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On the Water: October is great time to fish Southwest Florida waters

October 8, 2019
By CAPT. BILL RUSSELL , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

October is a refreshing time for anglers around Southwest Florida. After a long hot summer, we will finally see some relief with cooler days and a noticeable drop in humidity. This combination will set off good fishing opportunities as they will be hungry, active and on the move.

Now is the time that schools of big redfish devour anything in their path across our inshore waters. Often there may be several hundred or more working across the shallows on an eating mission. Fishing for the big bull reds will peak in October as they begin their migration offshore once the first real cold fronts of the season begin to drop down from the north. Exactly when that will be only time will tell, if the weather remains mild the big fish can entertain us throughout the entire month.

Snook, large and small, are on the move as they transition from their summer homes around the Gulf beaches and nearby areas and make way closer to their winter haunts. Snook of any size are a blast to catch. Live bait puts odds in your favor, but with cooling water and fishing becoming more active, artificial baits also work great.

Article Photos

PHOTO PROVIDED
Capt. Tony Price, with the help of his son Zac, put the smack down on a mess of great eating pompano. They were fishing in Pine Island Sound near Captiva Pass.

Gag grouper are also on the move as they make their way to shallower Gulf waters and many move inshore. Catching gag grouper over a shallow water inshore wreck or reef is some of the most challenging fishing you will find. They hit like a freight train and run straight to the safety of the structure. Unlike offshore, where you fish them vertical or from straight above, inshore you are away from the structure and make a long cast. They have the advantage, you break off more big ones than you land, but it's exciting, and if you get a big one to the boat, season is open.

Mangrove snapper fishing was great all summer inshore. Many will make their way offshore as it cools down. Look for artificial reefs and ledges or hard bottom in depths from 30 to 50 feet to hold concentrations of fish. Snapper should also be holding in and around the Gulf passes. Live shrimp with light tackle is the best way to go, and if you are anchored, a chum block is a great idea. Always have a heavier rig in the rod holder with a live flatlined bait. You never know when a big cobia or some other species might come in to play.

Last year was a good one for sheepshead and we should begin to see them later in the month. As they move in from the deeper Gulf, there could be some big ones mixed in with the snapper over near shore reefs. Sheepshead will not eat any type of fish, live or dead, shrimp is the go-to bait for most anglers.

Many different options are on the table with the change of season. You can either target specific species or just get in the mix of a feeding frenzy and see what's there. Often a host of different fish are ganged up on the same bait pod; it's common to catch a half dozen or more different species from one area. Large schools of bait are moving down the coast all month; look for bait pods both inshore and off, watch for birds. And always be prepared for the unexpected, such as large fish moving in on the action.

In my opinion, October is one of the best months of the year to fish around Southwest Florida. We should see plenty of days with great comfortable weather, lots of hungry fish, plus the winter crowds have not yet returned, so there's not a lot of fishing competition. That makes for a great combination.

Remember to keep updated on current fishing regulations for the area you fish. Redfish, snook and sea trout remain closed for harvest, however you can still enjoy catch-and-release fishing for all three species. Visit myfwc.com to get the latest rules and regulations.

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

Have a safe week and good fishin'.

As a native of Pine Island, Capt. 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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