While there’s not quite a nip in the air, we do begin to see cooler temperatures in October.
As the waters also cool, the largest of the yellowtail, mangrove and mutton snapper plus increased numbers of keeper size red, black and gag grouper all emerge from their summer depths to more accessible areas. Couple this with the beginning of the fall baitfish migration and you have the ingredients for bountiful fishing.
The angler’s most difficult choice is which to select from the buffet of fishing opportunities. Sailfish are often the first choice for many.
The start of sailfish season
In Marathon, we normally anchor up on a patch reef and net or hairhook some ballyhoo to put in the live well. We then travel along the reef edge, keeping a watchful eye out for sprays of ballyhoo. Typically, sailfish are causing the commotion. Throwing a live ballyhoo in front of the cruising sail entices a bite. Once hooked, hang on for an acrobatic display worthy of an Olympic medal.
Muttons and grouper on the wrecks
Mutton snapper and grouper linger on the wrecks and feed aggressively on just about any live bait, but are especially attracted to sardines. Butterfly jigs matching the approximate size and color of the sardines will produce vicious strikes.
Delicious yellowtail snapper are thick on the reef line and respond to nearly all offerings in the chum slick.
I cannot stress enough the importance of using ample chum to produce a good catch of these fine-eating reef dwellers. In a four-hour, half-day of fishing, I generally go through 12 boxes of chum, which I like to spice with glass minnows.
Present a large, live bait on the bottom and you may even be rewarded with some very nice size grouper to take home as a bonus for the dinner table.
The prized hogfish
The first real cold front to come along in October will push the hogfish from their bayside feeding grounds to the patch reefs and channel humps in the Atlantic, where they are more accessible.
Hogfish are one of the best-eating of all fish and well worth the extra effort required to capture them. I fish live shrimp directly on the bottom and use a small jighead, anywhere from ¼ to ½ ounce, depending on water depth and current velocity.
Increase in variety
You may pick up some keeper red grouper using this same tactic as well as the multitude of snapper species that will re-invade this section of our reef system. If the fish gods are in your favor, you may also put a delectable pompano in the cooler.
It pays to put a rod out with a live ballyhoo on the bottom just off the edge of the patch to entice any mutton snapper that might be cruising the area. A second rod fitted with a stinger rig on wire and no weight dangling in your slick will lure any passing mackerel.
As long as the water temps don’t drop too much, catch-and-release shark fishing continues to entertain during October.
Shark fishing offers the best of all worlds: the excitement of a close encounter with a large, toothy critter, the comfort of fishing in calm, shallow waters and the benefit of an eco experience. It is great family-fun fishing and an extraordinary experience for anglers of all ages and abilities.