This is by far my favorite time of year [in Florida] to be on the water. The water is still warm enough to hold bait, and the fish that prey on it. But the temps have dropped enough so that mid day fishing is once again tolerable. The fish know that winter is coming, so their instincts tell them to eat while they can, eat when they can, and move to their wintertime haunts. Regardless of what part of the country you live in, cooling waters will affect how you target your favorite species. How we adapt to the cooler temps will determine how well we do on our fishing adventures.
ON THE MOVE:
Ever been driving down the highway, in the middle of nowhere, and happen upon one of those gigantic truck stops? One might think, "… how does this place stay in business, there's nothing around here for miles?" The answer is "migration". As we travel, we need fuel, food, and sometimes a place to rest for a bit. The proprietor of this truck stop knew that he would be able to make a living by setting up shop on our migratory path. To capitalize on summer to winter transitions, we need to understand that as fish move to their winter homes, they'll need similar comforts and necessities. All we have to do is understand where the summer and winter spots are, and station ourselves on the path between them. Lower temps mean lower tides for the saltwater crowd, and that will narrow the migratory path even more. In many cases, only paddle people will be able to access these areas. Once again, we have the advantage over the motorized crowd. We've got the store open, now what will we put on the shelves?
MATCH THE HATCH:
This is always a true statement, but it really comes in to play now. Here in Florida, the natural baits are pretty big right now. The predatory fish are often targeting larger baits because that's where they get the best caloric return on their caloric investment of chasing down a meal. So, look down in the water to see what's swimming around, match that, and don't leave those big baits at home. OK, what's the best way to advertise our new business?
In coming days the water temp will continue to drop and so will the metabolism of our targets. That will mean that a fish will be less likely to chase down a meal, even a free one. The cooler water will hold more oxygen, and that can equate to short spurts of energetic feeding. But the explosive strikes we got so used to in summer will be much fewer now. Slow your presentation down a bit, maybe a lot.
LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOTBALL:
If a pro football game is televised, we get it. There are many people that share our passion, and I'm glad. Why? Because most of those folks will stay home to watch their favorite college games on Saturday, or their pro teams on Sunday. That means that the waters will be less crowded on the weekends. In this case, less (traffic) is more (of an opportunity to catch fish). So, how do we choose between fishing and football? I load the boats, my wife programs the DVR.
I have to tip my hat to the winter warriors. The forums on paddling.com are a wealth of information concerning cold water paddling. Some of you are sharing tips on winter clothing, new winter fishing spots and strategies, even making plans to go ice fishing. It's 75 degrees here today. I put my hand in the pool and it felt a little cold … and some are talking about ice fishing. Yep, my hat is tipped to the winter warriors.
As the subtitle of this article suggests, it is time for a "cool change". Thanks to Little River Band for giving me some fodder for this article. Even when I'm out fishing and paddling with friends or family, I still use that time for decompression, rejuvenation, and introspection. Hopefully, you can do the same while you're out there waiting for that next bite. Fishing is fun, but sometimes we lose focus on the big picture in the process.
TOPIC FOR MESSAGE BOARD DISCUSSION:
Concerning fishing strategy, how do you change your approach as summer turns to fall? Thanks for your input.
See you out on the water...
"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after"
~ Henry David Thoreau