This is a refreshing time for anglers around South-west Florida. After a long hot summer, we will finally see some relief with cooler days and a drop in humidity. This combination should set off good fishing opportunities as fish will be active, hungry and on the move. There's been a few reports of red tide along the coast and beaches, hopefully it's just a small bloom and will not have an impact.
October is the month large schools of big redfish devour anything in their path across our inshore waters. Fishing will peak for the big bull reds this month as they begin their migration offshore once the first real cold fronts 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 of all sizes will be on the move as they transition from their summer homes around the Gulf beaches and make way towards their winter haunts throughout the inshore waters. Snook are in season, with the size-slot (28 to 33 inches) that only leaves 5 inches to work with. While you may catch a lot of snook, catching one of keeper size may be another story. Snook of any size are a blast to catch and if luck is on your side you may just catch one in that legal slot if a fresh snook dinner is on your mind. If you do plan on keeping a snook, make sure you purchase a snook stamp with your fishing license.
Gag grouper is another fish that is on the move as they begin to make their way into shallow water offshore and many will come inshore as the water cools. 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, just like snook fishing. 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.
October is a month you can either target certain species of fish or be less specific and just get in the mix of a feeding frenzy and see what's there. Often a host of different species 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, and watch for birds. Don't be surprised if there are some larger fish lurking, it could pay to keep a heavy rod rigged and ready for that cobia, tarpon, shark or whatever else might make a presence.
In my opinion, October is one of the best months of the year to fish our waters. We should have 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.
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.