October in Greater Fort Lauderdale, Florida, means schools of mullet migrating south off the beaches and in the Intracoastal Waterway.
That translates into exceptional fishing for a variety of species for anglers casting lines from boats, fishing piers, docks, seawalls, bridges and beaches.
Mullet are baitfish feasted on by species such as snook, tarpon, jacks, sharks, Spanish mackerel and bluefish. One of the attractions of the fall mullet run is that anglers never know what they might catch from one cast to the next.
Another attraction is that they don’t need live mullet to catch gamefish. Half of a mullet and a variety of lures such as topwater plugs, spoons and soft-plastic baitfish imitations can be just as, if not more, effective.
Mullet start heading south as water temperatures along the Atlantic coast start to cool. Typically, the biggest schools of mullet pass through Greater Fort Lauderdale in mid-October. They usually head offshore to spawn after a cold front.
Fishing the fall mullet run is one of the most fun things to do in Greater Fort Lauderdale for resident and visiting anglers. When schools of mullet show up off the beaches – they appear as dark blotches in the water -- from Pompano Beach to Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood, Florida, it’s not unusual for customers on deep sea fishing charters to see 100-plus-pound tarpon do somersaults amidst the mullet. Marauding packs of bluefish and Spanish mackerel charge through the mullet schools, scattering so many of the baitfish that they sound like breaking waves as they slap the water.
While pelicans and seagulls dive-bomb the mullet from above, stealthy snook pick them off from below. Jacks will charge into the school and send mullet flying. Sharks, ladyfish, barracuda and even sailfish get in on the movable feast.
The mullet sometimes go inside Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano Beach and travel south through the Intracoastal, then head out Port Everglades Inlet in Fort Lauderdale. Anglers can fish from bridges or from boats around bridges to catch tarpon, snook and jacks as the mullet swim around the bridge pilings.
Live mullet are the preferred bait inshore and offshore, but soft-plastic lures that imitate baitfish and bucktail jigs also catch their share of fish during the mullet run. Anglers fishing from the beach use 5/8ths-ounce Krocodile spoons to catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jacks and snook. A 6½- to 7½-foot fishing rod with 12- to 20-pound monofilament line or 30- to 40-pound braided line is all you need to get a bait or lure in front of a mullet school.
Farther offshore, deep sea fishing charters in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood go after colorful dolphin fish, which put on an acrobatic fight when they are hooked. Sailfish start to show up in greater numbers, and in the same depths as kingfish, snapper and grouper. Meanwhile, scuba divers continue to enjoy the lobster season, as the tasty crustaceans are still plentiful in the coral reefs off Greater Fort Lauderdale.
Late-afternoon rainstorms, along with tropical systems that can dump several inches of rain, can raise the water levels in the canals in the Everglades. Fishing first thing in the morning is a good way to avoid getting wet, plus air and water temperatures are cooler, and largemouth bass and peacock bass bite better.
Anglers can catch both species by casting topwater plugs and hard jerkbaits to the edge of the vegetation that lines both sides of the canals. Freshwater fishing charter guides are available or anglers can rent aluminum fishing boats at Broward County’s Everglades Holiday Park at the end of Griffin Road where it crosses U.S. Highway 27.
What to Know Before You Go
Cooler weather in October makes for some of the most comfortable offshore fishing of the year, and seas can still be relatively calm. Keep an eye out for cold fronts, which are accompanied by high winds that create big waves. The ocean calms down again a few days after a cold front passes.
What’s Up Ahead in November
As temperatures cool up north, more and more sailfish, dolphins, king mackerel and other offshore species head south for the warmer waters of Greater Fort Lauderdale, FL. Bass fishing in the Everglades improves as temperatures in the region also cool.