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Mackerel, reds turn on in fall

September 25, 2010

Fall is upon us. You can feel it in the early morning, almost smell it in the air.

Falling water temperatures tell redfish its time to school up and patrol the flats. Be there before sun up.

Keep talking and boat noise to a minimum and your eyes peeled for the telltale signs that give away the location of individual fish or schools of hundreds. There is no more beautiful site to a flats fisherman than the sun rising and reflecting light from the exposed tails of feeding reds.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

For best results, stay off the trolling motor and learn to pole, which is the ultimate way to silently become part of the redfish's environment. Getting out and in position before sunrise, allows the angler to maximize their chances of catching skinny water reds. Anchoring the boat and quietly slipping over the side, slowly walking toward the feeding fish is another preferred method. Sometimes the only method when the shallow water depth will not float your boat.

Southwest Florida is blessed with world class shallow water redfish action. Now through mid November is prime time.

Fall also brings huge schools of Spanish mackerel to our waters. It takes no special skills to find these fish other than eyesight and maybe a good pair of binoculars. Find the flocks of diving birds and, generally, you have found the fish.

These razor-toothed fish fill the harbors and passes in schools numbering in the hundreds to thousands, slashing through helpless schools of bait, driving them to the surface with the birds then taking part in the slaughter.

Light spinning reels are the best way to enjoy these fun fish, and once located can be caught on every cast. Lures, live bait and flies all work. Because Spanish are such willing biters, this a great time of year to get the kids with "short fishing attention span syndrome" involved in outdoor activities. Always attach a short piece of wire leader to your line with an Albright knot and use the Haywire twist to attach your lure or your hook (for those free lining live bait).

For those "knot in the know," type in Haywire Twist or Albright Knot on your PC. For all other knots, go to This is the best animated knot site on the internet, not only showing fishing knots but boating knots as well. The animated instruction makes learning new knots rather easy and is a great resource for the boater and fisherman.

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider charters reports that he has had a lot of action this week by motoring out into the harbor and looking for gulls diving or just sitting on the water. They are waiting for the Spanish mackerel to start chewing on schools of whitebait.

As the bits of leftover bait floats to the surface the gulls will dive on it. Using this tactic this week I caught Mackerel up to 22 inches and keeper trout to 20 inches. I used Gulp 3-inch white shrimp, top water plugs and live white bait. Be sure and use a short piece of wire ahead of your hook. No sinker is required. These fish will give you heart-stopping runs. I like to marinate them and then smoke them.

Redfish are up under the bushes on a high tide and on the flats early, just after sunrise. My best bait has been whitebait, but if you cannot throw a net use shrimp, live or frozen or pinfish.

There are a lot of shovel nose sharks around so have a medium-heavy rig ready and throw whitebait at them.

The mangrove snapper still have not turned on in the passes like they should. The suspected reason is that the water is still too warm.

The bays are still loaded with baitfish - whitebait, ballyhoo, glass minnows, and pinfish. Fish around the bait and you will catch fish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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