by Capt. Greg Stamper
September has arrived, and a continuation of summer patterns hopefully gets back to normal. This should be the last of the true heat, as we will hit the 90’s for most of the month consistently. Occasionally we’ll get some days in the 80’s, and if we’re lucky some early morning runs in the low 70’s. Our rain patterns will stay normal with an inch or so in random places each day, keeping the creeks and small rivers flowing. We had a tough start to August this year with an extended bout of red tide that has certainly impacted the fishery negatively.
I write bits and pieces of this article starting at the beginning of each month to give you, the reader the best forecast for the future month. With that said, here’s the information I’ve gathered thru August, to give you my best opinion of how September will treat us.
July 27-Aug 4: After a week of fishing through the worst of fish kills since 89, we are finally seeing fewer dead fish and a little bit of greener water in isolated places. We still have heavy pockets of red tide in the passes, the front parts of the bay, and nearshore to at least 5 miles, as that’s as far as I went. Fishing was so bad I flat out cancelled two trips, as it just wasn’t the right thing to do for the customers. It was a sad week of fishing from Captiva all the way down to Wiggins pass for me. I went out several times on my own or with other Captains and saw hundreds of thousands of dead fish ranging from bait, eels, flounder, snook, redfish, goliaths, and even a whale shark. I’ll be scouting again starting Aug 5, so I’ll continue writing then.
Aug 5- Aug 10: OK here’s the good part, nearshore has fish. I went out 8 miles, as the red tide was still bad inshore. The red tide was out there as well, but figured maybe I’d find fish in 30-40 feet on the bottom. I went to several wrecks and reefs and marked some fish. Nothing was happy to oblige however, I’m guessing these fish aren’t interested with red tide still around. As far as I could tell based on my experience, these are permit, goliaths, snappers and possibly snook, sorry I don’t have all the fancy technology that shows me exactly what they are yet. My guess however, based on how they acted the fish were posted up waiting for a change. I dropped crabs, live baits as I sabikied a few, and a few chunk baits with only a shark picking up my offerings. Thankfully a good amount of baby tarpon are in the back bays and creeks though. These tarpon are up to 40lbs and can certainly be targeted, along with snook, sheepshead, and jacks for the most part. Our small rivers and creeks as of now seem to be holding the survivors. Haven’t seen much else yet in the open bays, but I’m hoping they branch out as this mess cleans up, since there’s plenty of vacancies available.
Aug 11- Aug 17: So, besides all the negative publicity and the complete vacancy of tourists that should be here, there’s fish available. With that said I’m going to recommend catch and release regardless for a while. I can only compare this to the massive fish kill / freeze we had 8 years ago. Personally, I’ve had a no kill policy for snook since then, but depending on how the next few months go, that may apply to everything for a while. Luckily, I’ve been into tarpon to 40 ponds, snook to 30 inches and even a few redfish along with a bunch of jacks up to 6 pounds. There’s bait that’s tiny showing up in a bunch of places and besides fishing the passes or out in the gulf, it’s been decent in the back bay. We still have red tide spread out in areas, but it’s more like patches now. I can get drags pulled this week so life’s good, unfortunately the clients aren’t here with many people that were booked worried about what they are seeing throughout media. Can’t’ blame them actually I’d be thinking the same. Well back out Tuesday for SnookStamp.
Aug 20- Aug 28: Still finding fishing tough in open water and near the passes, but the rivers, creeks, and in some places the East side of the bays are holding fish. A few more redfish have shown up along with small snook, a bunch of sheepshead, snappers, and baby tarpon. I saw my first batch of decent size baitfish, 3 days ago but didn’t bother netting them as I’m hoping they’ll make more. Shrimp is now living well in live wells, as well as pinfish. I’m hoping that with all the rains and East winds things will start cleaning up allowing us to get back to something normal soon.
So, all things considered I’m just writing off August and keeping a positive outlook moving into September. The fact that I’m seeing bait showing up tells me without another big bloom predators will follow. Scouting with artificial baits will be my repertoire for the next few weeks, knowing that when I get calls to go fishing I can lean back on the fish I’ve already found. It’s been a tough time for lots of business throughout the region so call your favorite guide, ask them what’s up in their local area, and go from there. We’ll get through this soon and I’m looking forward to writing a real fishing forecast moving forward. Tight lines Capt. Greg
Captain Greg Stamper