Fall is an excellent time of year to be fishing in Sarasota! The weather is mild and the crowds are gone. And, while fall changes are subtle, the change does occur. Days will be shorter, the angle of the sun changes, and water temperatures drop down into the mid 70’s. This triggers a migration of game fish along the Gulf Coast.
Fish that spend their lives on the move and in the middle of the water column are called “pelagic” species. They basically swim constantly in search of bait and ideal water temperatures. On the Suncoast, the main pelagic species are Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, and false albacore. Sharks and cobia will be found mixed in with these fish as well.
The key to great fishing is simple; bait, and a lot of it! Often times in the fall, a high pressure system will sit up in north Florida or Georgia, causing days of northeast winds. Calm seas and clear water, especially close to shore, will result. This is the ideal situation. It brings in hordes of bait fish which in turn attract the game fish.
This type of fishing can be very exciting as much of it is visual. Predator fish will herd their prey up in the water column, effectively trapping them on the surface. When it is calm, this feeding frenzy can be seen from a long distance away. The water will froth white and birds will be seen diving.
Sight fishing off of the Sarasota beaches is fairly straightforward. The angler places the boat up-wind of the surface activity. Artificial lures that resemble small bait fish are then cast into the feeding fish and are aggressively retrieved back in. In most cases, the lure never makes it back to the boat!
Top artificial lures include jigs, spoons, and plugs. All do a good job of imitating the small forage. ¼ ounce jigs with a 3” white shad tail grub produce and cover the water column. Shallow diving plugs such as the #8 Rapala X-Rap are a great bait as well. ½ ounce silver spoons can be cast a long way and are a good option when the fish are a bit spooky.
Spanish mackerel are easier to catch than false albacore. The mackerel tend to stay up on the surface for a longer period of time. Conversely, false albacore can be frustratingly fussy at times. They will often pop up for a second or two and then disappear. Also, they can be very finicky when it comes to the size of the lure. This is particularly true when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows. They put up a terrific fight and are worth the effort!
There will be times when fish are not showing on the surface. When this occurs, many anglers switch to trolling. This is simply the technique of slowly driving around while pulling several lures. This is a very efficient and effective method. Anglers cover a lot of water and several depths in search of fish. While it is not as visually exciting, it will put a lot of fish in the boat! Often times, multiple strikes occur as the lures are trolled through a school of fish. Spoons work best for trolling.
In conclusion, Anglers visiting the Sarasota area in fall might want to take advantage of the outstanding fishing that is available to them! Check out their website!