I’m often asked, “When is the best time to go fishing?” The correct answer for most people is, “Whenever you get the chance”, because many people just don’t have the opportunity to play on the water as I do. But if you are a serious fisherperson or can pick and choose the date you would like to fish, then you need first to select the time of year and then the best tide.
In southwest Florida, water temperature and tides dictate both the time you should go fishing and the species you are likely to catch. Although you can hook into most of the fish that live in our waters all year long, there are some that are more plentiful during certain months. For example, sheepshead, flounder, pompano, and black drum are more likely to be caught when the water temperature is 75 degrees or less, whereas snook and especially tarpon prefer water temperatures over 75 degrees. Our premier game fish in the southwest region of the state is snook and the ideal time to hunt this regal species is right after they spawn, when the water temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees and this occurs in August, September, October and into the first part of November. This happens to be my favorite time of the year here: warm days, cool nights, and hot fishing. The winter residents haven’t arrived by then and it is quite possible to spend a day in the back country and never see another boat. However, on a good day in February after you’ve caught a limit of delicious trout and pompano and had a toe to toe battle with a 25-pound black drum, you tend to forget that you thought you favored fall fishing.
Most people that visit our state and many who live here think that we have at best, one or two seasons: hot and cool. But in the backwaters of the 10,000 Islands, there are many micro climates under the surface of the water. Remember that surface temperatures can differ significantly from those of deeper water and the shallow back bays often heat up to a point in the cold winter months to temperatures that rival those of the summer months.
A good guide can have you fishing in conditions that you didn’t think existed because of his familiarity with the sub-surface conditions. I have a guide I fish with in the panhandle part of our state that can do just that and getting a guide to put you on the fish is always a good idea if you don’t fish the waters regularly.
Whether you’re planning a trip to my area or anywhere for that matter, call a guide and if possible give him or her a range of dates and what you would like to do. Get the rundown on what’s likely to jump onto your hook. Your guide should know the likelihood of catching a certain species for that time period and going with his suggestion will more than likely give you an action-filled day. Choosing a guide is a start to an enjoyable day on the water, but that’s a story for another day.