What's hot: With cooler mornings, inshore species have been more active, and some larger schools have shown up during the higher tides around the moon. Breeder-sized redfish have been moving in during peak water conditions. Work the grass flats inside major passes to find them. They have a tendency to leave a thick mud trail behind while feeding off the many small crabs and baitfish that can be found this time of year across the shallows. Slot-sized redfish will hang around oyster bars and docks as fall gets under way.
A second option: Another large game fish roaming the shallows is black drum. Because many stone crab traps will be set out at the beginning of October, there will be quite a scent trail, and black drum will key on these slicks. These fish average 20-40 pounds and are great light-tackle action if you throw artificials.
A third option: Snook are moving off the beaches and into backcountry haunts. Spoil islands and docks leading into bayous and creeks will be great areas to find them throughout October. Work the outgoing tide with sardines freelined in the current. The abundance of bait off the beaches allows anglers to have a little extra chum to throw when the tide is ripping out around points and bars.
Tackle tip: Many game fish are primarily feeding close to the bottom. Place a No. 4 split shot about 18 inches up the leader to bring the bait down in the water column and increase hookups without disturbing the bait presentation.
Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 439-9017.