Snook and redfish are good early fall fishing targets
Most snook are still in beach mode but will gradually start to make their way back to their canal and upriver winter hangouts as the weather eventually starts to cool later this month. For now, continue your snook search by boat or foot along the beaches, in all of the passes and structure in or near the passes. Docks, rocks, downed trees, jetties and groins; anything that breaks up the current flow and provides an ambush spot will hold a few, or a whole school of snook.
Night and early morning and beach fishing, casting bucktails and soft plastic grubs in white or silver, top-waters plugs and twitch baits, will have some lucky anglers running down the beach, drags screaming, trying to keep up with a jumbo surf snook. When using a top-water plug, add a “fleeing for my life” fast, panicked, erratic, splashing retrieve, to your snook presentation tool box, making lots of surface commotion, rather than always using the slower “walk the dog” presentation. For maximum disturbance, use a popping style plug with the concave face rather than the traditional Skitter Walk or Zara Spook type torpedo-shaped plug.
Snook remain catch-and-release only until further notice by the FWC. Many anglers would like to see this no harvest policy for our famous Florida gamefish continue saying that there are other local fish to eat that taste better.
Early fall is here so get redfish ready. A good number of bigger fish have been caught and released this past week. Check your tide charts and calendars, then select an early morning, incoming tide day, for your best shot at seeing tailing fish on local flats. If you stay quiet in the boat, don’t rock it back and forth sending out pressure waves from your hull, and quietly push-pole or drift into range, you can get quite close to them to make the perfect cast.
Today’s lightweight, high-tech shallow draft skiffs with poling platforms are the ideal tool for this stealth sight-fishing game but larger, shallow draft, bay boats without platforms can also benefit from having a push-pole onboard. Standing on a non-sliding, secure cooler in the rear will still give you that height advantage to help spot the fish and, a properly used push-pole, always makes less noise than a whining, vibrating, electric trolling motor.
Determine the direction the fish are moving while they’re feeding then softly drop your fly or plastic shrimp out in front of them, and then retrieve it across their path, near the bottom. Use a sidearm cast and definitely learn how to feather your line on the cast, allowing a soft entry into the water, rather than dropping a bomb on the fish.
When the water level and the sun get higher, the reds typically move from the flats to under the mangroves patrolling the roots for shrimp, crabs and smaller finfish. If you can’t skip cast your lure to them under the branches, it’s time for baits like cut ladyfish, mullet, pinfish or shrimp cast as close to the edge as possible, to try to draw them out to play.
Learning to feather your casted line by lightly cupping the reel allowing for that soft splashdown in skinny water and, mastering skip-casting, will certainly up your mangrove and dock fishing game. These are the fish that other anglers scare off with sky casts or that never see the angler’s lure when only casted “safely” along the outside edges of the cover.
When making that perfect skip cast getting the lure far back and under, then getting a solid strike, always remember to fight mangrove gamefish in the down and dirty mode. That is, rod tip in the water swiveling and adding rod power using your hips to move the fish out from under the branches.
Old saying — Holding the rod tip sky high on the strike guarantees a broken line, and much unhappiness.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.