SOUTH REGIONAL

Gulf Coast grab bag, Florida snook, Qualla Autumn Trout, Cape Hatteras Kings Holding Court, Wild hogs in Kentucky and nmore.

Last Hurrah
Gulf Coast grab bag

**ALABAMA **For one last blast before winter, head to the Gulf Coast to target grouper, amberjacks and red snappers.

Grouper are structure-oriented, lingering around crevices in natural or artificial wrecks or reefs. They are opportunistic feeders, taking a frozen cigar minnow or large pogey dropped in front of them. They inhabit reefs and wrecks, as snappers do, so both can be caught in the same areas. Get in gear with stout, six-foot stand-up rods and 40- to 80-pound-test line. Take bait to the bottom on the edge of the wrecks with two- to six-ounce lead sinkers. When the rig hits bottom, crank up two or three turns and engage the reel. If you don’t get a bite in a moment, give the reel one turn and wait.

Contact: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (251-968-7576); Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (www.gulfshores.com). -Alan Clemons

**Cast and Blast **
Double up on river smallmouths and woodies

**VIRGINIA **This month provides Virginia outdoorsmen with a wealth of great opportunities, including prime smallmouth fishing and a four-day duck season. Instead of choosing one or the other, try a cast-and-blast combo float for wood ducks and bass on any of Virginia’s top smallmouth rivers. Set out early and find a logjam or a quiet backwater behind an island and throw out a half-dozen duck decoys. Get there early; the morning flight typically doesn’t last more than an hour. When the action slows, however, don’t be in a rush to pick up the spread, case the guns and start fishing. Late-morning paddlers will stir up loafing ducks and push them up and down the river all day.

For great smallmouth action, try Tiny Torpedoes, three-inch Berkley Power Grubs and Terminator Tiny T jigs tipped with a Zoom Tiny Chunk trailer. And hunt safely. Don’t try to fish with a loaded gun across your knees. Everyone in the boat should take turns after each opportunity.

Although the James, Shenandoah, New and Rappahannock rivers offer great combo opportunities, they tend to get the most pressure during the early duck season, particularly on the only Saturday of this four-day season. Seek out smaller rivers that feed into those larger ones and make sure you are set up in time for the first minutes of legal shooting. Opening-day hunts can be productive on the larger rivers, but birds tend to scatter once they hear a few guns go off. Season dates weren’t set at press time, but the early season usually takes place the first full week of October.

Contact: Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (804-367-1000). -David Hart

**Snook Season **
It’s that time of year again

FLORIDA Snook should be biting in inlets, in passes and along Gulf Coast beaches from mid-state south. Snook are notoriously nocturnal, but dawn and dusk action is often outstanding. Topwater plugs, jigs, soft-plastic jerkbaits and live baits all take fish. Among the traditional hot areas are Stuart, Jupiter Inlet, the Everglades and Marco Island regions, Pine Island Sound, Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay.

Florida’s snook harvest has always been controversial, and many anglers and guides have successfully lobbied the state to have long closed seasons and to reduce the bag limit along the Gulf Coast and in Monroe County to one snook per person, per day. Legal slot size for snook is 26 to 34 inches.

Contact: Guide Dave Markett, Tampa (813-962-1435); guide Phil O’Bannon, Boca Grande (941-964-0359); guide Rufus Wakeman, Stuart (561-334-4645). -Bob McNally

Qualla Autumn Trout
It’s worth the price of admission

NORTH CAROLINA The Qualla Reservation of the Cherokee Indians in western North Carolina is the site of arguably the best pay-to-fish trout action in the nation.

Se 60,000 permits are sold annually to anglers hoping to take a daily limit of 10 trout. A permit costs $7. Flyfishermen use a variety of dry flies, nymphs and streamers to score. Spin-anglers cast in-line spinners, small Rapalas and small spoons, and many fish with worms, corn and salmon eggs.

Fall is a good time to wade the 33 miles of streams in search of trout that have escaped capture during the summer and to harvest some of the large breeders released this time of year. There is no size limit. The majority of trout taken are 8- to 12-inchers, but a 16-pound rainbow was caught in 2001.

Contact: Cherokee Chamber of Commerce (800-438-1601). -Don Rouanzion

Cape Hatteras Kings Holding Court
Targeting king mackerel in a place where “bad” actually means good

**NORTH CAROLINA **Fishermen who flock to North Carolina’s coast have only recently discovered that some of the best fishing for big king mackerel can be found in a bad place-the “bad bottom” off Cape Hatteras.

You can troll for kings with spoons or lures, but the most productive method by far is slow-trolling or drifting live baits-menhaden in particular-using 20- to 30-pound-class spinning or bait-casting tackle. It’s not unusual for a day’s catch to include a dozen fish over 15 or 20 pounds; a 30-pound fish doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore.

An area that covers between 10 and 15 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the bad bottom is a series of rock and reef outcroppings in 50 to 70 feet of water. The area extends from just southeast of the “diamond shoals,” off the town of Buxton, south to an area that’s six to seven miles south of the town of Frisco, and it starts within four or five miles of the beach.

The nature of the ocean floor rules out a lot of commercial trawling in the area, but it’s perfect for holding baitfish, and in the fall that means it also holds king mackerel. The fishing can be so good, in fact, that the extensive charter-boat fleet working out of Hatteras often leaves the blue waters of the Gulf Stream-and the tuna, dolphin, wahoo and billfish-and stays inshore for weeks at a time.

The best inshore fishing usually starts in the early part of this month, and depending on the unpredictable autumn weather, it can last until almost Thanksgiving. Contact: North Carolina Marine Fisheries Division, Morehead City (252-726-7021); Hatteras Harbor Marina (252-986-2166); Oden’s Dock (252-986-2555). -Dan Kibler

New Kids on the Block
Wild hogs are on the loose in southern Kentucky

**KENTUCKY **There’s a new game in Cumberland County-wild hogs. The bulk of the hogs are found between the western shore of Dale Hollow Lake and Highway 61. Public land controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers makes up much of this area; maps are available from the office in Celina. Best access is by boat, but some of the area can be reached by highways 61 and 449. Look for fresh sign, like rooting or trails, among the wooded hills, especially near oak and hickory mast crops; plan an ambush the next morning or later in the afternoon when the hogs will feed again. Once a hog is in sight, archery tackle or a variety of firearms will suffice, including any deer shotgun or large-caliber handgun or rifle.

Contact: Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (502-564-4336); Army Corps of Engineers, Celina (931-243-3136). -Brian Ruzzo

ALABAMA
Seeing Spots: Target big spotted bass on long main-lake points of Jordan and Martin lakes with white spinnerbaits, Fat Free Shad Junior crankbaits in crayfish or chartreuse/green and Carolina-rigged four-inch green-pumpkin lizards retrieved quickly under the surface. The fish will be feeding for winter and chasing shad. Contact: ADCNR (334-242-3465).

Getting the Point: This is the season to bag a trophy buck on 19,000-acre Barbour County WMA. It’s entering the third year as one of the state’s two quality deer-management WMAs. Bucks must have at least one antler with three points to be eligible. Youth, gun and primitive weapons hunts are scheduled later in the season, which runs through January 31. Contact: ADCNR (334-529-3222).

Bundle of Bushytails: Get into some top squirrel hunting in the Talladega National Forest in eastern Alabama, where hardwoods dominate the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A separate division in western Alabama south of Tuscaloosa also offers good stands of hardwoods. The two tracts combine for 377,000 acres. Contact: U.S. Forest Service, Montgomery (334-832-4470).

Key Dates
October 15: Archery deer season opens.

ARKANSAS
Bears in the Woods: The Ouachita and Ozark national forests offer the best chance for a black bear through November 30 in zones 1 and 2 with archery gear and October 19 to 27 for muzzleloaders. Sows average 150 pounds and boars range from 200 to 250 pounds. Stands of white oaks, especially near watering holes, are prime areas, as bears will be feeding before winter hibernation. Contact: Ozark National Forest, Russellville (479-968-2354); Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs (501-321-5202).

Hybrids on Top: A tremendous shad hatch should make fishing for hybrids on Greer’s Ferry Lake outstanding. Cove Creek and the Narrows in front of Sugar Loaf are among the best for topwater action, sometimes lasting all day, with a High Roller Rip Roller or Boy Howdy. Working a white or chrome half-ounce in-line spinner or swimming a melon-colored grub also works well. Smallmouths may be mixed in with the hybrids, or they can be taken on points with green-pumpkin Gitzits, Hula Grubs or a Carolina-rigged four-inch lizard. Contact: Guide Tommy Cauley (501-654-2008).

WMA QDM: Deer season opens October 1 for bowhunting and October 19 for firearms, with a new “four-point rule” in effect in 10 state WMAs. Legal bucks must have at least four points on one side. The rule is in effect on Bayou Meto, Cut-Off Creek, Dagmar, Henry Gray/Hurricane Lake, Rex Hancock/Black Swamp, Rick Evans/Grandview Prairie, St. Francis National Forest, Trusten Holder and Wattensaw WMAs and the University of Arkansas Pine Tree Experimental Station WDA. Contact: AGFC (501-223-6300).

Key Dates
October 1: Archery turkey season opens.
October 5: Squirrel season opens, south zone.
October 10-16: Firearms turkey season.

FLORIDA
Lake George Bream and Catfish: This area of the St. Johns River, near the towns of Welaka, Georgetown and Palatka, is brackish tidewater, so it’s full of marine creatures like saltwater shrimp and blue crabs that freshwater fish thrive on. Use pieces of fresh marine shrimp and blue-crab meat for catfish and bream bottom baitA. It’s entering the third year as one of the state’s two quality deer-management WMAs. Bucks must have at least one antler with three points to be eligible. Youth, gun and primitive weapons hunts are scheduled later in the season, which runs through January 31. Contact: ADCNR (334-529-3222).

Bundle of Bushytails: Get into some top squirrel hunting in the Talladega National Forest in eastern Alabama, where hardwoods dominate the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. A separate division in western Alabama south of Tuscaloosa also offers good stands of hardwoods. The two tracts combine for 377,000 acres. Contact: U.S. Forest Service, Montgomery (334-832-4470).

Key Dates
October 15: Archery deer season opens.

ARKANSAS
Bears in the Woods: The Ouachita and Ozark national forests offer the best chance for a black bear through November 30 in zones 1 and 2 with archery gear and October 19 to 27 for muzzleloaders. Sows average 150 pounds and boars range from 200 to 250 pounds. Stands of white oaks, especially near watering holes, are prime areas, as bears will be feeding before winter hibernation. Contact: Ozark National Forest, Russellville (479-968-2354); Ouachita National Forest, Hot Springs (501-321-5202).

Hybrids on Top: A tremendous shad hatch should make fishing for hybrids on Greer’s Ferry Lake outstanding. Cove Creek and the Narrows in front of Sugar Loaf are among the best for topwater action, sometimes lasting all day, with a High Roller Rip Roller or Boy Howdy. Working a white or chrome half-ounce in-line spinner or swimming a melon-colored grub also works well. Smallmouths may be mixed in with the hybrids, or they can be taken on points with green-pumpkin Gitzits, Hula Grubs or a Carolina-rigged four-inch lizard. Contact: Guide Tommy Cauley (501-654-2008).

WMA QDM: Deer season opens October 1 for bowhunting and October 19 for firearms, with a new “four-point rule” in effect in 10 state WMAs. Legal bucks must have at least four points on one side. The rule is in effect on Bayou Meto, Cut-Off Creek, Dagmar, Henry Gray/Hurricane Lake, Rex Hancock/Black Swamp, Rick Evans/Grandview Prairie, St. Francis National Forest, Trusten Holder and Wattensaw WMAs and the University of Arkansas Pine Tree Experimental Station WDA. Contact: AGFC (501-223-6300).

Key Dates
October 1: Archery turkey season opens.
October 5: Squirrel season opens, south zone.
October 10-16: Firearms turkey season.

FLORIDA
Lake George Bream and Catfish: This area of the St. Johns River, near the towns of Welaka, Georgetown and Palatka, is brackish tidewater, so it’s full of marine creatures like saltwater shrimp and blue crabs that freshwater fish thrive on. Use pieces of fresh marine shrimp and blue-crab meat for catfish and bream bottom bait