By Michael Murphy
We sure dodged a bullet with Hurricane Ian. All the runoff from the rains has made Tampa Bay a bit cloudy, but it is returning to normal now. Water temps are falling into the 70s now and the bite is starting to really go off now. You will start to see the decline or reduction of seagrasses in the bay with the fall season coming in. The seagrasses will move their sugar stores into their root systems and shed their leaf blades for the coming winter. This will push the target fish back into the river areas, and the water will also clear up some with the temperature drop.
Snook and reds will maintain in the passes and estuaries until the water temps drop more after the fronts. The water temp drops will clear the water, so you will want to drop your leader test down to 20# with a 1/0 circle hook. Trout will remain on the flats in the remaining grass patches and can readily be caught on artificial jigs. I prefer the curly tail bodies over the paddle tails because of the undulating action they make as they fall into the grass.
Gag grouper will make their winter presence known in the coming month. 5/0 or 6/0 circle hooks with 100# test baited with a larger pinfish or threadfin will put dinner on the table for you. Find the reefs and ledges and let it rip.
There are good numbers of greenies on the flats being caught. A 1/4 bait net is still your best bet. With the lower water temps, you can really load up your livewell and not worry much about the dead loss in the livewell. Chum heavy for all your target species and throw ’em where they’re blowing.