September is the month that redfish begin schooling up in Sarasota. The expansive shallow flats in north Sarasota Bay are traditionally the most productive areas to fish. Long Bar is a great place to start searching for fish. A low, incoming tide in the morning is preferred, allowing anglers to see the large schools of reds. As the tide rises, the fish will work up from the edges of flats and holes onto the grass to feed. Locating the fish can be difficult under flood tide conditions; there is just too much water up on the flat to effectively sight fish.
Artificial baits that work shallow and don’t get hung up in the grass are the most effective baits. This includes soft plastics on a light jig head, weedless spoons, and topwater plugs. A gold Johnson weedless spoon is a proven lure. It can be cast a long way and covers a lot of water. Scented soft plastics such as Gulp! baits are extremely effective, particularly once fish are located. They allow anglers to work an area slowly and thoroughly. Special weighted hooks are made specifically for this application, but a 1/8 ounce jig head also works well. Large live shrimp and bait fish will also produce; however live bait can be difficult to fish in shallow grass.
Speckled trout fishing has been outstanding this year and this should continue in September. Deeper flats will produce more fish, while the larger specimens may be found in shallow water. A Rapala Skitter Walk or X-Rap worked over bars at first light is a deadly technique for fooling gator trout. Along with trout, anglers fishing the deep grass will catch a variety of species this month including bluefish, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, pompano, gag grouper, and ladyfish. Both live bait and artificial lures will catch plenty of fish. A Bass assassin Sea shad on a ¼ ounce jig head is a great choice for anglers who enjoy casting artificial lures. Olive (08) X-Raps and other plugs are also effective along with gold and silver spoons. A live shrimp under a popping cork is a time-proven technique for catching “specks” on the West Coast of Florida.
We experienced a fantastic late summer tarpon frenzy the last several years off of Buttonwood Harbor. Giant tarpon will terrorize schools of glass minnows and ladyfish early in the morning. Live ladyfish and pinfish drifted behind a boat will produce strikes, as will large plugs cast to rolling tarpon.
Snook will migrate from the beaches back into the bays. Both passes will be great spots to fish, especially on afternoon outgoing tides. The bars and mangrove shorelines along Siesta Key are prime spots as the fish move towards their fall feeding areas. Artificial baits will allow anglers to cover more water, while a well full of pilchards practically guarantees success. Redfish, large speckled trout, jack crevalle, and mangrove snapper may also be encountered while pursuing the mighty snook. Lighted docks and bridges are snook magnets and will provide great action for anglers looking to catch fish and escape the summer sun. Live and artificial shrimp free lined in the tide are deadly, as are small white flies.
The rocks and bridges in both New Pass and Big Pass will be excellent spots to target mangrove snapper this month. These tasty saltwater panfish will be migrating out of the bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. Slack tides are the best times to drop a live shrimp or bait fish along the structure. Don’t be surprised if a big snook intercepts a bait meant for a mang!