Five Great Fall Fisheries

By: Terry Gibson

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Hard to believe that it's already the middle of August. Within a month or less, the first low pressure of the year will push off the southeast U.S., dragging summertime fishing conditions out to sea with it. A good blow, and even just a slight drop in water temperatures, can set off a chain reaction of migrations and bites you don't want to miss.

Mullet Run

Along the Atlantic Coast, silver mullet form football-field size schools and migrate down the Intracoastal Waterway and along the beaches. Every hungry fish-eating predator is in hot pursuit, from popular gamefish such as tarpon, jacks and snook, to birds including pelicans and ospreys. You can catch at least a dozen species of fish while enjoying one of the most magnificent wildlife migrations on earth. Anglers take advantage of the mullet run from jetties, piers, boats and from the beaches.

Mahi Madness

Mahi mahi, or "dolphin" as they're called locally, are available year-round, but the peak runs occur in the spring and fall. They follow comfortable water temperatures and bait along a migration that takes them, as far as we know, off of Newfoundland down through the Gulf of Mexico. Easterly winds push the Gulf Stream current in as well as sargassum and any debris it's carrying. Anglers troll the edges of rips and weedlines, or "run-and-gun" by searching out logs and individual weed patches. Fall is the time of year when the huge bulls are caught--up to 70 pounds. The biggest fish are generally caught out of Cape Canaveral, St. Augustine and Jacksonville Beach.

Bass Attack

Summertime "largemouth lethargy" is over. Fall breezes get currents flowing in lakes and flowing faster in creeks, rivers and canals. Big, aggressive bass take up ambush points behind structure. Even a slight drop in water temps gets the schoolies feeling friskie, and out chasing shad in open water. It's a great time for topwater action. Top lakes include Fellsmere's legendary Stick Marsh, Lake Toho and Lake Okeechobee.

Striper & Whipers

Cool breezes don't just get largemouth bass excited. Striped bass and the hybrid white/striped bass, called a sunshine bass or "whiper," also get fired up. They feed in blitzes across central Florida lakes near Orlando, as well as in northwest and northeast rivers, like the St. Johns. These are powerful fish that will slam almost anything resembling a baitfish.

Yellowtailing

Want to catch "flag" yellowtails? Hit the Keys in September. It's quiet down there that time of the year, and you're likely to have the reefs to yourself. You can access them via party boat--the least expensive option, rent a boat yourself, or hire a charter. There are plenty of great restaurants through the Keys that will cook and serve your fresh catch.

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