Fly fishing

Reel Time: Fall Fishing Forecast – Fun

One of the most exciting times on the water is anticipating a cast in a small tuna feeding ground. – Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Fit’s all in the air. Most of our doors and windows are still closed and the air conditioning is on, but the light and the refreshing mornings promise a change.

This is a change brought about by cooler temperatures, shorter days and arguably some of the best inshore fishing opportunities we have. As water temperatures drop, schools
baits are expected to migrate inshore with pelagic species such as mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore (small tuna), cobia and hot tripletail on their trail.

It’s the perfect time to get ready for the fall season, get your house in order, and keep an eye on the sky for diving birds and water to smash fish when you are on the water. All of these species will take live bait, lures or flies and can be caught using casting, baitcasting or fly tackle. With the exception of king mackerel and larger cobia, most can be landed with light gear, adding to the challenge.

The rig will depend on the species you are targeting. Since it’s possible to encounter so many different species in a single outing, multiple outfits are a good idea. Rig options include wire, monofilament, long rod hooks or a combination. It is possible to catch a trevally or spanish mackerel without wire, but your chances are not good. Most species avoid wires, especially in clear waters and when the sun is high. That’s when it’s time to switch to a long shank hook or a heavy monofilament leader (60 pounds). Even then, it is possible to get cut but you will get more action. When using yarn, an 8 to 12 inch trace can be attached to the monofilament using a special Albright knot (better) or a swivel. If using a swivel, use black rather than silver to prevent fish from mistaking it for forage. American Fishing Wire makes a product called Surflon Micro Supreme which is extremely flexible and kink resistant. This line can be tied to your lure, hook or fly like a monofilament. It also offers greater flexibility and less stretch than monofilament. Umpqua makes an ideal product for fly anglers. Their Re-Twistable Haywire Twist is reusable and will have you changing your fly in the blink of an eye. This is the quickest and most painless system for rigging wire for toothy fish. It is safe to go over in low light conditions like early morning, overcast and late in the day.

One of the most effective ways to find schools of fish in the fall is to look for surface birds and diving birds in the coastal waters of the Gulf. But don’t assume the fish aren’t present if there are no outward signs of them. Predators are often found around structures, reefs, and wrecks that attract bait.

When you find fish feeding, you can approach them by trolling, drifting, or using a trolling motor. Whichever method you use, never let your boat pass or get too close to the action. With more and more boats and anglers chasing after feeding the fish, they are likely to ring and wander away. The best to stay out of the action but within throwing distance. If you’re trolling, make wide turns so only your lures get through the action.

Live bait anglers target schools of fish in several ways. By anchoring the current from a likely area, they can deploy a protective bag and then cast wounded live bait to attract fish within casting range. This can be an extremely effective method. Those who prefer artificial lures find spoons particularly effective as well as jigs like the DOA CAL or the Berkley Gulp. One of the most exciting and effective types of lures are surface models like the MirroLure Top Dog, Heddon Zara Spook, or Rapala Saltwater Skitter Pop. Not only is the strike visual and often explosive, but their action can attract target species.

Fly fishing is also an effective and exciting way to target fall species, from cobia to tripletail, Spanish mackerel and even king mackerel. The same rig applies and surface flies like the Crease fly or the Garthside Gurgler can produce memorable strikes. Clouser Deep Minnows are also an excellent choice for Spanish mackerel and false albacore. This is a good time of year to have a 10 or 11 weight rod fitted with a big black fly if a migrating cobia makes an appearance.

Whatever your fishing style, take advantage of the great action you’ll find in area waters this fall. If you’re new to the game, consider hiring a guide. It’s a great way to learn the ropes and great value when shared with a friend. Good fishing !

Rusty Chinnis is the columnist for The Sun’s Outdoors. E-mail