Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fly Fishing Forecast for October 2018
Most of you are probably aware that our area has been heavily impacted by a severe and extended red tide. However, red tide is often patchy and can change from day to day and eventide to tide. There are some areas that are unaffected and fish may concentrate in those areas, so the key to good fishing now is finding clean water that is unaffected by red tide. Red tide doesn’t do well in fresh water, so areas, where salinity is diluted by fresh water such as creek and river mouths, may be a good option. As this is being written, the Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from a line in Manatee County from Emerson Pt west to Bean Pt and continuing west to the Hillsborough County line, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook will be catch and release only until at least Oct 12, 2018, to allow a stock assessment to be completed before determining if the action will be rescinded or extended. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at http://myfwc.com/media/4483041/eo18-38.pdf. I applaud them for taking this action to protect our fishery.
Areas of Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the coastal Gulf of Mexico 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 will move away from passes as water temperature cools and days get shorter. They will stage around docks and bridges in the ICW and along sandbars, potholes and along mangrove shorelines. They may blow up on fly poppers in shallow water early or late in the day. Small white flies or Gurglers should work well around lighted docks and bridge fenders. I like larger flies, like Lefty’s Deceiver and EP flies, for snook on the flats due to the larger bait usually found there. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.
Tarpon will still be an option this month. I’ve found them in upper Charlotte Harbor this time of year. Look for them feeding in ladyfish schools or rolling in deep water to find them. Many of the same flies that work for sight casting to tarpon along the beaches will work in upper Charlotte Harbor. I use a 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 of the Peace or Myakka Rivers. 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 heavily in the coastal gulf in October. They are usually scattered over a broad area, feeding and “blowing up” in bait schools. This “reverse migration” may only last for a few days but it can be really good!
Big schools of reds that are more common in August and September will begin to break up into smaller schools, singles, and doubles this month. As the 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 them. If the tide is very low, weed guards are important on your flies to fish thick turtle grass. Once I’ve located fish, wading is often the best way to approach them. I like a long leader (12’) on a floating fly line with a lightly weighted fly, like my Grassett Flats Minnow. When you have good sunlight, you may be able to sight fish them on the light colored bottom, like sandbars or potholes.