There's no offseason for fishing in Florida, just changes. When late October hits and the weather changes, so must your baits, your tactics and the species you target. Learn from Captain Taco Perez in Fort Lauderdale how to successfully change when the seasons do.
(Above image: some happy anglers on Captain Taco Perez's trip)
There is no real off season in the Florida salt. When the weather turns and your favorite summer species become scarce, you need only shift your focus and tactics to find bountiful opportunities.
Captain Taco Perez lives on the water in Fort Lauderdale and has fished the canals and coast, by boat and by surf, since the 70s.
Captain Taco says that while late October through November may see a downturn in tourists and charters, there is no down time for fishing.
Captain Taco says one of the major benefits to fall in south Florida is the cleaner waters as the natural weeds disperse with the cooler temps.
“Fall is here and the sargassum weed is finally starting to wane making the water more fishable,” he said.
Sargassum weed is important for the ecosystem of the Atlantic as it provides habitat for certain species and helps absorb CO2. In smaller amounts anglers often seek out the weed clumps as predator fish will hunt the baitfish that use them for cover, but when it accumulates in mass it is a pain to fish in.
The weed constantly wraps around lines and gets caught on hooks, requiring anglers to frequently reel in and clean their lines. When fall hits, the sargassum density alleviates, creating better sparse amounts that anglers can target. The relief from the massive beds of weed will also help surf anglers as Sargassum naturally gets washed ashore, creating concentrations right at the surf line.
What’s moving in?
One of the Captain’s favorite species to target this time of year are the incoming wahoo from southern waters.
Bonita (or false albacore) and kingfish also show up in greater abundance this time of year. Bonitas, while not generally targeted for their meat, provide a great fight and can be targeted close to the surface. Kingfish are a better choice for tablefair with oily meat best cooked for long periods at low temps.
Tarpon will call south Florida home year round, but large tarpon from offshore will also move in this time of year to feed on the mullet run.
Take to the skies
When the fall winds pick up, it's time to break out the kites. Kite fishing is unlike any kind of fishing most anglers have experienced. Captain Taco runs kites off his boat to keep baits at, or just below the water’s surface. The kites keep live bait high in the water where its attempts to swim down and thrashing is a dinner bell to sailfish and other predators.
“The kite works a lot like a downrigger holding the bait up. It's the perfect way to present a bait to a finicky fish,” Captain Taco said. “Nine out to ten times you can even see the fish coming up to the bait to take it whether it’s a blackfin tuna, a sailfish, or shark.
The captain will run several different sized kites that work for varying wind conditions. Clips attach the fishing lines to the kites and, like a downrigger, when a fish takes the bait, the clip detaches, allowing the angler to fight the fish freely on the rod.
Changes in bait
Bonita may not be a great addition to your grill, but the prevalence of the species in the fall means they are a great source for cut bait.
“When trolling, we use bonita filets to grind and chum the water. Then we cut the bonita skins into strips which will stay on a hook better at fast speeds,” the captain said. “This allows for really fast trolling compared to sardines and other baits and when trolling with these strips you can cover a lot more ground because of the speed.”
When the kite’s are high in the sky, Captain Taco prefers to use bigeye scad as bait. The bigeye scad is a nocturnal fish and makes for a juicy opportunity when a sailfish, or other predator, sees one of these tasty baitfish out in the open and in the daylight.
Scad make for great bait when the winds aren’t blowing as well, but you can only troll them at very slow speeds. The small fish tend to spin at high speeds and inevitably die, not giving you the wriggling live bait you want.
Captain Taco also finds a lot of success dropping large blue runners onto and on the edge of large shipwrecks.
The shoulder season is just getting going in Florida with an ocean’s worth of opportunities, different species and the same pulse pounding excitement we have all come to love. Don't hang up your rods and reels just yet. Grab your jacket, and get back on the water. Fall in Florida is for fishing.
Now let's go fishing. Captain Taco will bring the kite gear!
Learn more about Captain Taco Perez and other striped bass captains from our friends at Captain Experiences. Now let’s go fishing. We’ll bring the striper gear.
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