by Captain Tom Van Horn
September marks the beginning of the fall bait migration, primarily silver mullet on Florida's east coast, with their numbers increasing as we progress into October and November. It is hard to predict precisely when or how strong the mullet run will be, but along with the arrival of the bait, comes the predatory species we love so much.
Look for snook, tarpon, jack crevalle, sharks, and large kingfish crushing bait pods along the beach. These pods are easily located by watching for fish and birds busting bait. Once you've determined the direction of fish movement, usually south, simply set up in front and let them come to you. This is my preferred time of year for targeting snook and tarpon along the beach.
The beach snook run started in mid-August with a few fish already showing up, and it will begin to pick up substantially, just in time for the opening of snook season on September 1st. The technique I like to use for beach snook fishing from the beach is to simply slide a ½ to 1 once barrel sinker onto your line, next attach a swivel which will serve as a stop for the weight, and help keep your line from twisting as it rolls down the beach. I use about 24 inches of heavy leader, 30- to 50-pound test, and a 3/0 Daiichi Bleeding Bait circle hook.
You'll need to step up both the hook and leader size if tarpon are present. My favorite bait is a live finger mullet, fishing the very edge of the surfcasting just beyond the white water. Walk slowly along with the direction of tidal flow, so your bait does not wash in with the waves. The same system will work for tarpon, just cast it out further, and make sure you have adequate tackle and line capacity to handle these mighty fish.
Near-shore, good numbers of kingfish will continue to work the beaches, wrecks and reefs. When fishing for kings, slow trolling live pogies on a stinger rig is one of the most productive methods.
In-shore on the lagoons, seatrout are still plentiful on the deeper edges of the flats, with the best bite happening at first light or sunset. Look for ladyfish, tarpon, slot size reds, and jack crevalle to be mixed in. Fish with top water plugs for explosive action, or work ¼ ounce DOA CAL jigs with white or darker colored CAL Tails for the subsurface strike. Near the end of the month, start looking for the pompano and flounder to begin moving out of the lagoon through the inlets and into the near-shore waters along the beach. Also look for the larger redfish to begin to form up just outside the inlets, feeding on baitfish and small crabs carried out by the tide, and for Spanish mackerel and bluefish devouring schools of glass minnows (bay anchovies).
September is also the time of year the breeder redfish school up for the spawn in the north IRL and inlet passes of Ponce and Sebastian, so it's a good time to target these schools. Please remember these are brood stock fish, so if you target them, please handle and release them with extreme care.
As always, if you have questions or need more information, please contact me.
Good luck and good fishing,
Captain Tom Van Horn
Mosquito Coast Fishing Charters
407-416-1187 on the water