October and November are the months I begin my transition back to Lake Manatee for my winter fishing. Crappie is my fishing target in the fresh water.
October and November are always the best two months of the year for crappie as they begin their pre-spawn gorging preparing for the January and Feburary spawn. This year, as in the past few years at Lake Manatee, the crappie fishing has been spectacular. Big females up to and sometimes more than 15 inches are common. We have been slow trolling the drop-offs and ledges around the old river channel. Fishing off my custom-built 24-foot pontoon boat, we slow-troll 14 rods with Ron's Fish Bites jigs tipped with minnows. Speed is important as I have found over the years and right now a slow three-quarters mph seems to be working best, anything over 1 mph and the bites drop off significantly. Jig colors in hot pink, black and blue have worked best for me this week.
On the saltwater side, the bait is all over the flats, and the trout have moved in to take advantage of the buffet. Lots of under-slot trout are around, and we have been fishing through them to get to the slot-sized fish. We have been picking a redfish here and there, but not as many as I would expect for this time of year. The cooler water hopefully will put a spark in the redfish. Same for snook; we are picking up a few snook, but I'm expecting November for them to really turn on.
Capt. Mike Senecal
Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff, the Snook Fin-Addict out of CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had good action catching and releasing Spanish mackerel, tripletail, flounder, snook, reds and trout on flies, CAL jigs with shad tails and DOA Deadly Combos in Sarasota Bay and the coastal gulf waters during the week of Oct. 27.
Frank Zaffino, from Rochester, N.Y., fished the coastal gulf off Sarasota with me on Oct. 27. Our goal was false albacore (little tunny), Spanish mackerel and tripletail on fly. Albies were elusive that day, only showing themselves briefly a few times, so we caught and released a few mackerel on Ultra Hair Clouser flies and moved on to tripletail. Conditions were good, and tripletail were plentiful that day. He had numerous shots and caught and released two on my Grassett Flats Minnow and EP Shrimp flies. Fish were being picky, but we showed them different flies and presentations, and he did a great job finessing them into eating.
Nick Reding, from Longboat Key, fished the coastal gulf with me on Oct. 28. Despite an east wind, there was a big chop coming straight up the beach out of the southeast, making conditions tough. We had shots at a couple of tripletail and decided to fish the bay starting at the bottom of the tide. We waded a shallow flat, hooked three reds and caught and released two on my Grassett Flats Minnow and Flats Bunny flies. A great afternoon!
Mike Clancy and Mik Mikitik, both from Olympia, Wash., were the successful bidders on a trip I donated to the International Federation of Fly Fishers (IFFF) for their 2014 International Fly Fishing Fair in Livingston, Mont. They fished the coastal gulf with me on Oct. 30 and had good action with tripletail, getting numerous shots at them and catching and releasing two. Although tripletail haven't been big lately, it's a great way for fly anglers to hone their sight-casting skills.
Outdoor writer Jan Maizler and photographer Allen Williams, both from the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area, fished with me on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. A front passed through early on Oct. 31, so fishing the coastal gulf was not an option. I poled a shallow flat in Sarasota Bay, and they caught and released several snook on CAL jigs with shad tails and top-water plugs. We also drifted a deep grass flat and caught and released trout, flounder and bluefish on DOA Deadly Combos and CAL jigs with shad tails. With 25 to 30 mph winds and cool air rushing in on the morning of Nov. 1, conditions were extremely tough. We fished oyster bars, mangrove shorelines and docks in Little Sarasota Bay and caught and released several jacks, a couple of snook and a nice flounder on CAL jigs with shad tails.
Tripletail, Spanish mackerel and false albacore in the coastal gulf should be one of the best options now, depending on conditions. Look for bait schools, diving birds or breaking fish to find albies and mackerel. Trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, flounder and more should be good options on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Snook fishing should be good around lighted docks and bridges in the ICW at night or on shallow flats of Sarasota Bay. You might find reds and trout along with snook on lighted docks this time of year. Also, look for reds on shallow flats mixed with mullet schools.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.