It's fall, so they're schooling out there

Published October 21, 2006

Fair weather and cooling water temperatures meant a variety of good reports this week.

Redfish: High tides during mid-day hours produced outstanding results. Oyster bars and sawgrass islands held pods of fish, though the sizes varied from 15 inches to 10 pounds. For the most part, the big ones have not mixed with the "puppy drum." On a recent scouting trip, we found scattered large, upper-slot-sized fish near a patch of rocky bottom in 3 feet of water. The next day when we put lines in the water there, we hooked 15-inch reds. The big ones had moved. By methodically targeting each oyster bar we eventually found the bigger fish.

Staying ahead of the fleet helps. Once a spot is discovered by others, you are better off searching again. Three or four boats running trolling motors along the shoreline can turn a good spot into an empty one in a day or two. As with most other types of fishing, going where the other boats are may get you a few fish, but exploring new ground on your own is usually how you find the big score.

Kingfish, Spanish mackerel: The fall of run of big Spanish mackerel has been here for several weeks, and the big kingfish are starting to show up. Most of the action has been in 15 or more feet of water. Schools of threadfin herring are migrating south now, and they have been the focus of the kings' attention. Birds have been helpful in finding the threadfins. Most of the time, you'll see fish splashing and jumping as they feed on the baitfish. If you do not see fish but find a large pod of threadfins, chances are that something big is nearby. This is a good time to toss in a Sabiki rig and pull up a few dozen of these prime baits. When you have enough, slow-troll a couple of them on wire stinger rigs around the perimeter of the bait pod. If you want to target a kingfish, put out a live mackerel for bait. The small mackerel will not hit them, but if there is a big kingfish in the area he definitely will.

Cobia: Although the peak of the fall cobia run has come and gone, there are still quite a few stragglers coming through. Watch for them near channel markers and around large underwater structures such as wrecks, the artificial reefs and ledges.

Sharks: Speaking of the artificial reefs, G.R. Tarr, Cameron Kirkconnell, and Ritchie Zacker found out that all the bait and activity around the Pasco No. 1 reef has attracted big sharks. Last week, in a spearfishing dive that was cut short, Kirkconnell said the group saw "three or four big bull and dusky sharks moving around and through the bait balls; too many to dive with."

Stone Crabs: Reports from both recreational trappers and sport divers have been that of joyous excitement. Most say they have not seen this many of the tasty crustaceans in some time. Since the season opened Oct. 15, I have pulled my traps twice, and so far results have been even better than last year, which was pretty good. A recent spearfishing trip also revealed plenty of crabs hiding under the rocks in 15 feet of water off New Port Richey.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call 727 944-3474 or e-mail info@lighttacklecharters.com.