Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fishing Forecast for October 2021
Fishing should turn on this month. Schools of reds will begin to break up and scatter on shallow flats. There should also be good action with snook and big trout in shallow water. Snook will gorge themselves at night around lighted docks in the ICW. There should also be good action in the coastal gulf with Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), tripletail and cobia. You might also still find tarpon anywhere from upper Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay to along the beaches.
Snook and reds remain closed to harvest south of State Rd 64 in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2022. Spotted Seatrout has reopened in that zone with a 3 fish per person, bag limit and a 6 fish boat limit. Trout must be from 15”-19” with one allowed per vessel over 19”. Snook, trout and reds are closed to harvest through October 11 in all Manatee County waters north of State Rd 64. Full regulations and details can be viewed at https://myfwc.com/ .
Snook will move from passes and the surf as water temperature cools and days get shorter. They will stage around docks and bridges in the ICW and along sand bars, potholes and along mangrove shorelines. They may blow up on top water plugs or fly poppers in shallow water early or late in the day. CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms or DOA Shrimp should work well around docks and bridges and on shallow flats. The 4” CAL shad tail should work very well on the flats since larger baits will be prevalent there. I like larger flies, like Lefty’s Deceiver and my Grassett Flats Bunny, for snook on the flats for the same reason. Fly anglers should also score with small white flies or Gurglers around lighted docks and bridge fenders. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.
Tarpon will still be an option this month. I find them in upper Charlotte Harbor this time of year. Look for them feeding in ladyfish schools or rolling in deep water to find them. DOA Baitbusters and Swimming Mullet are my top producing lures for large tarpon. Fly anglers should score with many of the same flies that work for sight casting to them along the beaches. I use 12-wt fly tackle with a floating or clear intermediate sink tip line for large tarpon. You’ll also find juvenile tarpon from 10 to 30-pounds in many creeks and canals. Spin anglers should score with DOA Shrimp or TerrorEyz on snook tackle. Fly anglers can handle the smaller fish on 8 or 9-wt fly rods with sink tip fly lines and a scaled down version of any fly that large tarpon will eat. I’ve also found tarpon feeding in the coastal gulf in October. They are usually scattered over a broad area, feeding in bait schools. This “reverse migration” may only last for a short while but it can be really good!
Big schools of reds that are more common in August and September will break up into smaller schools, singles and doubles by the end of the month. As water cools and baitfish school up, reds will feed in shallow water. I like to pole my flats skiff to hunt for reds in shallow water. Focus on baitfish or mullet schools to find reds. CAL jigs with shad tails, including the 4” CAL shad tail and DOA Baitbusters are some of my favorite lures to locate reds with. If the tide is very low, weedless-rigged CAL shad tails or DOA Shrimp rigged backwards will work well in the thick turtle grass. Once I’ve located fish, wading is often the best way to approach them when fly fishing. I like a long leader (12’) on a floating fly line with a lightly weighted fly with a weed guard, like my Grassett Flats Minnow. When you have good sunlight, you may be able to sight fish them on light colored bottom, like sandbars or potholes.
You’ll also find big trout in many of the same areas in shallow water. I would approach locating big trout the same way as reds. Focus on baitfish or mullet schools to find them and use the same lures and flies to catch them. Some of the best action that I’ve experienced with big trout was at first light with big trout feeding in baitfish schools in very shallow water.
You’ll find trout of all sizes on deep grass flats. Wherever there are small trout, there may be a few “gators” around since big trout will eat small ones. Mixed with trout there should also be blues, Spanish mackerel or pompano. In addition to focusing on bait and birds, I like to drift and cast ahead of the drift with CAL jigs and shad tails or DOA Deadly Combos or a lightly weighted fly on a sink tip fly line to find fish. When toothy fish are around add 6”of heavy fluorocarbon (60-lb) or wire to prevent cut offs. You may find tripletail or cobia around buoys, crab trap floats or channel markers in inside waters or the coastal gulf. A DOA Shrimp or CAL jig with a shad tail will work well for tripletail. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies with a weed guard. A DOA Baitbuster or 4” CAL shad on 20 to 30-pound class spinning tackle or a wide profile tarpon fly on a minimum of 9-weight fly tackle will get the job done with cobia.
Look for Spanish and king mackerel or false albacore in the coastal gulf. I look for diving terns or “breaking” fish to find them. Once you’ve located feeding fish, a CAL jig with a shad tail or jerk worm or a size specific top water plug will work well for spin anglers. Fly anglers should score with small olive, chartreuse or white flies, poppers and Crease flies. You’ll need wire or heavy fluorocarbon when mackerel are in the mix. You may also find a few kings around the edges of feeding frenzies. I don’t usually target kings, but I will catch a few when fishing breaking mackerel or albies. You can also look for tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats, buoys or channel markers while searching for mackerel or albies in the coastal gulf.
October is one of my favorite months. It’s nice to do something different, so I like to fish the coastal gulf for mackerel, false albacore, tripletail and cobia when conditions are good. There should also be good action on shallow flats with reds, trout and snook or tarpon of all sizes in upper Charlotte Harbor. Night snook fishing in the ICW heats up as the water cools down. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural, industrial and residential runoff, toxic spills and discharges, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com, and www.flyfishingflorida.us
(941) 923-7799 (office/home)
Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fishing Forecast for September 2021
A red tide bloom has been affecting SW Florida for the past couple of months so conditions may change daily or even from tide to tide. I look for birds behaving normally, baitfish and clearer water to find areas free of red tide. Patches of red tide will move fish around and may concentrate them in an area of clean water. Also back country areas may be less prone to red tide due to more brackish water this time of year. That being said, September is usually one of my favorite months. Reds should be schooling on shallow grass flats and you also might find big trout there at first light. Baitfish along beaches will attract Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), sharks, tarpon and more. You should find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. There should also be tarpon around bridges at night and in areas of Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. Juvenile tarpon from 10 to 30-pounds should be a good option in creeks and canals.
Tarpon will still be a good option this month. There may still be a few singles, doubles and small schools in the coastal gulf and if you’ve got the patience to wait them out it can be good. Many have moved to inside waters this month, so you’ll find them around bridges, over deep grass flats or deeper areas. When tarpon move into these areas, they are in a feeding mode. After a long migration and with their spawning duties completed, they need to rest and eat to restore themselves. Ladyfish will feed in glass minnow schools and tarpon will gorge themselves on ladyfish. I have also seen tarpon, “ball” glass minnows into tight schools, and eat them by the bucket full! DOA Baitbusters, TerrorEyz and DOA Shrimp are my favorite tarpon lures this time of year. Fly anglers should score with wide profile patterns, such as Lefty’s Deceiver or EP flies. Small flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, tied on a 1/0 or 2/0 hook, are another good choice for tarpon that are feeding on glass minnows.
Snook and reds remain closed to harvest south of State Rd 64 in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 31, 2022. Spotted Seatrout has reopened in that zone with a 3 fish per person, bag limit and a 6 fish boat limit. Trout must be from 15”-19” with one allowed per vessel over 19”. Snook, trout and reds are closed to harvest through September 16 in all Manatee County waters north of State Rd 64. Full regulations and details can be viewed at https://myfwc.com/ .
You should find snook this month around docks and bridges close to passes. They will also start making their move towards shallow flats where you might find them staging along sand bars or in potholes. Surface walking top water plugs or fly popper and Gurglers may draw some big strikes in shallow water early in the day. I often fish lighted docks and bridges for snook before dawn before moving to the flats after daylight. CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Shrimp or small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, should all work well. The same lures and flies that work at night will be good for fishing the surf, too.
Reds are usually in large schools in September. You may find them in shallow water when the tide is high or along the edges of flats when the tide is low. Look for wakes, some as big as boat wakes, or “pushes” to locate them. If it is calm, a school of reds may look like a nervous patch of water or if there’s a ripple on the surface, the school may appear as a slick patch of water. Once you’ve located them, try to get in front of them and work around the edges of the school to avoid spooking the whole school. DOA PT-7 top water baits, shallow running DOA Baitbusters and CAL 3” & 4” shad tails should work well for spin anglers. Fly anglers should score with fly poppers, Gurglers and wide profile baitfish fly patterns. I like to be as quiet as possible in shallow water, using a push pole to move my boat. It is great to find a big school of reds but remember, if you spook one fish you may spook the whole school. Running an outboard may make fish show themselves, but in the long run it will make them harder to catch. I sometimes also find big jacks and blues mixed with schools of big reds in shallow water. Not a bad problem!
Trout fishing should also be good this month. Look for big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds this month. They will be most active in low light, either first thing in the morning or at dusk, particularly if we’ve had an afternoon shower. Cloud cover in the afternoon will also reduce heating of shallow flats, which usually makes fish more active. The same lures and flies that you use for reds will work well for big trout in shallow water
You may also find trout mixed with blues, pompano, Spanish mackerel, flounder and more on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with DOA Deadly Combos or CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms. Fly anglers should do well with an Ultra Hair Clouser fly fished on a clear intermediate sink tip. In addition to making a series of drifts to find fish, focus on bait schools, breaking fish or diving birds to find fish. You may find tripletail on buoys, crab trap floats or channel markers in Sarasota Bay this month. A DOA Shrimp, CAL jig or a lightly weighted fly with a weed guard should get the job done.
You should also find tripletail along with cobia, false albacore (little tunny) and Spanish mackerel in the coastal gulf this month. Look for surface activity to find the mackerel and albies and cast small white flies or CAL jigs with shad tails to them. I don’t usually target kings but will occasionally catch one around the edges of a feeding frenzy. Look for feeding frenzies that begin with ladyfish feeding in glass minnow schools and may end with everything else, including sharks or tarpon, joining the fray. Remember to “match the hatch” to be successful. You may need to add wire to your leader when toothy fish are around.
While you are looking for mackerel and albies in the coastal gulf, you can look for tripletail and cobia. However since stone crab traps haven’t hit the water yet this season, there are less places for them to be. In addition to abandoned crab trap floats, check channel markers, buoys and any floating debris. Artificial reefs are another good area to check. A DOA Baitbuster, 4” CAL shad tail or a wide profile fly should be good choices for cobia. Most tarpon flies also work well for cobia.
There are lots of options this month, but the key is usually to fish early or late for the best chance at success. An early start for snook or tarpon around lighted docks or bridges and then on to the flats for reds, trout and more is a good plan. There should also be good action in the coastal gulf for a variety of species. I usually tarpon fish as long as I can, wherever I find them! Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by residential, agricultural and industrial runoff, toxic spills and discharges, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide & Fly Casting Instructor at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
www.snookfin-addict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us
(941) 923-7799 (home/office)