For the past few weeks, Florida temperatures and humidity levels have been unseasonably high. Daytime highs have reached the 90's with heat indexes of 100 degrees or more. But recently, the mercury dipped in to the 50's and the high today will only be in the 70's. I love everything summer has to offer, and even tolerate the threat of hurricanes. But when it comes to fishing, fall is my absolute favorite time of the year. The water is still warm enough for comfortable wading, but the break in the temperature is like a breath straight from Heaven. But just as we move from summer to fall, fish are on the move as well. Once we discover the "what","why", and "where" of this migration, we'll be rewarded with some stellar fishing.
Let's talk about the "snowbird" migration. Many folks that live in the northern part of our country are starting to make their annual migration toward warmer temperatures. Those are "snowbirds". As those snowbirds make their way south, they normally follow the same routes. I-75 and I-95 will soon be bumpah to bumpah (not a typo, just trying to keep it real). So, every Waffle House along the way will be stocking up on Bert's chili. Year after year, the route remains the same. Expect the Waffle House accountants to tally the profits again this year. However, projected sales on grits probably won't change.
Predatory species are on the move as well. They're looking for warmth and following the food source. What will be key for us during the next month or so is determining what route the target species will label as I-75/I-95, and what food source they will label as Bert's chili.
Many of us joke about the "need" for adding some extra pounds for winter. Funny how that mindset is woven into the very DNA helix of football season. I mean, what would our world be like without tailgating? But, in the animal kingdom, it's a fact of life - fatten up for winter or die. That extra weight will be both insulation from colder water temps and sustenance when meals will be few and far between. It's all about supply and demand right now. So we simply need to supply those fish with the food that they demand, or trick them with a fake offering. This could be a great segway to some sort of "Trick or Treat" analogy, but I'm on a snowbird theme so we'll just run with that. BOO!
Fact 1: There are fewer hours of daylight now. Fact 2: There is a greater high to low temperature variance now. These two facts increase the likelihood that fishing will be better in the daytime than it has been in recent months. It wasn't that long ago that 9 am marked a great time to be getting off the water, before the oppressive heat set in. Now, that's an acceptable time to be getting on the water. Seek areas that are first to get sun, because they will also hold fish early. But just because the fishing is hot doesn't mean you are. Wet clothes combined with the dropping temperatures at the end of the day can still add up to hypothermia. So take care of yourself.
Let's take a pause to remember Rod Price, the former lead guitarist for Foghat. He passed away in March, but his slide guitar work (often mimicked, rarely duplicated) will live on for years to come. I digress. Bait fish are less tolerable to temperature drops and as a result they begin to move slower and slower. Like their predators, they will be most sluggish early in the day. So slow those artificial baits way down during these periods.
I can't decide which I like better. The original version by Cream, or the way Clapton has covered it over the years. I continue to digress. As always, you gotta be where the fish are in order to catch the fish. Typically as the sun gets higher, fish will move toward more shallow water which heats up quicker. Fish will also stack up in areas with dark bottom, which also holds heat. Like us, fish seek comfort while dining. Now, if there is structure along the way, all the better.
I just listened to both versions of "Crossroads" … and I gotta give the nod to slowhand.
Ah yes, what to feed them? No, not the snowbirds. I'm talking about the fish. Match the hatch is always in play. But, concerning baits, bigger is better right now. If a fish can eat more with less effort, they will do it. Hey, we will too. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners come to mind. Cooler water also holds more oxygen, which means live bait will stay that way longer. I don't normally use live bait because of the hassle, but this time of year it makes sense to feed 'em exactly what they're already eating. Live bait is still plentiful so net it, buy it, and use it. I'll still keep a topwater plug handy though.
The leaves are changing colors and will soon fall victim to gravity. Fresh produce in the grocery store now gives way to pumpkins. Swimming trunks are swapped out for insulated waders. So, soak in this picture and let's bid summer adieu.
The best fishing of the year is upon us now. So, hit the snooze alarm a few extra times, dress in layers, and treat yourself to some of Bert's chili on the way home from fishing.
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