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Lots of bait means plenty of target species come into play

With an abundance of bait covering the flats, many species are showing up inside the many passes along the Gulf Coast.

Nearshore species such as mackerel and cobia have been patrolling bridges and major passes at the beginning of the incoming tide.

Redfish and snook are using the main shore along docks and creek mouths to feed during the stronger high tides.

Speckled trout, in good numbers, are covering grass flats just off the Intracoastal Waterway. Larger female trout are beginning to hold in the deeper sand pockets.

When catching bait for the day, the predawn hour is best for getting a mixture of greenbacks and pinfish. The small fry bait that was everywhere a month ago has increased in size. A quarter-inch mesh cast net will fill the live well without having the "Christmas tree" look. By chumming in water around 8 feet deep, larger sardines will also be mixed in. Another option is purchasing the few select-sized shrimp that bait shops have available.

The redfish bite has been very productive just before the full and new moons that have the higher tides. Larger fish in the 30-inch-plus range are showing up in the shallow grass flats to feed before the late-September spawn. These breeder-size fish will hold along the islands of the Intracoastal Waterway with deep water access. Large potholes and ditches will hold a surplus diet of pinfish and small stone crabs that these game fish gorge on. Anglers using a big shrimp or tail-hooked bait under a cork will attract the attention of cruising fish. Copper and gold spoons are great for covering a wide area searching for fish.

Snook season opened Monday, so all eyes will be in search of an elusive keeper-sized fish (28 to 33 inches in the Gulf). Throughout the month most snook will move toward the backcountry for the winter. Docks that lead into bayous or rivers are tops on the list during the fall. Heavier leader (40-pound test) will be needed to pull fish away from structure and prevent cutoffs. By placing a No. 4 split shot about 2 feet up the line, the offering will stay in the strike zone longer and help to keep it from swimming around dock pilings. Keep very little if any, slack in the line.

The rich turtle grass that covers the flats inside most passes are holding good numbers of speckled trout. There are schools of bait along current lines on the incoming tide. Drift with the tide and throw white quarter-ounce pumpkin bucktails to catch the males. Larger females can be caught by slowing the retrieve and allowing the lure to stay near the bottom. With the water temperature beginning to cool a little, the northern counties will start to have these fish move in around the barrier islands and residential docks.

Rock piles in 20 to 30 feet will begin to liven up as the month goes on. Spanish mackerel are already moving in to forage on the many bait schools and can be caught early in the day before the sun gets too high. A 30-pound fluorocarbon leader with a long-shank hook is needed to catch these speedsters. With a good incoming tide, cobia are holding on nearshore wrecks and just outside passes along the Suncoast. Though most are on the undersized side, grouper have moved into the reefs and structure in 30 feet of water. Mangrove snapper fishing will peak near the full moon on the 16th this month. Plan your evening offshore snapper outing now. Leave early enough to get well full of sardines and cigar minnows with a Sabiki rig offshore while the sun is still out. Try wrecks and ledges in 60 to 100 feet of water for the best show of mangrove snapper.

Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at (727) 439-9017 or at

Lots of bait means plenty of target species come into play 09/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 3:38pm]
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