Perhaps the most unpredictable fishing of the year occurs when the fall cold fronts start rolling in.
Before fronts, predatory fish can go into a feeding frenzy, eating everything in sight. After fronts, fish are on the move with dropping water temperatures and rising air pressure.
The biggest migrations occur in the near-shore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Schools of baitfish move south toward warmer winter waters. Behind them, kingfish, cobia, sharks mackerel and other surprises make a day of fishing as exciting as it gets. This week, a few bizarre and extraordinary occurrences led anglers to tell fishing stories that will last a lifetime, proving once again waters don't have boundaries.
For Capt. Billy Alstrom, a seemingly lost amberjack highlighted his week of fishing.
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"Fishing has been on fire!" he described. While fishing in 33 feet of water only four miles offshore, Alstrom and his anglers landed a 66-pound amberjack, a fish that normally roams in waters deeper than 80 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.
"We were fishing for cobia, barracuda, grouper, sharks or whatever would bite. The trip was almost over, so I started doing a lot of chumming to empty the live wells. As I did, there were a bunch of really big boils behind the boat. My client, Craig Wood, hooked the fish and right away I knew it was big!
"I had assumed it to be a shark or a cobia. Amberjack never crossed my mind. I was in disbelief, not just because it was an amberjack that close to shore, but the fact that it as 66 pounds made it all the more crazy!"
Also occurring within sight of land this week have been multiple whale shark sightings. The first occurred for Taylor Chadsey Jr. last weekend six miles from Anna Maria Island.
Swimming with the whale shark was a school of cobia, with one cobia they estimated to be around 80 pounds.
"The whale shark was about 15 feet long," Chadsey said. "We caught two cobia between 30 and 40 pounds, broke a hook on one, and were cut off on another. Very cool!"
On Thursday, Capt. Billy Nobles with Capt. Glen Taylor and crew ran across a whale shark four miles from St. Petersburg Beach. "The fish was about 30 feet long and had tons of fish on him. He stayed with us and never got spooked. We just swam with it, it was awesome!" Taylor said.
As seas calm later into the week, expect schools of mackerel and kingfish to be on near-shore artificial reefs and hand bottom in high numbers. Gag grouper should also begin to move shallower with the dropping water temperatures, and there is only a month left before their season will close on Dec. 3.