Gulf of Mexico
It's go time for mackerel in the Gulf. Both varieties, the smaller and more numerous Spanish mackerel as well as the larger king mackerel will be appearing in local waters as they travel on their fall southward migration. Spanish mackerel arrive first and some got here last month. Kings will show this month and should peak in November. The largest kings are usually caught on blue runners and big threadfins over wrecks, reefs and ledges, but smaller fish in the five to fifteen pound range can be found just about anywhere from as little as a mile or two off the beaches and on out 30 miles or more. Spanish mackerel are usually found along the beaches, in the passes and along the ICW, and offshore to about 20 miles out. Surface-breaking fish, diving birds and circling boats are all signs of mackerel action. Fast-moving mackerel will hang around an area only as long as there's bait present, so the fishing can be run-and-gun as the schools pop up, wipe out an unlucky school of bait, and move on to the next. Expect some surprises while you're chasing mackerel. The frenzied action when schools of mackerel rip into fleeing baitfish also attracts other predators including bluefish, sharks, blackfin tuna, and sometimes schools of surprisingly large redfish. If you can tear yourself away from the mackerel action, the bottom fishing is also steady in water depths of about 65 feet or more.
October is a great fishing month in Charlotte Harbor. Tarpon will remain through at least the first part of the month, usually until we’ve had two or three jacket-weather chilly mornings. Some of the migrating schools of mackerel that are headed south along the Gulf beaches will swing into the harbor, attracted by the schools of glass minnows which can be found mid-harbor in open water. Big redfish, mostly overslots, can be found in bunches as they push water along the bars and on the edges of the flats on the east side of the harbor and down into Matlacha Pass. Smaller redfish, fish under 30 inches and which will spend at least another year in the estuary, are spreading inland where they can be found along mangrove shorelines, in tidal creeks and in canal systems. Snook are also moving inland and will often be taken cast-for-cast with redfish in the middle and upper harbor. As water temperatures cool, trout fishing on the flats will improve, especially in the mid and upper reaches of the harbor. If you do your trout fishing with shrimp or jigs then you can expect to find a few bluefish and pompano sharing water with the specks. Note that the fishing for snook, redfish and trout is restricted to catch-and-release only in Charlotte Harbor.