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According to several, longtime, St. Augustine offshore captains, crops are not the only thing harvested this time of the year.
“Fall fishing is fantastic,” says veteran captain Frank Timmons of Off the Grid Charters. He explains that the incoming winds stir up the waters, which in turn changes the water temps and that pushs deep sea fishing and the fish that are further out - closer to the shore.
With the temperature change, migratory fish – sailfish, dolphin, kings, cobia and the like – linger in local waters as they travel south. Bottom species such as grouper and black sea bass, for example, move closer to the reefs to prepare for winter spawning, and big reds and flounder take up residence on offshore reefs.
There is fall surface fishing for pelagics, but Captain Timmons prefers bottom fishing for grouper, vermillion snapper, and black sea bass. His favorite fall catch is the gag grouper.
Bill Kerr of Bacchus Charters finds fishing to be ideal in October and November. This is the time when surface temperatures drop into the low 70’s and mid 60’s and the bottom fish come to life. The cooling water “turns the bite on” signaling that it’s time to bulk up for the winter.
Favorite fish to catch, as with more than one captain, is the grouper, which he sees as a “man against beast” contest that involves endurance, strong wrists, and good back muscles.
The message from veteran offshore captains is clear. Fall is the time to head for blue water. The air is cool, fewer boats disturb your tranquil dreams of the big one, and the fish are hungry as they fatten up for the spawn and for winter. If you want to plan an offshore trip, harvest season is the time.
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