The official start of fall is almost three weeks away, occurring on Sept. 22, but ask any angler who fishes our area more than occasionally and he will tell you itís looking like an early season may be in the works. While water temperatures are still warm, currently reading in the lower 80s, it wonít take much for them to start dropping, as future forecasted weather patterns are bringing cold fronts to the coastal areas on a continuing basis. And while weather patterns and the time of the year may lend to predicting whatís going to be happening, the fish that are moving through the area waters might be able to give more of a glimpse into whatís in store.
The fish weíre talking about is the popeye mullet. For the past week or so, anglers fishing the piers and surf have reported large schools of these fish traveling south. Itís a true indication that fall is not too far away and an even better indication that the larger predators are within casting range, waiting on a tasty meal. Itís a great time of year that fishermen look forward to. Make sure you donít miss the opportunity and get out there and wet a line.
Offshore, the Labor Day weekend proved to be a good one for boats heading out, as manageable seas and sunny skies welcomed those making the trek. Around the Same Ole Hole and The Nipple areas, many anglers boated some hefty wahoo, with most of the fish ranging somewhere around the 40-pound range. The dolphin were around, too, as were a few billfish.
Closer to the beach, the bottom fishermen continue finding some good triggerfish bites in the 30-mile area. Grouper fishing has been steady around the same distance out and keeper-sized black sea bass are being found just about anywhere starting around 10 miles out.
Along the beach, fishermen are finding lots of hungry red drum willing to bite. Finding the deeper sloughs and holes during low tide and then fishing these same areas when the water is up will improve your chances. A lot of the fish are over the slot limit of 18-27 inches, so if youíre keeping one for the table, be sure to measure them carefully. Cut bait and live finger mullet fished on a fish finder rig is the best rig to use. Some hefty black drum have also taken up residence in the same areas that the reds are hanging out in. Cut bait will also work for them but fresh cut shrimp is even better.
Inshore, the red drum and flounder fishing continues to thrive. A lot of these fish are being caught in the same areas and will readily bite the same baits. Carolina rigged finger mullet are a great choice and thereís plenty of bait around right now, so finding enough bait for a few hours or even a dayís worth should not be much of a chore. A lot of the flounder being encountered are well above the 15-inch minimum but as I always say, if youíve got to measure, they need to go back for another day.