Fall bite is heating up and saving the seagrass
This time of year the water temperature cools down, and the bite heats up. Baitfish start schooling back on the flats and the game fish come out of their shaded and deep-water summer haunts to start feeding on the open water, shallow grass flats.
If I were to pick a perfect situation to fish this time of year, it would be an overcast day, because the clouds cool the water down. Another good thing about an overcast day is that your hooked and chummed baits don’t get terrorized by seagulls, pelicans and cormorants, with no shadows spooking your gamefish from above. A light breeze is good because you can get the wind at your back and make a longer cast. I also like a breeze because I’m convinced when the weather is “too nice” the fishing is not as good.
An outgoing tide this time of year is my favorite tide. It’s worth it to time your stage on the flats. It’s important to know the exact water heights on the tide you’re fishing and know how shallow your boat can go. I like to push it to the limit. Often when I wait until the tide has become so low that I wonder if I can make it off the flats, the fish are biting so fast and furious I give it another 20 or 30 minutes before I exit.
I have been stuck on the flats a couple times over the years and it’s all fun and games until the no-see-ums show up. It’s been many years since I’ve been stuck on the flats from a low tide, but the game fish bite was crazy good and the no-see-um bite was a nightmare.
Experience will keep you from getting stuck in the flats on low tide, just hang as long as you can, but give consideration to the seagrass. It’s okay if you give a little patch of seagrass a hair cut every once in a while, but don’t dig trenches or even give the grass a Kojak shave with your prop. Satellite pictures show increasing prop scars on our grass flats year after year, and sea grass is so important to our natural resources that the Environmental Protection Commission has threatened to disallow boats with combustible engines on the flats in the future. Things we can do as responsible anglers to reduce seagrass damage are:
• Know the tides and how shallow your vessel can operate.
• Use a jack plate. A jack plate is an electronic plate that slides your outboard up and down off the transom, which moves your prop up as far as the water’s surface and keeps your prop off the seagrass. My favorite jack plates are Bob’s Machine Shop jack plates, invented in Ruskin, manufactured and distributed in Gibsonton. They are sold around the world, but locally you can get one by contacting Beagle at Alafia Marine in Gibsonton at 813-671-2628.
• Get an electronic anchor. Traditional anchors damage seagrass by dragging it out by it’s roots. I use two power poles on the stern of my boat. One power pole anchors my boat and the other positions it. Every time I anchor with a power pole I put a hole in the seagrass as big as a nickel. To purchase a power pole, call Beagle at Alafia Marine.
For a charter with Captain Joel Brandenburg, call 813-267-4401, or visit www.anabananafishing.com