October is knocking at the door, which marks the start of my favorite time of year to fish the flats and back country of this area of the Nature Coast.
The weather is beautiful and there is a cooling trend in the Gulf water. This cooling trend means that the bite will be fantastic and a variety of fish will be caught.
Trout will start moving in from the deeper flats and should take first place, with redfish taking a close second.
A pinfish or large select shrimp placed under a cork are great options to use in the back country for species like trout, redfish and snook. I usually don't use shrimp until the water gets cold enough to cause the bait-stealing pinfish to move out.
I also like to use 3-inch Gulp shrimp on a 1/4-ounce jig. You can work this by slowly bouncing it off the bottom or by placing it under a cork that can be quickly popped and then dragged a few inches across the surface. This creates a sound that attracts the attention of predator fish and usually draws a strike.
These shallow waters will also have large schools of big redfish on the move and feeding. I like to get in this skinny water on a higher tide and wait for a low tide.
This is a great way to spot the schools of reds pushing through the shallow flats, but be ready to wait for the higher tide to come in and provide enough water to get back.
October also means Spanish mackerel will begin to invade the flats from 6 to 12 feet of water. Look to find these guys in 3 to 12 feet of water. I often drift and deploy a chum bag to locate mackerel.
Free-lined shrimp or white bait on a 2/0 XX-long shank hook is a great tactic. A 4- to 6-inch light steel leader may be used to prevent cutoffs by these toothy critters, but the long shank hook usually works.
Keith Tomlinson owns Bulldog Fishin' Charters, operating out of Hernando Beach. Contact him at www.bulldogfishin.com or (352) 238-3581. He is on Facebook as Bulldog Fishin' Charters.