When you look overhead and see great flocks of white pelicans moving into the area you had better be prepared for cooler weather and that is what came to my neck of the woods this Thanksgiving week. We still have great weather this time of year in southwest Florida but the cooler weather changes our fishing patterns.
Our premier game fish in this area, snook, have moved from the front islands to their wintering places. Some of the big ones go to deeper water offshore and the others move to the warmer waters of the backcountry bays and rivers. They are still a target for anglers but their metabolic rate slows when to water temperature goes below 70 degrees and they don't have to eat as often so looking to other species can produce more action this time of year.
Red fish are still around and if you don't find any of the schools on the outside islands then this is a good time to go to the backcountry. Be especially aware of the fact that when a cold front passes through and the wind is from the northwest to northeast, redfish like to seek out rock holes in the creeks and rivers and if you get a high tide of over 3 feet with a southerly wind, they will be pushed into the back bays.
It's a shame Florida doesn't have a good stock enhancement program for this species like some other states, most notably Texas because this is a great game fish that ranks high on the list of table fare.
While I fish with live bait frequently in the warmer months, the action that's available in the cooler months with trout, mackerel, pompano and bluefish when using jigs that are tipped with shrimp can be fantastic and non-stop.
So when the water temps fall, break out those jigs and start fishing the flats. Everyone has a favorite jig type, size and color but I use 3/8 ounce chartreuse or white hair jig and sometimes pink for pompano.
Many of my friends from the north just can't be persuaded to eat blues and mackerel but when filleted properly and fried they are delicious. The trick is to skin the filets and cut the lateral lines totally out and do nothing more than season the fillets with cracker meal and fry 'em up.
While the warmer weather was still here, I fished with Jon Kramer and Scott Maloney and the action was typical for the warm October water.
We caught and landed several snook and a few redfish. We released Jon's big snook but Scott's red joined them for dinner.
All in all, a great day on the water with fun times remembered.
Thanksgiving morning came with a cold front and as is typical, the bite was slower than earlier in the week but while fishing with Tom Hayes and Jason Cieloha and we caught a few small snook and Tom landed this beautiful red fish.
Tom also gave me his recipe for cooking redfish. He's currently living in Louisiana and tells me this is the best! Fillet on the "half shell" means that the fish has been filleted but not skinned or scaled. Serve whole on a platter and cut off your portion to eat and leave the skin on the serving dish. Also, cook on a very hot grill.