Sunday, September 8, 2013

September On Pine Island

From This month's Nautical Mile newspaper: 

Welcome to September, the very best month to fish the flats around Pine Island and Matlacha.  Everything you could possibly want to catch in the shallow water will be here in force over the next several weeks and well into the fall. 

Tarpon season is still in full swing as long as you’re looking for the smaller ones.  The huge migratory fish have moved along and won’t be back until next spring, but a few big stragglers can still be picked off in Charlotte Harbor.  The real action will happen in the dark waters of Matlacha Pass where hundreds of resident juveniles will pop up at sunrise every calm morning.  These ten to twenty pounders are my favorite fish and the perfect fly rod species.  They spend the entire fight in the air and can be boated quickly without a lot of stress to both the tarpon and the angler. 

Redfish will start pouring back onto the flats in big schools as they get ready to spawn.  While there aren’t any negative low tides for the first half of the month, which are always the best tailing conditions, you’ll still have long stretches of skinny water where feeding reds are easy to spot.  Pine Island Sound has dozens of excellent flats but the huge stretch of water just north of Pineland Marina is often Ground Zero for schooling redfish.  I’ve seen them so thick out there that they look like a solid blob of orange coming towards my skiff.  These big schools aren’t an everyday sight but when it happens they’re easy to spot and even easier to catch.  Throw almost anything that moves in front of them and you’ll get a strike.

Sea trout made a nice return in the middle of August and the cooler mornings of September give us even better conditions for this easy to catch gamefish.  Just about every angler in Southwest Florida knows that a Cajun Cork with a live shrimp or Gulp under it is magic on trout and effortless to use.  They also love to eat flies and are a great species to target for beginners.  An inexpensive 8-weight and a handful of easy to tie Clouser Minnows will nail trout all day long.  Once again, the Pineland area is a great place to target these guys but you’ll want to get in a little deeper water than where you’d be searching for reds.  Three to five feet over the grass and sandy potholes is perfect, especially on the rising tide during the morning hours. 

Finally, snook season is once again open here on the west coast of Florida for the first time since the disastrous cold snap back in the winter of 2010.   For those of you who are new to the area, keep in mind that you’ll need an additional $10 stamp on your saltwater license if you want to keep one of these fish.  Snook are some of the more heavily regulated species in Florida and rightly so.  Taste one that’s been properly grilled and you’ll know why.  You have to work a little harder to land a slot sized snook but just about any shoreline will hold them, especially at high tide.  I love working a topwater lure like a Zara Spook along the mangroves to get that explosive strike, but a baitwell full of live pilchards is more effective than anything. 

So that’s September in a nutshell, lots of fish and cooler weather, but that’s not the best part.  This is also one of the slowest months of the year for tourism and the snowbirds are still up north.  If you’re out on the flats during most weekdays you’ll often have the water all to yourself.  Enjoy it while it lasts.