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Cooler water signals the migratory waves
By DAVE MISTRETTA, Times Correspondent
Published September 28, 2007
All it's going to take to improve the fishing is few cool fronts to pass by the area. The water temperature is slowly dropping each week as daylight hours shrink. Once the first shot of dry air arrives, there will be a dramatic change in the water temperature. Once the temperature settles into the 70s, the action will increase at both inshore and offshore destinations.
Already, numerous species are making their fall migrations ahead of the cooler weather. This is a good sign that some fantastic Fall action is coming our way.
Cobia are the first big fish that begin working their way south ahead of the cooler weather. Many of the fish taken this month were once swimming in our northern gulf water for the summer. Expect more to arrive along the shoreline or even under your boat.
These curious fish will often show themselves whenever the action is plentiful in a spot. We have had a few following our grouper and other bottom fish as they are reeled to the surface. It's a good idea to have a rod ready, since they will be eager to take a wiggling baitfish dangled in front of them. The quicker you can get a baited hook in front of them the better, as they sometimes lose interest after repeatedly following reef fish to the surface. Most of the time a free-lined live pinfish or pilchard will get their attention. Otherwise, an artificial eel or worm twitched in their path can be effective.
Spanish mackerel are already on the move, too, chasing small minnows that school along the coast. Each day the schools of bait seem to work closer to shore, luring in these toothy fish. Along with the mackerel there have already been a few rogue kingfish. These early arrivals are often huge in size and are attracted by all the mackerel attacking minnows.
Sharks, tarpon, ladyfish, bluefish and many other species often congregate around some of these same bait pods. Diving pelicans and terns are the best indicator for locating these particular bait schools. Some will hold a lot of game fish, others are void. The key is to work as many schools as possible until you hit the jackpot.
Gag grouper fishing closer to shore will pick up in the next few weeks. We have already witnessed some action. It is nothing compared with a decade ago, but it may be a good sign for the coming months. Again, the water temperature will dictate their arrival in large numbers. Seventy-five degrees and cooler seems to be the most productive temperature in past years for water depths of 50 feet or less.
There is also a wide variety of baitfish around. This migratory food source will lure the grouper our way. A few years without a significant Red Tide has allowed much of our area to blossom back to its healthiest stage.
Offshore action for red grouper remains strong. Water depths of 75-plus feet have been holding a consistent amount of keepers since the beginning of the summer.