September for us offshore fishermen is “Snag a gag month!” This just means the grouper fishing is better because things are cooling down causing more movement. During this month, gags, scamps and red grouper are more likely to be up and about. The best places to look for these fish are the live bottom ledges at the Savannah Snapper Banks.
I like to call them fish cities, which are small areas that hold all types of fish from small to large at all depths. These are basically ledges that are surrounded with sand. Your best baits are going to be live cigar minnows and spanish sardines, which can be caught with Sabiki gold hook rigs schooling over the structure at the artificial reefs. These baits are known for triggering a serious grouper bite.
However, a bigger fish sometimes wants bigger bait. Baits caught at the banks are normally those fish that have air bladders such as sand perch, rock bass, vermilion snapper, pin fish, and ruby red lips. Before putting one in your live well, I suggest deflating the air bladder with a sharp pointed fillet knife. These baits will also bring on a big time bottom grouper bite.
A few king mackerel have started showing up at the artificial reefs and the live bottom areas of the Savannah Snapper Banks. During this time, it’s not unusual to catch Mahi Mahi while bottom fishing. They are curious fish and will swim right to the boat. To catch these colorful visitors, just take the weight off your bottom rig, loosen your drag, and float your bait (squid of cut fish) right to the circling Mahi Mahi. If the Mahi Mahi has its feeding lights on, they will suck this bait in just like most of us do when chocolate is involved! If there is more than one Mahi Mahi, leave the last fish caught in the water until the next fish is hooked up! Mahi Mahi are not only curious, but also a very jealous fish.
The temperatures are still hot, but there is a subtle change that takes place in the month of September. All fish are basically put on notice that fall patterns are pending. Just the fact that daylight is a couple of minutes shorter makes all the difference to those down under.
This is not the month for migrations; it’s the month for feeding on everything that is available. Spotted sea trout, red fish, and flounder might feed at different times of the tides. However, here’s what they have in common: All of them like live shrimp. The bottom line is you can serve it up anyway you like from naked (meaning with or without any sort of leader or weight) to under popping or adjustable floats.
Here is the secret to the fish bite in September: once you get the bite going it’s easy to change your bait. For instance, if you start using live shrimp and they all happen to die or you run out, your best bet then is to change over to any leftover parts from previous hits and/or start using DOA shrimp patterns.
The DOA shrimp patterns work like a charm. Here’s a tip: When using pre-rigged DOAs, meaning when they are purchased with hook and balance weight, I suggest removing weight and hook. Then I suggest taking a 2/0 to 3/0 Kahle hook and hooking the shrimp up like you do the real deal. Since you want the DOA to look as natural as possible, you need to place the hook in the mid ship of the shrimp. Once it’s balanced on the hook’s bend, it becomes the prefect waving bait in the current under a popping cork or an adjustable float.
The best colors are Root Beer, clear gold glitter, clear chartreuse tail, and golden cherry red. I suggest using .25-ounce DOA shrimp patterns.
Another secret when using live bait is to drop a few DOA’s into the well. I call this “adding juice appeal!”