October came and went pretty fast, and honestly it once again held up to being one of the best fishing months of the year. The Kings came in strong and offered plenty of light tackle (I’m talking redfish gear with a little more line capacity) action. The Goliath Grouper bite remained strong, the hoards of sharks kept up busy, and of course the Gag Grouper moved closer and closer to shore. We had a decent Cobia bite within 5-7 miles, several days we even filled out our limit. These were not huge fish, but all healthy sized that we did not have to think about measuring. Even the Redfish cooperated for most of the month, save for the fish that have gotten beat silly by the Tournament guys that have started camping out in Lemon Bay. When the over sized Reds moved through off the beach, it was arm breaking work to deal with them all!
When the weather cooperated for us, I really don’t think there was a day this month that the fish did not! The most consistent bite, once again has been on the near shore reefs and wrecks. Consistent catches of all targeted species, some of trophy size (we actually had a 40lb+ and a weighed 48lb PORTION of Kings that had sections eaten by sharks), and lots of fish to bring home for the grill/smoker. Best of all I think I had some of the best time on the water with some of my most memorable clients this month.
The best catches this month were in 35 to 45 feet of water, and I don’t think I ran more than a few miles north or south out of Stump Pass all month unless we just wanted a change of scenery. There are many days that we are able to put together great catches on areas that are slightly more pressured simply by changing our approach. When the wind and current die a little bit, the sky clears, the sun comes out, and weekend warriors abound it is time to change it up a little. Downsizing your tackle is the first order of business. I like to run 40lb fluorocarbon if I can get away with it, sometimes I will drop to 30lb in a pinch. I run about 3 feet of fluorocarbon tied with a reverse improved albright to my 10-15lb braid. I then use a standard 5 turn albright to tie a piece of number 3 or 4 wire (about 6 inches is more than enough to retie) to a 4/0 circle hook. Now this may sound like a Spanish Mackerel rig, but I have excellent success with this rig on even the largest kings. Bait is the other thing. Though larger baits like Blue Runner, big Threadfin Herring, Mullet, etc. are great king baits, under these conditions there are often times that you cant beat a medium to small sized Scaled or Spanish Sardine. I’m talking about a bait that runs on the large size for general Snook fishing. What we would refer to as “pretty bait” when we were working an inshore flat. This whole light line, small bait approach is coupled with a consistent chum line of FRESH, oily chum. Don’t chum too much, just get the scent out there. Pitch your baits well behind the boat and hold on! I like to fish these freelined, no weight or cork. I will also put the same baits and rigs out with a 1/16 oz jig head if I think they need a little depth. My motto is Go light or go home!
One last thing that I think will really change the opinion of a lot of people about what catching Kings is really about. I target all but the largest kings with Shimano Stradic and Sustain 4000 series reels on Star Stellar light, Fast Action 8-17lb rods. The only thing I make sure of before I go out is that I have replaced the stock felt Shimano drags is Carbontex drag washers (made waterproof with a micro film of Cal’s drag grease) and that I have a TOP (read: not Powerpro or suffix) quality braided line packed tight with a minimum of backing. As I mentioned, this gives me about 375 working yards of line when I run 10-20lb (with a breaking strength about double that of the equivalent labeled Powerpro at a smaller diameter). I can run over 10lbs of drag with this setup if I need to, which is enough to subdue just about any King or Cobia we come into contact with (save for getting spooled or having to force a break off once or twice a month to sharks). This will bring new meaning to SCREAMING REEL!
I am looking forward to a great November coming up, with lots of trips on the books. The near shore bite should stay pretty good, with the addition of more and more Gag Grouper every day. It looks like its going to be another year like last year when we had fantastic Grouper action in close all winter! Catch’em while you can because starting in 2011 Gag Grouper will not be harvest-able for about a year, and will have approximately a 1-2 month OPEN season from that point forward.