plenty of keeper size trout will also be caught under the endless schools of baitfish, look for birds and surface activity. On a side note: large garfish get washed out of their freshwater homes and flushed into the saltwater bays and harbors. Don't be surprised if you hook into a 3 to 5-foot garfish and think you are fighting a record trout. With similar coloration and fight tendencies, it's easy to get fooled, I know I have been, but once it's close to the boat there is no doubt what you have.

Snook season will reopen Sept. 1, they should begin to leave the beach and passes and move back inshore on the flats around oyster bars, shorelines and other structures. This can be one of the best months for snook fishing, and if you're lucky enough to catch one within the legal slot, they are again in season. This does not mean you have to keep them as a majority of anglers prefer to release all snook to allow the population to grow. However, if you plan on taking home a keeper size snook, make sure you purchased a snook stamp along with your saltwater fishing license.

Plenty of other fish, including Spanish mackerel, sharks, snapper, jack crevalle, bluefish, pompano and cobia, to name a few, are on the list of what we should expect to catch in the upcoming month. With so many fishing opportunities and weather that's more enjoyable (hopefully, with a lot less rain), get out there and see what you can catch!

If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at Gulf Coast Guide Service at 239-283-7960, on the Web at www.fishpineisland.com or email gcl2fish@live.com

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Bill Russell has spent his entire life fishing and learning the waters surrounding Pine Island and as a professional fishing guide for the past 18 years.

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