November is shaping up to be the best month of the fall season. Water temperatures remained higher than normal through October, which postponed some of the cool-weather fishing action. Look for a big boost in the inshore action as weather fronts bring cooler, drier air.
Toward the end of October the specked trout fishing picked up dramatically. For many guides the specks went from being a by-catch of snook and redfishing to a primary target with good size and large cooperative schools.
Some areas have had hundreds of 15- to 22-inch trout moving into shallows with rising tides. Chumming these schools with live sardines can produce feeding frenzies. Keep in mind that the season is closed to harvest in the south region (all state waters south and west of a line running west from the westernmost point of Howard Park Causeway, which is approximately 1.17 miles south of the Pasco/Pinellas county line). For most anglers casting into a school of big specks with ultra-light tackle, catching a mess of speckes is fun regardless of whether they are kept or not.
Trout also gather in deep holes near the flats when temperatures takes a sudden drop. Although trout have a high tolerance for cold, they seek out the stable environments of deep channels and passes during extreme fluctuations.
As things settle down trout return to their preferred feeding grounds over grass.
Snook fishing will continue to be good, as the fish feed heavily before mostly shutting down for the winter. Look for snook to move into residential canals and around docks in the south counties and holding near river mouths and creeks to the north of Palm Harbor. Dock-light fishing at night can be excellent in deep residential canals.
Days with strong tides are the best for snook fishing wherever you choose to hunt them. Most of the heavy tides occur just after the full and new moon phases which fall on the 12th and 26th this month.
Another great snook bite can occur as a cold front approaches our area. The day before the front arrives, winds typically come out of the south. Depending on the severity of the weather system, these winds can be very strong but warm. Since the general direction of the incoming tide along the gulf shore is northbound, a heavy wind from the south gives the tide an extra push, making it flow faster and rise higher. These breezy days often produce fantastic snook action. After the front passes and temperatures drop, the north winds cause extreme low tides and the snook bite typically shuts down.
Redfish are one of the more reliable species when it comes to changing weather patterns. They stay on the flats in warm and cold temperatures alike and usually bite if you can find them. I have caught reds in shallow water when the temperature was above 90 degrees and when it was 50.
Smaller redfish like to congregate under docks. They usually prefer one particular dock structure in an area, even if there many to choose from. These docks are great spots and may hold a dozen or more reds regularly, along with an assortment of mangrove snapper, black drum, flounder and even snook. Live shrimp are the best baits because they settle quickly to the bottom with a scent that attracts redfish. Trimming the tail off the shrimp helps release this scent and reduce its ability to escape.
Another fall favorite are the big jack crevalle often found pushing large wakes across the shallow flats early in the morning. These guys are aggressive and attack a topwater plug like few other fish. Just watching them blast the lure out of the water as they fight for it is nearly as much fun as hooking them. When fly-fishing we often use a topwater lure with no hooks as a teaser to draw the excited jacks into casting range, where a hook-up is all but assured.
A few cobia may be found cruising the beaches and flats this month, as the tail end of their migration south trickles by. Some of these fish seek refuge in power-plant outfalls if they get caught here when temperatures plummet. Some spending the majority of the winter in the artificially warmed water, coming out during the sunny days to feed.