As most of you already know, we are having a severe and extensive red tide, although it is showing signs of improvement in some areas. Fortunately, the Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from a line in Manatee County from Emerson Pt west to Bean Pt and continuing west to the Hillsborough County line, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook will be catch and release only until at least Oct 12, 2018, to allow a stock assessment to be completed before determining if the action will be rescinded or extended.
Full details, including exact boundaries, can be found here Order No. EO 18-38. Personally, I wish spotted sea trout would have also been included, especially breeders over 20”, but I applaud them for taking this action to protect our fishery.
Jon Johnston had good action fishing dock lights.
That being said, September is usually one of my favorite months, although this is not a normal September. Reds should be schooling on shallow grass flats and you also might find big trout there at first light.
Baitfish along beaches will attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), sharks, tarpon and more. You should find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. There should also be tarpon around bridges at night and in areas of Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor.
Juvenile tarpon from 10 to 30-pounds should be a good option in creeks and canals. All of this depends on how quickly the red tide clears up. The key to good fishing this September will be finding clean water that is unaffected by red tide. There are some areas that are unaffected and fish will concentrate in those areas. Red tide normally doesn’t blanket an entire area, it is patchy and changes from day to day and eventide to tide.
It doesn’t do well in fresh water, so areas, where fresh water is flowing out of creeks and rivers, should be a good option.
I did some scouting this week in advance of an upcoming trip and had decent action catching and releasing 7 or 8 snook on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly, fishing dock lights in the ICW. Jon Johnston, from PA, fished the same area with me on Saturday morning. He had great action catching and releasing numerous snook to 24” also on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly. After a tide change snook started feeding on shrimp, so we switched to a Shrimp Gurgler fly and caught a few on top. Great to see snook plentiful and actively feeding!
Catch and release snook fishing around dock lights and bridges and trout, blues and more on deep grass flats should be good options if the water is clean in those areas. There should be some tarpon in upper Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay. Juvenile tarpon in canals and creeks may also be a good option if you can find them. You might also find them in a few places mixed with snook in dock lights. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!