I’m sure you’ve heard people complaining that Florida has only two seasons: Summer and spring. While there is a little bit of truth to that — after all, it is a lot warmer here in the subtropics than it is in Buffalo — it’s a drastic oversimplification of our weather pattern. We may not have blazing autumn colors or a spring thaw, but if you pay attention, you’ll notice that we have lots of seasonal changes.
Right now, for example, we are seeing our rainy season tapering off. Of course, we always have dry weather after a hurricane passes by, and Dorian has only recently left the area. But hurricane or no, the rains have been slowing. By September, we expect to see thunderstorms every second or third day instead of every single day like we did back in early August.
Once the rains stop for several days, the water should go back to being clear and salty, right? Of course not — don’t be a knucklehead. This is the same as those guys who expect an army of sheepshead to show up at El Jobean after the first cold front in November.
Change takes time. Charlotte Harbor is at the end of the Peace and Myakka rivers, which together drain more than a million acres. Just one inch of rainwater flowing off all that land is 27 billion gallons going into the Harbor. Moving that enormous volume of water takes time. The Harbor will be dark and fresh for months, regardless of how much rain we get.
As the rains are receding, we’re seeing another change: The days are getting shorter. Today we have 12 hours and 25 minutes between sunrise and sunset. In mid-June, we had almost 14 hours. Temperatures will eventually fall as a result, but animals and plants are strongly affected by photoperiod as well. In fact, even when temperatures don’t change, day length is enough to effect change all by itself.
OK, so all of these things are interesting, but what does it mean for your fishing? A lot. Actually, a whole lot. For example, right now we have a lot of people targeting redfish. Some are using lures, but most folks make it easier on themselves and fish with cutbait. We do that because everybody knows redfish use their sense of smell to feed.
What a lot of those fishermen have been finding, though, is that they’re catching more than a few snook on that cutbait. Now, most of us think of snook as hunters, not scavengers. Why are they gobbling up chunks of mullet and dead shrimp?
It’s all about the changing seasons. The snook have been spawning all summer. Now that’s over, and it’s time to pack on some weight. Winter can be a lean time because food is less abundant, so now’s the time to eat up.
However, the large amounts of fresh water still flowing down the rivers has driven a lot of baitfish and shrimp out to saltier waters — so the snook have to make do with what they can find. Turns out they’re a lot less picky when they’re hungry.
The slowly shifting seasons will bring a lot more changes to our waters in the coming months. Every pattern that we’ve gotten used to over the summer will fade away. As the fish modify their behaviors, all of us need to adapt our methods and techniques. If you keep fishing like it’s summer, you’ll find your trips becoming less and less successful.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing more on helping you transition into fall. It might not be anything like fall back home, but a lot of things will be very different from what we’ve seen over the summer. And none of it will involve pumpkin spice.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.