Looking Back at Fall; Looking Forward to Winter

The sporadic cold fronts of the impending winter are slowly bringing a memorable fall fishing season to a close here in Ft. Myers, Fl. The thick stacks of tarpon that had been swarming the bridges and passes last month have begun their yearly trek southward and are becoming more sparse every day. Snook are still in the passes though and just last night I saw two 30'' class linesiders caught from the Big Carlos Pass bridge. Don't expect them to be holding out much past the end of this month, when they will move into the backwater canals along with juvenile tarpon and schools of jacks. Snook season ends in December, so get them now while you can. Cut baits, such as ladyfish or mullet, or a healthy live finger mullet, fished on the bottom around the main channels of some of the bigger bridges like Big Carlos have been consistent producers of slot and over-slot snook. These areas and methods will continue to produce fish until they begin to make their way inshore. More than a few tarpon have been hooked this way, even this late in the season, so don't be surprised if you jump one. Anglers fishing artificials don't have it quite so easy, but a bucktail or jerkbait on light enough flourocarbon worked near the shadow lines should buy you a hookup.

The author with a bull shark and snook combo from a local bridge...

...and a goliath grouper from the same spot the following night.

Big bull redfish have been showing up at the Ft. Myers Beach pier, and should also be getting thick around the passes, especially the shallower inshore channels. Flounder have become a solid bycatch at the pier as well, and I have no doubt that with a little time and some live or cut greenbacks on the bottom it would not be hard to get plenty to take home for dinner.

Flounder are an easy target for shore-based anglers right now.

40" Snook caught on a white bucktail from a bridge.
40" Snook caught on a white bucktail from a bridge.

The coming of winter opens up a new variety of angling opportunities. Light tackle fishing in the backwaters can yield a variety of species seeking refuge and warmer water in the mangroves and canals. But the fishery that myself and many others most look forward to is the annual sandbar shark migration. Every winter around the end of November when water temperatures drop, sandbars migrate south and can be found all over beaches from the Panhandle to Naples. These sharks, averaging 6 feet in length, are so numerous at this time that hookups to 5 or more fish in a few hours is not uncommon. This is light-tackle surf fishing at its finest. Look for some exciting shark fishing reports to be posted soon.

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