November is without a doubt one of the best months in our area to get out and fish. The water temperatures are averaging in the 70’s but can dip below for a few days with the actual beginning of our winter. It has the fish pushed into the areas where they will spend the next couple months. On the warming trends 3-5 days after a cold front passes, the water temperature begins to climb but not to the extent we get in our summer months. It’s oxygen rich and all of our inshore game fish thrive in water temperatures in the mid to upper 70 degree temperature mark and it’s the ticket between having a great day and a bad day. Afternoons often provide the best bite especially when timed with an outgoing because it allows the water to cook in the back of the creek, rivers, flats, and canal systems. It’s always a couple of degrees warmer which in result causes the fish to be a little more snappy.
Redfish thrive in the cooler temperatures and it’s fun to watch their attitude change as the temperatures rise in between cold fronts. As the temperatures begin to rise into the upper 70’s they begin to seek shade under the mangroves on the super high tides but just after the fronts they position themselves just off the shoreline. In upper Tampa bay we experience an algae bloom which can diminish our water clarity as it gets warmer but as the temperatures drop, it doesn’t even seem as if you’re fishing the same flat or area. Sight fishing for redfish is as its best as it gets colder because the conditions for the game gets better. The grass gets shorter and the water gets cleaner which ultimately exposes our target and they don’t use the mangroves for shade like they do when it gets warm. They also begin to specifically rely on lug worms, mud crabs, and mantis shrimp for their diet which allows us to scale down our fly or artificial, allowing for longer casts whether you’re a fly or light tackle angler. A good method when trying to decide what to use on a flat or an area you are about to fish is by looking at the bottom. Is it mud, grass, or sand and what color is it? Matching the color of the bottom is always a must because everything they’re trying to eat is going to have good camouflage and the second factor would be how much weight can you effectively get away with using without catching too much grass.
Deeper water in our creeks, river, and canal systems will provide refuge for snook which allows them to acclimate to the temperature drop gradually rather than the sudden drop the flats experience. They will be stacked at all of the mouths of these areas ready to jump out and bask on a flat during a warming trend but also the first to retreat at the sign of a cold snap. In my opinion, it’s not worth considering targeting them until about the 4th or 5th day after a cold front and not until the afternoon when the water temperature has had time to rise a couple of degrees. Northern shorelines that receive sun all day and get a little warmer than the rest and on the warmest days can get a good concentration of fish. Fly anglers should look for a bug that has a silent entry and light tackle guys should use something they can throw a long ways. There is something about a 1/4 ounce jig head when it makes contact with the bottom that is irresistible to snook and when it can be presented in a way that the fish finds it, it can be heart stopping. Take your time reviving them in the cooler temperatures, they might need an extra second or two!
Trout fishing is just getting going as they stack up over hard bottoms and in the creek/river mouths before they spawn in the spring. Larger fish can be found pushed up on the flats on some of the cooler days just after cold fronts but recede to deeper water as the temperatures begin to climb. The larger fish on the flats aren’t quite like the smaller ones in deeper water because they require a quieter approach, longer cast, and just an over all more delicate presentation. Fly anglers do better to sight fish with weightless/weedless flies and light tackle do the best with suspended twitch baits that can cover a lot of water. In heavier grass situations, a larger weedless jerk bait works excellent.
This is the time of year for tripletail and they can be found on anything floating on the surface of the water or any piece of structure. The trick with them is just finding them and that’s accomplished by covering water! They look a lot like a clump of grass off to one side of the debris and also be a foot or two down depending on the structure so it’s important to take your time when looking. It’s not uncommon to find them free floating as well. They aren’t the pickiest and most of the time don’t let too much get past them without making a meal of it BUT on the off hand you do get one that doesn’t want to play, just change your fly/artificial and most of the time you can change your luck. Mackerel and ladyfish can also be found on deeper grass flats just adjacent to the pass. Heavy weighted flies with a lot of flash work the best.