A Battle of the Wind

Surf fishing in the fall, especially in October and November—when the winds clock around to put your coast in the lee, hitting the shore––is very popular. That’s because there is an East Coast/West Coast mullet migration going on, which means more chances at a variety of species for anyone fishing in the surf.

Mullet migrate down the coast from north to south and, along the way, really create some huge activity in the surf. Another thing that comes to mind is you have approaching cold fronts that sometimes make it all the way down the state, but most of the time stall in North Florida or Central Florida.

What that does is allow wind to switch and the high pressure to move away into a wintertime pattern. When that front approaches, whether it makes it down to Tampa, South Florida, Clearwater, Daytona or Sarasota, it will cause the winds to go west, northwest, north and then back to northeast, where it will usually stay for a few days.

When it is blowing hard out of the east, it allows the West Coast to be in the lee and surf fishing conditions to be ideal on that side of the state. Wind out of the west smoothes the waters on the East Coast. By now, water temperatures have fallen and you can easily find Spanish mackerel just offshore. Bluefish travel in the schools of mullet that line the coasts, and sometimes you’ll find giant schools of redfish and snook around the mullet as well.

Warmer Temperatures Provide Opportunities

My good friend Capt. Geoff Page tells me he had tarpon crashing schools of mullet on the West Coast because the temperatures hadn’t dropped over there yet. This becomes a situation full of opportunity.

There are two ways to this situation. You can use a long 9-foot surf casting rod with 20-pound line and cast out way past the surf line, using live bait or chunks of cut bait on the bottom. Often this will produce large sharks lurking to eat the mullet schools as well.

You also will have lots of pompano swimming in the surf. In this case, simply throw a pompano jig or dig up some sandfleas. I like my secondary rod to be more of a conventional 7-foot spinning rod with 12-pound line to allow me to cast the maximum distance. You can put on a nylon jig, either white or yellow, for pompano and mackerel, or use a ¼-ounce Got-cha jig because they are made out of steel and flash very well, making them a great favorite of Spanish mackerel.

Here’s why you should have two different rods. You want one you can stick in pipe also called a sand spike, which is buried in sand with the 20-pound line that will allow you to sit there and wait until some unsuspecting fish like a shark or tarpon or something large bites.

While you’re waiting, you can use your smaller rod to walk up and down the beach––in view of your surfcasting rod––and cast right in the surfline for mackerel, bluefish or snook, using a jig. Remember, Krocodile spoons and Diamond jigs work very well for these fish as well.

The same thing applies when you’re on the East Coast. The difference in most cases is that the East Coast will hold a different variety of fish. You’ll probably have less pompano and more snook until water temps get a little cooler. 

The point is, it’s a great time of year to fish between the changing of wind directions. After a front goes through and the winds are out of the northeast or east and the East Coast beaches are a little rougher, the fish are still there making a living.

Tight Lines and Good Fishing,
Captain Rick Murphy