Everything seems to go the angler's way this month, if the weather allows. Cold fronts will pass on a regular basis, sometimes as many as one a week. Hold on to your fishing pole tightly, because fish will bite with a vengeance. Easterly winds prevail after each front, calming the inshore waters. Even with great offshore fishing, why bother with the bumpy seas. All you really need to do is get out the pass.
Bait isn't a problem, either.
The beaches are smothered with pilchards and threadfins. Gold-hook rigs or cast nets are sufficient to fill a livewell. Keep in mind, a heavier net is required in depths of more than 15 feet. Three-eighths-inch mesh catches all sizes of minnows, but let it sink close to the bottom before pulling it in.
The bridges inside the bays also produce bait with a cast net. A bounty of pinfish, whitebait, shad and ladyfish can be found around the pilings. A moving tide is best to nab these baits around concrete structures.
Many dock lights also will provide a chance to catch bait, but you must watch for snook when throwing near docks. They will be loitering near these pilings for another month. After the water cools, the linesiders will look for the warmer spots. Mostly ladyfish, pinfish and butterfish are what you'll find.
If water clarity is good, Spanish mackerel will be available within a mile of the bell buoys. Use small terns as an indicator: If these sea birds are working bait along the surface, you can bet on a handful of mackerel eating below. Small spoons, jigs or baby horse minnows surely will get their attention. It simply doesn't take much to spark a Spanish mackerel's appetite in November. A lot of people are catching on to the fabulous taste of raw Spanish mackerel. Prepared sashimi style, this oily fillet is second only to the tuna. Slice the fillet thin and at an angle after letting it sit in the freezer for about twenty minutes. The time in the freezer firms up the meat so a knife can slice it with ease. The colder temperature also helps the taste. Add fresh grated ginger root in some soy sauce and you're good to go.
Some outstanding king mackerel action is available a few miles farther from the beach. Expect the king fishing to improve with the passage of each cold front. This past week we took two young clients, a 13-year-old and 16-year-old, out for a day of fishing. From the first sign of daylight the boys kept busy with a variety of fish. Both caught their share of big kings with blacktip sharks and Spanish mackerel mixed in. Using an anchor and a steady flow of chum lured the fish to our spread of baited hooks.
The artificial reefs about 10 miles from shore are holding kings. Most are about 10 pounds, but a few big ones are available. Bait schools will continue to settle on these structures, enhancing the action as the month progresses.
Mangrove snapper fishing has been productive in the 80 feet and deeper. They were a little late to appear this fall, but they are making up for it in large numbers. Many of the mangroves are heavier than 4 pounds, which is quite impressive. And keeping a big bait down while you fish for snapper is a must, as all the commotion from the schooling mangroves attracts a few bruiser-sized groupers.
Gag grouper fishing is picking up in 50 feet, and they will move closer to shore after a few more cold fronts. Numerous undersized grouper have to be pulled up before the big ones eat, making the action nonstop on many rock piles. A large pinfish or grunt seems attracts the bigger fish. Use care when removing hooks from the small fish to prevent causalities.
A few keeper red grouper are available at the same rocks as the gags. We also have thrown flat-lines rigged with live cigar minnows to catch king mackerel. The bottom line: There will be kings at all depth for the rest of the month.