The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

Fall fishing season is officially here. Cooler water has brought swarms of migratory baitfish into the area and that has, in turn, delivered all the gamefish that move with them. Fishing for kingfish, mackerel, gag grouper, and cobia has been excellent from 12 to 60 feet of water. Grouper diggers have also reported catching huge flounder while soaking baits on the bottom.

And there is more good news: spawning aggregations of giant redfish have returned off the coast as they normally do each year at this time. Contrary to popular belief redfish are primarily an offshore species that only spends its first two years or so in the estuaries then joins the wandering offshore population and never returns to the flats. Each year these big fish return to areas a few miles off the coast, near the bigger bays, where they gather in schools of a thousand or more to spawn. The fertilized eggs then drift into the creeks and flats where the life cycle begins again. Last year researchers found more dead mature redfish than alive. Entire schools swam into toxic water and perished. It was feared that a large percentage of the brood stock had been killed by severe red tide. So far this year however, an encouraging number of aggregations have once again been identified. A strong spawn this fall could translate to improved inshore redfishing for the next few years.