Photo by Jerry McBride

Photo by Jerry McBride

By Jerry McBride

You aren't the only one who's noticed how much more pleasant it is when you step outside to get the morning newspaper.

Those cool evenings and shorter days have put the fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico on transition alert. It’s time for them to fatten up before bait schools desert the coastline to spend the winter in balmier conditions farther south.

Due to its shallow nature and lack of a warm blankie such as the east coast's Gulf Stream to moderate temperatures, the Gulf is susceptible to relatively rapid temperature fluctuation. That means now is the time for offshore kayak fishing in the Gulf. Water temperatures have already fallen half a dozen degrees off mid-80 summertime highs. By November, kiss the forage species and the pelagic wanderers that follow them goodbye; king and Spanish mackerel, mahi, sailfish, wahoo, bonito and cobia won't be back until around April 1, as they track the northbound 68-degree temperature curve and returning bait schools north. Intrepid offshore kayak anglers will be relegated to chasing scattered reef species—many of them off-limits to harvest—spawning flounder and bull redfish.

Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has bucked federal fish managers to provide one more major incentive for kayak anglers to get on the water now, extending the red snapper season each weekend through Labor Day, Nov. 1. Florida's northern Gulf—Mexico Beach to Pensacola–is one of the few areas kayakers can target red snapper without employing a mothership, with productive reefs just a mile or two off the beach.