This post is the list of fishing articles written by Capt Jim Klopfer. These articles will be broken down into several categories. These include Sarasota fishing articles, Florida fishing articles, freshwater fishing articles, and miscellaneous fishing articles. Simply click on the article title to read the article.
This article will thoroughly cover the best speckled trout fishing tackle. Speckled trout are a very popular saltwater inshore game fish. In order to be successful fishing for speckled trout, anglers will need the proper tackle and equipment.
The best speckled trout fishing tackle includes a 7 foot medium light rod and reel, hooks, floats, leader, and a selection of artificial lures. The top lures will consist of jig heads and soft plastic baits, spoons, and plugs. This is the tackle that anglers will need in order to consistently produce speckled trout.
Best fishing rods and reels for speckled trout
Anglers fishing for speckled trout can choose between spinning and baitcasting tackle. Spinning tackle is more popular as it is a bit easier to use, especially for novice anglers. It is also best for smaller fish and for casting light lures free lining light baits. Baitcasting tackle is popular along the upper Gulf Coast, where anglers use heavier corks and lures for larger fish.
The Rod and Reel are arguably the most important components. The best route for speckled trout fishing is a 7 foot to 7 1/2 foot medium light rod with a fast action. Fast action refers to the strength and taper of the rod. Fast action rods are stout in the butt section but very limber at the tip. This allows anglers to cast light baits and lures a reasonable distance while providing the strength to fight a decent fish.
Speckled trout are also famous for the very thin membrane in their mouth. It is very easy for a speckled trout to shake its head and throw the hook. A rod such as the one outlined above with a nice limber tip will help facilitate landing more speckled trout. The rod should be matched with a 2500 or 3000 series spinning reel or appropriate baitcasting reel. Capt. Jim likes the Penn conflict combo, it is a quality outfit for around $200. Lew’s sells some quality baitcasting combos at a very affordable price.
Anglers can click these links to shop Amazon for Penn Conflict spinning and Lew’s baitcasting combos.
Fishing line options
Anglers have two basic choices when it comes to fishing line; monofilament line in braided line. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is much less expensive. However, it does not last as long and does have some stretch. Some anglers actually prefer the stretch when fish and force speckled trout, which have those tender mouth mentioned above. Braided line is more expensive but last a long time. It also facilitates longer casts and has excellent sensitivity with no stretch. It really is just a matter of personal preference.
Click these links to shop Amazon for monofilament and braided fishing lines
Leaders are used when saltwater fishing
Anglers fishing and saltwater almost always use some type of leader. This is true with speckled trout fishing as well. Speckled trout did not have a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, such as is the case with bluefish and Spanish mackerel. However, they do have raspy teeth and anglers will encounter other species when chasing speckled trout. Therefore, a leader is required.
Most anglers opt for a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of 25lb or 30lb fluorocarbon leader. This is an excellent all round choice for most situations anglers will encounter. An extremely clear water, anglers can drop down to 20 pound or even 15 pound test. Conversely, and muddy water or went fishing around heavy structure, anglers can go up to 40 pound test. The leader can be attached with a line to line not such as a double Uni-knot or by using a small black swivel.
Click this link to shop Amazon for flourocarbon leader
Hooks and floats
Live bait is extremely effective when fishing for speckled trout. In fact, more trout have probably been landed by anglers fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork and by all other methods combined. A few different hook sizes will cover most speckled trout fishing situations.
As mentioned above, speckled trout have a thin membrane in their mouth. This requires the use of a fairly light and fine wire hook as opposed to sturdy live bait hooks that are often used and saltwater for other species. Anglers will definitely land more trout using a lighter hook. A #1/0 short shank live bait hook will cover the vast majority of situations speckled trout anglers will find themselves in. Some anglers do prefer the long shank Aberdeen style hook, though this may straighten out on a larger redfish or other game fish.
Click this link to shop Amazon for hooks
Speckled trout are often caught over submerged vegetation. These are most often referred to as grass flats. In these situations, anglers use a float of some sort to suspend the shrimp or other live bait just above the top of the grass. There are two types of floats that anglers use; popping corks and a larger, noisy clacking style float.
Popping corks have a slot that runs down the length of them and a pin to hold them in place. When twitched sharply, the concave surface of the float digs into the water producing a popping sound which attracts game fish. The larger clack are style floats accomplish the same thing, only they are larger and put out a lot more noise.
Click these links to shop Amazon for Popping corks and clacker-style floats
Popping corks have the advantage of being easily added or removed, while the clack are style floats require a leader between the hook in the float. Both are very effective when fishing for speckled trout.
Top artificial lures for speckled trout fishing
Speckled trout will certainly hit artificial lures. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are all effective artificial lures for speckled trout and most other inshore saltwater species.
Jigs are productive speckled trout fishing lures
Without a doubt, the most popular artificial lure when fishing for speckled trout is the jig and grub combination. This consists of a jig head and in some type of soft plastic grub or tail added. The weight of the jig head will vary depending on fishing conditions such as depth and current. One quarter ounce is a very popular jig head size.
Anglers have endless choices when it comes to the soft plastic body that they add to the jig head. These come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors that mimic just about every forage that’s tackle trout feed on. Most imitate either a crustacean such as a crab or shrimp or a bait fish. 3 inch to 4 inch baits are most effective in the majority of fishing applications. Capt. Jim’s two favorite soft plastic baits are the 4” Bass Assassin Sea Shad and the 3 inch gulp shrimp.
Click these links to shop Amazon for Bass Assassin baits and Gulp Shrimp
Fishing for speckled trout with spoons
Spoons are another very effective artificial lure for speckled trout and other species. There are two basic types of spoons, weedless spoons and open water spoons. Weedless spoons have a single hook in a weed guard in the spoon runs through the grass with the hook up, reducing snags. Open water spoons have a single treble hook instead. The Johnson Silver minnow and Johnson sprite are two examples of very effective weedless and open water spoons.
Click these links to shop Amazon for Johnson Silver Minnow and Sprite spoons.
Plugs catch speckled trout, too
Plugs are very effective speckled trout fishing lures as well. Plugs either work on the surface, these are called top water plugs, or they dive down into the water and work different parts of the water column. Some plugs float on the surface and a lip causes the plug to dive down. Others sink slowly and suspend in a certain depth.
Capt. Jim’s favorite top water plug is the Rapala Skitter Prop. It has a conical nose and a single propeller on the rear. When twitched sharply, it puts out a very enticing fish attracting noise. It is also a fairly easy bait for novice anglers to use as it has a lot of built in action. Top water plugs work best early and late in the day and on days with cloud cover.
Capt. Jim’s favorite shallow diving plug is the Rapala X-Rap slashbait. He most often uses the #8 size as it closely imitates sardines, herring, and finger mullet which speckled trout often feed on. Anglers can certainly go up in size to mimic larger bait fish. Olive and white are excellent all round colors. These are very versatile lures which can be cast out towards shoreline cover, over bars and flats, and even trolled effectively.
Click these links to shop Amazon for Rapala Skitter Prop and X-Rap plugs
MirrOlure manufacturers several extremely effective suspending lures for speckled trout. These are time-tested baits that are legendary among saltwater anglers. The MirrOdine very realistically emulates a sardine. The 52 M series is better for larger fish as it imitates pin fish, grunts, and mullet. Both baits are slow sinking and when twitched sharply will suspend at that depth.
Click these links to shop Amazon for MirrOlure plugs
In conclusion, this article on the best speckled trout fishing tackle will help anglers acquire the correct gear in order to be successful catching these popular and great tasting inshore game fish!
The best cobia fishing tackle consist of a heavy spinning or medium conventional outfit and a good selection of hooks and artificial lures. Cobia are a pelagic saltwater species. They are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, both inshore along the coast and in offshore waters. In the United States, cobisa are found along the eastern United States coast from Texas to Maine. The world record cobia is 105 pounds. These large fish will put an angler’s tackle to the test. Therefore, stout fishing tackle is required.
Cobia vary greatly in size. This makes it difficult for one rod and reel to cover every cobia fishing situation. Smaller fish, averaging under 10 pounds, are commonly caught in the inshore bays and passes. Occasionally, larger cobia are caught in these waters as well. Generally speaking, most large cobia are are caught along the beaches close to shore and near offshore structure such as wrecks, reefs, oil rigs, and hard bottom.
Cobia fishing techniques
Cobia are caught by anglers using several different techniques. Sight casting to cobia is fantastic sport! Cobia have a unique habit of swimming right on the surface of the water. This allows anglers to visually spot the fish and then present a lure or bait in front of it. This type of fishing can occur all along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastline. In this situation, heavy spinning tackle is usually the best choice, though anglers who are proficient with bait casting tackle can use those outfits as well.
While cobia are often seen cruising in open water, they are quite often caught by anglers fishing structure. Very large cobia are caught by anglers in the Gulf of Mexico fishing the numerous oil rigs as these attract bait and provide cover for cobia and many other game fish species. Hard bottom areas, natural ledges and sunken wrecks and artificial reefs will hold cobia as well. These cobia will often hold close to the bottom structure.
Chumming is a very effective technique used by anglers fishing structure. Chum will pull fish out away from the heavy cover and give anglers a chance to land them. Chumming also gets fish excited and in a mood to feed. Since cobia like to come to the surface, chum works especially well for them. Frozen chum will work, but live bait fish used as chum is extremely effective.
Cobia are often seen in small groups, referred to as pods. It is not uncommon at all to see a group of six or eight cobia swim right up to the transom of the boat. They are a curious fish, and this habit has led to many a cobia’s demise. Cobia are also less fussy than many other game fish. In most cases, locating them is the most difficult part. Cobia will usually take a well presented lure or live bait.
Best rods and reels for cobia fishing
The best all round cobia fishing rod and reel is a medium heavy spinning outfit. A 7 foot to 8 foot medium heavy rod works well. Spinning tackle is very versatile. This type of rod has a heavy butt section which allows anglers to land a large cobia, while tapering to a fairly limber tip. This tip is important as it aids in casting lighter lures and live baits a fair distance.
The rod is matched with a 6000 to 8000 series spinning reel. This real will have a lot of line capacity, which is important when chasing large game fish such as cobia. It will also have a substantial drag which will be needed to turn a large cobia went fishing around structure.
There are places where anglers catch small cobia, in the 5 lb to 10 lb range. For the most part, this occurs in the shallow, inshore waters. In these instances, the same inshore tackle used for schoolie stripers and bluefish, speckled trout, and redfish will work fine.
There are situations where conventional tackle will be a better choice when cobia fishing. For the most part, this is when casting is not required. Anglers bottom fishing near heavy structure such as oil rigs and sunken wrecks will need stout tackle to pull a fish away from this heavy cover. A heavy conventional outfit does a better job in this application than spinning tackle will.
Some experienced anglers do prefer baitcasting outfits. These are conventional reels that allow for casting. Freshwater bass anglers use them extensively. It does take more practice, but in a skilled angler’s hands, they are an excellent choice. Baitcasting reels have more power than spinning reels and in most cases a faster retrieve ratio.
Best fishing line
Anglers have two choices when it comes to fishing line; monofilament line in braided line. Most anglers fishing for cobia opt for braided line. It is more expensive, however it will last a very long time. The main advantages of braided line are that the thin diameter allows for more line to be wound on the spool as well as longer casting distances. Braided line also has almost no stretch, which is advantageous when fishing near heavy structure. 50 pound test 280 pound test braided line is used on both spinning and conventional outfits, depending on the size of the fish being pursued and the area being fished.
Saltwater anglers are very familiar with the use of a shock leader. This is a section of heavier line that is used between the running line and the hook or lure. Fluorocarbon leader is preferred as it is less visible in the water. While cobia do not have teeth, they do have raspy jaws which will fray lighter line. Most anglers use a swivel to connect the leader to the running line. In most cases, 50 pound to 80 pounds leader is used for larger cobia.
Anglers cobia fishing with live bait will obviously need hooks. Since cobia grow fairly large, larger live baits are usually used. These basically include any locally available forage species such as threadfin herring, pogies, mullet, sardines, blue runners, and more. In some areas, live eels are a top bait as well.
Cobia have a special affinity for crustaceans! Large live shrimp and medium-size live crabs are top baits. Anglers will do well with large, heavy live bait hooks. 4/0 to 8/0 conventional “j” hooks and 6/0 to 10/0 circle hooks will usually get the job done.
Fishing for cobia with artificial lures
While many anglers fish with live bait, cobia are curious fish and will readily take artificial lures. The top cobia lure is without a doubt a white buck tail jig with a soft plastic trailer. The jig provides casting weight as well is a stout hook and the trailer adds bulk and action to the lure. It is also a versatile bait in that it can be used to cast to fish seen cruising on the surface as well as fishing the entire water column from the bottom to the surface.
Lures are used for both sight casting and when vertically fishing wrecks and other structure. Another very effective cobia fishing lore is a butterfly jig. These are quite heavy and sink down to the bottom quickly, which is an advantage when fishing in deeper water. Once the lore gets to the desired depth or the bottom, it is jig very sharply and allowed to fall. Most strikes occur on the fall as the lure flutters, mimicking a helpless bait fish.
Plugs will certainly fool cobia as well. Larger diving and suspending baits are usually best as cobia prefer a larger meat. However, plugs have the disadvantage in that they make handling and releasing the fish much more difficult. Many cobia will be under-sized. A thrashing cobia and treble hooks are not a great combination.
Cobia fishing tips
Cobia are really not all that difficult to full once they are located. Therefore, finding them is of prime importance. Cobia are very temperature sensitive and are constantly on the move. Below are listed some cobia fishing tips which will help anglers achieve more success.
70° is the magic number. Cobia are very temperature sensitive and are constantly seeking the ideal water temperature. Not coincidental, this is also an excellent all round water temperature for bait fish. Sometimes just a few degrees of water temperature will make a huge difference.
Look for rays. Cobia will often times be found feeding under stingrays. This is particularly true on the shallow flats. As rays move about flapping their wings, they kick up but and sand off the bottom, which often dislodges crustaceans and other prey. However, cobia will be found feeding under rays offshore as well.
Cobia are often targets of opportunity. Anglers who are fishing offshore wrecks for other species such as bottom fish will do well to keep a rod rigged up and ready for cobia. This can be a live bait rig or a buck tail jig with a soft plastic trailer. Cobia are notorious for just appearing and anglers who are ready to take advantage of this opportunity will be more successful.
Use a net not a gaff. In most states, cobia need to be fairly large to keep. They are fantastic eating, so they are a desirable species. However, it is easy to overestimate the length. It is better to net the fish to ensure a healthy release.
Try jigs first, then use live baits if needed. This will result in the more active and aggressive cobia being caught first. Also, releasing the fish is usually easier.
Don’t land a “green” cobia. Cobia are famous for kind of coming to the boat before they are really tired. The last thing an angler needs is for a 50 pound fish to be thrashing around on the deck.
Chum the wrecks. Chum will bring cobia up off of the bottom where anglers can sight cast to them as opposed to catching them off the bottom.
Cobia are primarily sight feeders. Therefore, most are caught during daylight hours, though disk and dawn can be great times to fish for them, as with most species.
Top cobia fishing spots
Cobia are found all along the coast line in the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. However, there are certain areas where cobia will be found in better numbers. Cobia are a pelagic species. That means they constantly migrate and are found throughout the water column.
The mouths and waters just inside of large bays are terrific Cobia spots. This includes but is not limited to Galveston Bay, Mobile Bay, Tampa Bay, and Charlotte Harbor are top spots on the Gulf Coast. On the Atlantic side, Biscayne Bay, Georgia and South Carolina tidal river mouths, Pamlico Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay, and Long Island Sound attract and hold fish.
For whatever reason, some stretches of beach are extremely productive cobia fishing spots for sight fishing. Two of the best are the Destin, Florida area and Virginia Beach and points north and south at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a cobia magnet. Any large bridge has the potential to hold cobia.
Anglers also run channel markers in search of cobia. They will lie right on the surface on the down current side of any type of marker post or buoy, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey.
Pier fishing for cobia
There are very few fishing situations where a very large fish can be caught without using a boat. Cobia can be caught by anglers fishing from piers, due to their habits. Cobia cruise coastal waters several hundred yards off the beach. This is usually where fishing piers are located. Also, the height of the pier aids greatly in sighting a fish or small pod of cobia.
Most anglers use heavy spinning tackle when fishing for cobia from piers and even bridges. It can be difficult to handle a big fish near the pilings. Also, long casts are often required. Anglers can use lures, but in this situation live bait usually works best. Suspending a live bait under a cork is a good presentation.
In conclusion, this article on the best cobia fishing tackle and lures will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish!
Jerkbaits are very effective saltwater fishing lures. However, there are a wide variety from which to choose. So, how does an angler know which is the best jerkbait for saltwater fishing?
The best jerkbait for saltwater fishing is the Rapala X Rap Saltwater lure. The Rapala X Rap comes in this version designed for saltwater fishing with stronger hooks and hardware. It is available in several sizes and many different color patterns. The Rapala X Rap Saltwater has tremendous action and most importantly, catches a lot of fish!
Jerk baits are long and slender lures that have a very erratic action when jerked sharply, that is how they get their name. Most of them float on the surface and then dive down several feet when retrieved. The lip on the plug causes the lure to dive. The design and shape of both the body of the plug and the lip determine the action. Like most productive saltwater fishing lures, jerk baits were first used by freshwater anglers fishing for bass, walleye, and other species.
The Rapala X Rap comes in several different sizes, all of which dive two different depths. The # 8 X Rap is about 3 1/2 inches long and will dive down three or 4 feet below the surface when retrieved. Sizes #10, #12, and #14 are 4 inch, 4 3/4 inch, and 5 1/2 inches long respectively. The larger the plug, the deeper it will dive, with the size # 14 getting down to 10 or 12 feet.
Choosing the correct jerkbait
Anglers should choose which jerk bait they are going to used based on several factors. The most important component in the decision is matching the forage that the game fish are feeding on. Where possible, anglers should best match the size and color of the lure to the bait fish that are in the area.
There are times when the size of the lure will be extremely important. When game fish are keyed in on bait fish of a certain size, a lure that is either significantly larger or smaller will often times be ignored. False albacore in particular can be very fussy in this regard. However, predator fish will often strike a lure based on the vibration in action, even if it does not realistically mimic the bait fish that are available.
White is an excellent all round color for a saltwater jerk bait. Rapala calls their white color “Ghost”. It works very well in clear water and any time that silver or light colored bait fish are in the area. In most saltwater environments, sardines and herring are present. In these situations, white is a very productive color.
Darker colors work well in stained or dark water as well as when bait fish with a darker profile are present. Gold is an excellent color pattern when fishing in tannin or stained water. Olive is a great color choice that is very versatile as many bait fish have a green or olive back in a white belly. Plugs that mimic small mackerel are a good choice when bluefish and striped bass are feeding on small mackerel.
Jerkbait fishing techniques
Fishing the Rapala X Rap is fairly straightforward. The lure is cast out towards structure, over submerged vegetation or bars, or towards breaking fish. With the rod tip held low, the lure is jerked sharply using the rod tip. The angler then quickly points the rod tip back towards the plug, putting slack in the line. This is a crucial element to working a jerk bait! The slack in the line causes the lure to suspend there motionless for a moment or two. This is often when the strike occurs.
After the bait is allowed to sit motionless for a few seconds, the angler reels up the slack and then repeats the process. These lures work best with a fairly aggressive and erratic retrieve. However, there are times when fish are feeding less aggressively. This usually happens after severe fronts move through and when the water gets cooler. Under these conditions, a less aggressive retrieve may be more productive. Anglers can even try a slow steady retrieve.
Rapala X raps are extremely productive when trolled as well. This is another aspect of the versatility of saltwater jerk baits. This is a very easy technique that anglers can use to quickly locate fish. With the boat idling along, the lure is let out 100 feet or so behind the boat. The angler then idles around over structure breaks or near schools of bait in search of fish. Anglers can put the rod in a rod holder or hold it and give the bait extra twitches while being slowly trolled.
Best tackle for fishing with jerkbaits
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
Anglers can choose either spinning or bait casting tackle when fishing jerk baits. Spinning tackle is the best choice when using smaller jerk baits as these lures are fairly light. A medium action spinning rod that is 7 feet long with a limber tip into matching 3000 or 4000 series reel is an excellent combination.
Bait casting tackle can be used effectively when casting jerk baits as well. In fact, these outfits have one advantage over spinning reels when it comes to fishing with these lures. Due to the nature in which they are fished, there tends to be a fair amount of slack line to deal with. Conventional, or bait casting reels do a better job of managing slack line than spinning reels do.
A medium heavy a casting rod between 7 feet and 7 1/2 feet long with a stout butt any fast taper is an excellent rod for casting saltwater jerk baits. A fairly stout rod is required to work a large jerk bait properly. It can actually be a fairly fatiguing way to fish. However, it can be an extremely productive technique.
fishing line options
Anglers have two choices when it comes to fishing line; fluorocarbon line and braided line. Like most things, each has advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament line is less expensive but has a stretch component. Some anglers actually prefer to have this stretch of the line when fishing jerk baits. Braided line is more expensive, but casts farther and lasts longer. It really just is a matter of angler preference.
Most anglers fishing in saltwater use some type of leader. When the water is clear, a shock leader is usually the best choice as a heavy wire leader will drastically diminish strikes. A 24 inch to 30 inch piece of 30 lb to 50 lb fluorocarbon leader is a good all-around choice. Anglers fishing in stained water or when toothy fish such as bluefish and mackerel are around will often go with a short wire leader.
More effective jerkbait choices
While the Rapala X Rap is the best jerk bait for saltwater fishing, there are several other manufacturers that offer quality jerk baits. Two of the best examples of this are the bomber Long a in the Yozuri Crystal Minnow.
Bomber Saltwater Grade Long A
The Bomber Saltwater Grade Long A is a saltwater jerkbait that has been around a long time and has proven itself to be very effective. It is 6 inches long and weighs almost an ounce. It is a very sturdy lure with excellent action. It is available in around 18 different color patterns. Gold and red and white are two of the most popular color patterns.
The Yozuri Crystal Minnow is another excellent saltwater jerk bait. It is most known for having excellent prism finishes on the lure. It is available in a wide variety of sizes, from two and three-quarter inches to 5 1/4 inches long. It is also available and around 20 different color patterns.
What is the best scented soft plastic fishing lure?
Soft plastic baits are very productive fishing lures. Some are even scented to add to their effectiveness. There are many quality scented soft plastic fishing lures, but there is one bait that has proven to be the best one on the market.
The Gulp line of baits is the best scented soft plastic fishing lure. They are offered in both freshwater and saltwater versions. Gulp baits are available in sizes and shapes that mimic just about every forage for game fish. The lures are actually manufactured with the scent as opposed to the scent being added to it. This is what makes Gulp baits so effective.
The scent adds several advantages for anglers. Gulp baits really combine the best of both lures and live bait. They have the action of a lure with the small and taste of the real thing. First, the scent will help attract game fish to the lure initially. Secondly, the scent will cause fish to hold onto the bait significantly longer. This aids greatly in hooking the fish. Capt Jim uses this on his Sarasota fishing charters, where he gets a lot of novice anglers.
Gulp baits for saltwater fishing
Gulp baits are available to saltwater anglers to imitate a variety of crustaceans and other forage that game fish feed on. These include shrimp, crabs, bait fish, sea worms, eels, and squid. They are all effective on a wide variety of saltwater game fish. The top Gulp baits will be highlighted below.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
The Gulp Shrimp is the top producing scented soft plastic fishing lure in saltwater. It is a versatile bait that can be fished in a variety of ways. The 3” size is most popular, but 4” Gulp Shrimp work in some applications as well. The 2” version can be effective in cooler water when fish are selective.
Most often, the Gulp Shrimp is fished on a weighted jig head. They can also be fished on a bare hook, just as an angler would with a live shrimp. Top colors will vary. White with a chartreuse tail is an excellent all round color. New Penny is also very popular. Root beer gold with a chartreuse tail is another very good color pattern.
The Gulp Jerk Shad is another very productive saltwater fishing lure. It is a long and slender lure that really does not directly resemble a particular forage. It is a “fluke” style lure with a forked tail. In the water, it has a very enticing action as it is jerked sharply and allowed to fall.
The Gulp Saltwater Jerk Shad come in two sizes, 5” and 6” lengths. White is an excellent color, as is chartreuse. The lure is versatile and can be rigged several ways. Anglers can fish shallow grass by rigging it Texas style. Weighted swimbait hooks work as well. In deeper water, the bait can be fished on a jig head.
The Gulp line of saltwater baits include several lures that mimic bait fish. These include the Swimming Mullet, Ripple Mullet, Saltwater Nemesis, Pogy, and Paddleshad. All of these are effective lures for a variety of species. The Swimming Mullet is perhaps the most versatile and durable. Nuisance fish can be a problem at times as they rip off the tail of swimming baits.
Finally, anglers fishing in saltwater can choose to fish with baits that mimic crabs, eels, and even squid. These are excellent lures for striped bass and other species. These lures are mostly used in the north east portion on the country.
Anglers fishing in freshwater have a wide variety of Gulp baits to choose from as well. Game fish in freshwater feed on a wide variety of insects, crustaceans, bait fish, and more. Minnows, worms, maggots, crickets, leeches, and more are represented in the freshwater line of Gulp baits.
Gulp Alive Minnow
The Gulp Alive Minnow is a very effective and versatile lure. It is available in four sizes from 1” to 4” to match the needs of just about every freshwater species. They can be used for bluegill, crappie, and other panfish both in open water fishing and when ice fishing. Larger versions produce bass, walleye, and other species.
The Gulp Alive Minnow falls into the “finesse bait” category. It is a slender lure with subtle action. It is best fished slowly on relatively light line. Anglers can fish the bait on a light jig head. A drop shot rig is another effective method used to present the lure.
There are several choices when it comes to Gulp worms for freshwater fishing. These include the Nightcrawler, Pinched Crawler, Shaky Worm, Floating Trout Worm, Angle Worm, and Earth Worm. Most are best fished slowly on light tackle. Worms can be rigged on a hook with a split shot or two, a jig head, Texas rigged, Carolina rigged, or on a drop shot rig.
The Gulp Nightcrawler is perhaps the best and most versatile worm bait. It is large enough to interest bass and walleye. Other fish such as smallmouth bass and larger panfish will take them as well. One very easy and effective method is to fish them “wacky style”. This is just inserting the hook in the middle of the worm and letting it attract fish as it falls through the water column. They are effective trout lures when drifted in streams.
Leeches are excellent baits for walleye and bass. They undulate enticingly in the water. Leeches are fairly large, easy to catch, and have a lot of protein. They are most often used in northern waters. Gulp offers several different sizes of leeches for anglers to choose from.
Gulp offers freshwater anglers more choices when it comes to bait fish and finesse bait options. These include the Minnow, Fry, Sinking Minnow, Shaky Head, Minnow Grub, Jerk Shad, Jigging Grub, and Floating Minnow. These baits can all be fished similarly to the other finesses lures, on a bare hook, jig head, Carolina or Texas rigged, and on a drop shot.
Gulp baits for trout
Gulp offers anglers who fish for trout several options as well. These are mostly in the form of corn and egg style baits. However, many of the lures listed above will certainly catch trout in streams and lakes. The corn and salmon egg baits are primarily designed specifically for trout anglers. They are very convenient, as opposed to dealing with live bait.
Ice fishing is very popular among anglers who live in colder climates. Ice fishing requires a vertical presentation. Fish are lethargic in most cases and the scent really plays a big role in catching fish. The same baits that are effective for ice fishing are also excellent for bluegill and panfish as well. These include Ice Fish Fry, Waxies, Maggots, Crickets, and Ice Minnows.
Florida saltwater fishing in spring can be outstanding! Like most parts of the country, warming weather and rising water temperature has fish moving and feeding. Many species spawn or are preparing to spawn. Forage is abundant and the fish are hungry. Anglers have a wide selection of species to pursue. Anglers can view Florida fish species and Florida saltwater fishing regulations in the FWC link.
The flats come alive in Florida in the spring. The severe cold fronts that quickly drop water temperatures to uncomfortable levels are no longer an issue. Bait fish become more plentiful, as do shrimp, crabs, and other crustaceans. This in turn attracts the game fish to move out of their deeper winter staging areas to feed on them.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles and reports can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
Anglers will have plenty of offshore and nearshore options in the spring as well. Of course, offshore fishing will be dictated by the weather. Pelagic species such as mackerel and false albacore will migrate along the beaches. Bottom fishing will be good both inshore and offshore.
Deep grass flats in Florida provide excellent spring fishing
Anglers seeking action and variety will do well to fish the deep grass flats in Florida in the spring. These are large areas of submerged vegetation in water that is between 4′ deep and 10′ deep. These areas will hold forage and therefore attract game fish. Many of the species caught on the deep grass school up in large numbers, which can result in fast action.
Spotted sea trout or speckled trout are probably the Florida species most associated with these deep flats. Trout are available in good numbers throughout the state. Along with trout, anglers will catch Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano, jacks, sharks, snapper, ladyfish, and more.
Top fishing techniques on the deep flats
There are several different techniques that anglers use to produce when fishing the deep flats. Most drift as opposed to anchor in order to cover more water. A live shrimp fished under a noisy float has probably accounted for more spotted sea trout than all other methods combined. The noisy float attracts fish to the helpless shrimp hanging below. Other live baits such as pinfish, grunts, mullet, and sardines can be fished under a float or free lined out behind the boat.
Once a school of fish is found or a productive area is located, anglers can anchor and use live bait to thoroughly fish the area. Chumming can be an effective method to bring fish to the boat. Frozen chum blocks can be used, but live bait used as chum is even more effective. Once a school of fish is attracted to the chum and excited, the action can be fast and furious!
Many anglers prefer to cast artificial lures when drifting the deep flats. Lures allow anglers to cover a lot more water than they can using live bait. The most popular lure is the jig and grub. This uses a jig head, usually ¼ to ½ ounce, with a plastic grub on the hook. The grub can mimic a shrimp or bait fish. Silver spoons and plugs can be cast and retrieved as well as trolled to locate and catch fish. Suspending plugs are particularly effective for trout, with the MirrOlure MirrOdine being a top bait.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
Shallow Florida flats come alive in spring
When the term “flats fishing” comes up, many anglers picture fishing in gin clear water that is a foot deep for bonefish, permit, and maybe even tarpon in the Florida Keys. That style of fishing was basically invented there. However, anglers chase fish on the shallow flats throughout the entire state.
In the Keys, tarpon, bonefish, and permit are pursued on the flats in very shallow water. This is quite challenging fishing as these fish are quite skittish in the shallow water. Patience is required as well as good angling skills. Anglers sneak up on fish in special skiffs designed to float very shallow. Live bait, lures, and flies are all used.
In the areas north of the keys, snook, redfish, and trout become the main targets of anglers fishing the skinny water. The same techniques are used, though in many cases anglers are fishing grass beds instead of sandy flats. Anglers can sight fish, but blind casting produces as well. A gold weedless spoon is a top lure. Light jigs and plastic baits on swim bait hooks work well, too. Topwater plugs can produce exciting strikes!
Spring time tarpon fishing in Florida
Tarpon fishing gets going in earnest in the early spring in south Florida. As the water warms up, fish begin to school up and start moving along both coast lines. The bridges and flats in the Keys all have fish in early spring. As it gets later in the season, areas such as Boca Grande, Tampa, and Jacksonville become better spots.
There are several different methods anglers can use to catch tarpon. In shallow water areas, they can be sight fished. This is great sport and is challenging and exciting! In the Keys, boats anchor under bridges in the afternoon on the outgoing tide and fish with live mullet and crabs. Schools of fish can be sight fished as they migrate along the beaches. In the passes and inlets, anglers drift with live bait or jigs.
Spring fishing off of the Florida beaches
As it warms up many migratory species begin to move along the Florida beaches. Much of this action will take place within a few miles of shore. This puts them in safe range of anglers with smaller boats. These fish include Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, sharks, tarpon, jack crevalle, and more.
One exciting aspect of fishing the beaches in the spring is that much of the action is on the surface. This results in casting lures, baits, and flies into schools of actively feeding fish. This is great fun as a bite is almost a certainty, as long as the lure resembles the bait being devoured.
When fish are not seen feeding on the surface, anglers can use a couple of techniques to catch them. Trolling is a very effective way to both locate and catch these pelagic game fish. Special spoons designed for fairly fast trolling speeds are fished behind planers. These are devices that take the lure down to a desired depth. Plugs can be used as well.
Anglers can also anchor or drift and use live and cut bait as well. This is often done over structure such as a ledge, wreck, reef, or area of hard bottom. While most of these species do not relate to structure, bait does, so game fish will be close by. Chum can be used to get the fish up behind the boat.
Florida bottom fishing in spring
Bottom fishing is very productive in Florida in the spring. This is a very popular form of fishing that anglers of all ages and skill levels can participate in. Bottom fishing is basically dropping a live or dead bait to the bottom, usually around some type of cover or structure.
There are many different species that anglers can catch when bottom fishing in Florida. Grouper and snapper are the “glamour” species when bottom fishing, there are several species of each that are caught inshore and nearshore. Gag grouper, black grouper, red grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, and lane snapper are some of the most common.
Sheepshead are abundant inshore, especially in early spring. They are a great option on windy days and are usually cooperative. Mangrove snapper are plentiful in most parts of Florida in the bays and passes. Just about every bridge and other structure will hold snapper and other species. Flounder, red and black drum, sea bass, grunts, and other tasty bottom fish can be caught as well. A live shrimp is tough to beat.
Passes and inlets offer good fishing
Passes and inlets are terrific fishing spots in Florida in the spring. Current and structure along with bait results in an ideal environment to hold fish. Most inshore species can be caught in these areas. Anglers can drift with jigs or bait or anchor and bottom fish.
Drifting along with the current while vertically fishing a jig on the bottom is an extremely effective technique in the spring. Pompano are a prized species and many are caught by anglers doing this. Ladyfish can be thick and provide good action. Bluefish and mackerel often feed heavily in passes and inlets.
Bottom fishing can be excellent in Florida in the spring, especially for sheepshead, snapper, and flounder. Most inlets and passes have a good amount of structure including docks, bridges, seawalls, jetties, rocks, and more. These all will attract bottom species. The best times to fish are during periods of slack tides.
Offshore fishing in Florida in the spring
Offshore fishing in Florida in the string is all about the weather. There will be some breezy days that will make fishing offshore difficult if not impossible. However, on nicer days, anglers can experience some terrific action on a variety of both bottom and pelagic species.
Bottom fishing is very good all along the west coast of Florida in the spring. Water temperatures are ideal and bottom fish such as grouper and snapper will be closer to shore than in other times of year. Patch reefs and wrecks in the Atlantic Ocean will also hold a lot of hard fighting grouper and snapper.
King mackerel fishing is at it’s apex in the string. Schools of hungry kings move north from the Keys, right behind the schools of threadfin herring and other bait fish. Trolling is an excellent way to catch them. Fast trolling with spoons will put numbers into the boat while slow trolling with live bait will fool the larger fish. Spanish mackerel and false albacore will be caught as well.
Boats heading out deeper will find the tail end of the sailfish and wahoo season. Tuna and dolphin numbers will be on the rise, especially in the southern part of the state. Amberjack will be caught on the deeper reefs. Cobia may be encountered at any depth.
In conclusion, this article on Florida saltwater fishing in spring will help anglers understand the species and options when fishing in Florida that time of year.
Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and Species
Many anglers enjoy the sport of saltwater fishing. The coastline of the United States is quite accessible to anglers and offers a wide variety of fishing opportunities.
This article, “Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and species thoroughly covers all aspects of inshore saltwater fishing in the United Sates. However, the information is applicable all over the world. Saltwater fishing tackle is explained in great detail. Capt Jim shares the tips and techniques he has learned as a charter boat captain in Florida. A detailed list of saltwater species completes the article.
Inshore saltwater fishing tackle
Like every hobby, equipment is required. My advice when it comes to fishing and tackle is similar to starting any other hobby. Anglers should purchase the best equipment that they can reasonably afford. Buying the cheapest equipment possible usually does not result in money saved. What normally happens is that the angler tires of the cheap equipment and spends money on the decent equipment at a later date.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
Inshore saltwater fishing rods and reels
Let’s start with the most important components; the rod and reel. If I had to choose one outfit to fish with in inshore salt waters, it would be a 7 foot spinning rod with a 2500-3000 series reel. This outfit is heavy enough to fish around bridges and docks for bottom fish, while still being light enough to cast quarter ounce artificial lures. Anglers targeting larger species such as striped bass will need to go with heaver tackle.
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Rods come in different actions. I prefer a fast action rod. This means that the rod is stiff at the butt section and through most of the rod. However, it gets limber towards the tip. This type of rod has good backbone for setting the hook and handling a big fish. The lighter tip allows for easy casting, especially with light baits and lures. A rod with a slow action is no fun to fish with, in my opinion.
Many spinning reel manufacturers use a universal sizing system. The larger the number, the larger the real. Most 3000 series reels will be a very similar size between manufacturers. I personally like reels with large handles. Spinning reels are versatile and are the best choice for most anglers fishing and saltwater.
Conventional rods and reels for saltwater fishing
Conventional outfits certainly have their place in saltwater fishing. They work well when casting heavier lures such as plugs. Light conventional outfits are also great for bottom fishing and light trolling. However, most anglers, particularly those new to the sport, will find spinning tackle the best tool for most inshore angling applications.
There are many different brands to choose from when it comes to rods and reels. Anglers will find that within a certain price range, the quality of the equipment is very similar. At this point it just becomes a matter of personal choice. Several manufacturers have a great reputation and saltwater. Penn, Shimano, and Quantum are just a few. While anglers can spend a lot of money on a rod and reel, a quality outfit can be had for a reasonable cost. Lew’s sells an excellent combo for a reasonable price.
A light conventional rod and reel is a versatile rig that every inshore angler that fishes from a boat should have. It can be used to troll planers and larger lures as well as bottom fishing when stout tackle is required.
Now that we have the rod and reel, it’s time to fill the spools. There are two basic line choices when it comes to fishing line; monofilament line and braided line. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Monofilament is much less expensive. The disadvantages are that it will twist up and it has some stretch. It requires changing more often than monofilament. Knots are also easier to tie.
Braided line is much more expensive. However, it will last a very long time. It also has zero stretch and great sensitivity. The downsides to braided line are that knots can be a little bit more difficult to tie and backlashes are extremely difficult to remove. On the 3000 series reels, I prefer 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line, depending on angler preference.
Inshore fishing in saltwater
The next order of business is the terminal end. I have a simple system that I like to use that is very efficient. A shock leader is required when fishing in saltwater. This is a short leader that is heavier than the main, or running, line. The shock leader will greatly reduce cutoffs and rub offs from fish. Most saltwater fish species will fray the line.
So, a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of fluorocarbon leader is tied to the running end of the line. Fluorocarbon leader is a bit more expensive, but it is worth the cost. It is much less visible in the water than inexpensive monofilament leader is.
The strength of the shock leader will be determined by water clarity and fish species being targeted. 30 pound test is a great all round choice and is what I use 90% of the time. I will bump it up when fishing for large snook or toothy Spanish mackerel. Conversely, I will drop it down when fishing for speckled trout or mangrove snapper in very clear water. Northern anglers will need to adopt the same strategy of choosing the leader based on species and water clarity.
The leader is attached to the line in one of two ways. A small black swivel can be used, this is the easiest method. However, many anglers prefer to tie the leader directly to the line. I prefer this and use a double uni-knot to do so.
I do prefer to double the end of the running line with the spider hitch before attaching the shock leader. This is especially important with monofilament line on the reel. The double line acts as a bit of a shock absorber, helping when a large fish is boat side. It also helps reduce the weakness that is created when two monofilament lines are tied together. It eliminates the need for a swivel.
Terminal fishing tackle for inshore saltwater fishing
So, now we are ready to go fishing! We have our rod spooled up with the shock leader attached. Now, we just need to tie something with a hook on it at the end of the line, whether it is a hook or artificial lure.
The beauty of this little rigging system is the simplicity. An angler may choose to tie on a top water plug first thing in the morning to take advantage of the dawn bite. Then, when that slows he or she can simply remove the plug and tie on a jig, spoon, or hook. This makes changing up the rig quick and easy. After several changes, the shock leader will become too short and it will need to be replaced.
Saltwater fishing hooks
Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and styles. However, saltwater anglers only need a few hook sizes and styles to get started. Several packages of #2, #1, #1/0, and #2/0 live bait hooks will cover most angling situations. Again, anglers targeting larger fish using larger baits will need to increase the hook size.
Many anglers have switched to using circle hooks. Circle hooks usually result in fewer fish being hooked deep. Most fish will be hooked in the corner of the mouth. Anglers using circle hooks can NOT set the hook! The line should just be tightened up and the fish will usually hook itself.
It is also a good idea to have several packages of #1/0 long shank hooks. These work really well when anglers get into a school of fish with teeth, such as bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Some flounder anglers prefer them as well.
Sinkers and weights
Sinker choice is pretty simple. The rule of thumb is to use the least amount of weight required to hold the bottom. Several bags of split shot, (these are very small pinch-on weights), along with sliding egg sinkers and bank sinkers is all that’s required. Sinker weight will depend on the water depth and current in the area that are being fished.
Egg sinkers have a hole running through the middle which allows the sinker to slide on the line. This lets the fish to pick up the bait and move off with it, without feeling the resistance of the weight. Surf anglers use a “fish finder” rig which allows for virtually the same thing. With that device, a pyramid sinker is clipped on, making it easy to change weights with current conditions.
Saltwater fishing with artificial lures
Jigs for inshore fishing
There is evidence pointing to the jig as being the first artificial fishing lure. A jig is basically a hook with some type of weight near the eye and a plastic tail or hair dressing. The lure is retrieved using a twitch and pause. This retrieve causes the jig to hop up then fall seductively through the water column. That is how it gets its name. Jigs can imitate both bait fish and crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.
Jigs come in countless sizes, shapes, and colors. However, there are two basic styles. There is the jig and grub combo and bucktail style jigs. Both have their advantages. Jigs also come in numerous weights and lengths. Heavier jigs allow anglers to fish deeper water. As in all fishing, the jigs should match the available forage.
Fishing with the jig and grub combo
The jig and grub is very versatile. With this system, anglers purchase the jig heads and the plastic bodies separately. This allows for constant changing of colors and lengths as well as styles. This is a very productive system that works well anywhere on the planet.
Here on the Gulf Coast of Florida where I fish, the jig and grub is the most popular artificial lure. One quarter ounce jig heads are the most often used size as the water is fairly shallow. Anglers fishing deeper water or places were current is present will need heavier jig heads. Red, white, and chartreuse are three of the more popular jig head colors. I personally don’t put a lot of emphasis on jig head color.
Soft plastic baits for saltwater fishing
Soft plastic tails are used with the jig. These also come in endless styles and colors. Shad tail, curly tail, paddle tail, and jerk worm styles all produce. While there are many different varieties, they all imitate either a bait fish or a crustacean of some sort. A jig head with a shad tail body is probably the most commonly used combination.
Shad tails and curly tail grubs have a great built in action. The tails look very natural when they are moving through the water. Curly tails are more popular in fresh water while shad tails are the choice in salt. Paddle tails and jerk worms require the action to be imparted by the angler.
Hair jigs are also very popular. Bucktail jigs were the original types used and were made from deer hair. They are still available and are still very effective. Freshwater anglers have used marabou hair on their jigs for decades. It has great action but does not hold up as well as buck tail does in salt water.
Synthetic hair jigs have become very popular in the last 10 or 15 years. They work well and are more durable than some of the other dressings. A plastic “trailer” can be added to the hair jig to give it even more action.
Jigs catch just about every species on the planet. A jig can be used to mimic just about any type of forage that a fish feeds on. There are also several different techniques that anglers jig fishing use to be productive. Jigs can be cast, vertically fished, and trolled.
Jigging techniques when saltwater fishing
A vertical jig presentation catches a lot of fish. This technique is very easy to master. Vertical jigging is done in deeper water. The jig is simply dropped down to the bottom and then the lure is worked vertically. This action, where it hops up and falls naturally, is an effective presentation. Anglers do not even have to be able to cast to catch fish.
This is often done from a drifting boat. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water efficiently. No time is wasted as the bait spends the entire time in the strike zone. Most fish are found on or near the bottom. Anglers can also use a trolling motor to work a drop off or other structure.
Freshwater anglers have been employing this technique for decades. Bass, walleye, striped bass, trout, and really any species that holds on deeper structure can be caught using this approach. However, it is not practical in shallow water as the boat will spook the fish.
Most fish caught on jigs are done so by anglers casting. This is the most effective technique when fishing water ten feet deep or less or when fish are breaking on the surface. The jig is cast out, allowed to sink, and then worked back to the boat. The most productive retrieve is usually one where the jig is worked near the bottom.
However, as with all lure fishing, the retrieve should be varied until a productive pattern emerges. At times, a steady “swimming” retrieve will produce well. When fish are working on the surface, a fast, erratic retrieve will usually work the best.
The jig and grub combo is by far the most popular lure along the southeast coastal United States. Anglers from Maryland to Texas use these baits to fool a variety of species. The low cost and versatility of the jig and grub combo makes them an easy choice.
Fishing jigs with live bait
Jigs can also be used in conjunction with live bait. This is a long proven technique in both fresh and salt water. In Florida where I guide, we often add a piece of shrimp to the lure. We call this “tipping the jig”. It can really make the difference when the water is cold or dirty. The extra scent helps the fish find the bait.
The jig and minnow has been producing fish for anglers for a long time. A buck tail jig with a small minnow hooked through the lips is a terrific combination. It is especially effective when drifting for flounder. The lure bait combo is deadly when slowly bounced along bottom structure. It can be cast out or vertically fished.
Trolling with jigs
Jigs can also be trolled effectively. I grew up in fishing the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers trolling white buck tail jigs for striped bass use them to achieve success. Bluefish and other species will take a trolled jig. The primary issue when trolling jigs is to make sure the lure does not spin, which will cause line twist.
There are many lure manufacturers out there. They are will produce fish when presented properly. My personal favorite line of baits in from Bass Assassin. They make a wide variety of baits and colors that cover every angling application, from pan fish to salt water.
Scented soft plastic baits have become very popular, and with good reason. These baits produce for anglers jig fishing. The Gulp! line of baits is the industry leader, in my opinion. The Gulp! Shrimp has produced many fish for me and my clients over the years. They do cost a little bit more money, but on days when the bite is tough, they can make all of the difference.
Plugs are effective saltwater fishing lures
I love fishing, but I really love plug fishing! The reason? Plugs are very productive on a wide variety of species and are a blast to use. Casting is half the fun; making accurate casts under trees or near docks is very satisfying and challenging. Bites range from subtle takes to downright ferocious strikes. Anglers need to take care, however. Anytime a lure with multiple treble hooks in involved, extra caution is required. Plugs come in many colors, shapes, and sizes, but can be broken down into two categories: surface or top water plugs and sub-surface baits.
Saltwater fishing with topwater plugs
Top water plugs come in two basic styles; poppers and walk the dog baits. Poppers are very easy to fish and are quite effective. The Rapala Skitter Pop, Rebel Pop R, and Chug Bug are three popular examples. These are floating baits that have a concave face. The technique is simple; cast it out, let it settle for a moment, then twitch the rod tip sharply causing the face of the plug to dig into the water and make a loud “pop”.
The famous Zara Spook is the best-known example of a walk-the-dog bait. The Rapala Skitterwalk is another effective bait. The retrieve is a bit more difficult to master. After being cast out, the rod tip is held down near the water and a rhythmic twitching retrieve causes the lure to dance back and forth on the surface.
A slow retrieve works best with topwater plugs
One common mistake anglers make plug fishing is working top water baits too quickly and aggressively. This is particularly true on a very calm day. Slow, subtle action will generally draw more strikes. Another mistake often made is striking too soon. The sight of a large predator blowing up on the top water plug is very exciting, often resulting in a reflex strike that pulls the lure out of the fishes mouth. Instead, waiting until the weight of the fish is felt and then setting the hook in a smooth, sideways manner will result in more hook-ups. This is much safer as well.
Fishing with sub-surface plugs
While a top water strike can be spectacular, more fish are caught on subsurface baits. Most of these lures float on the surface and dive down when retrieved. Primarily, the lip on the lure determines the depth the plug will run. However, line size and retrieval speed are also factors. Lure manufacturers will have the pertinent information on the box. Rapala X-Raps are my personal favorites.
Plugs are available in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Lures should be used that are designed to dive down to the desired depth. Anglers should match the size of the plug to the available forage. Olive is my favorite all-around color, but gold and black and chartreuse work great in stained water, and pearl and silver are very effective in clear water.
Suspending plugs can be deadly. They sink slowly and are worked back with a twitch and pause retrieve. That pause, where the bait just suspends, seemingly helpless, really triggers the strikes. Lipless crank baits, such as the Rattletrap are very easy to use. Just cast it out and reel it back in; they have a great built in action. Chrome with a blue back is the favorite color almost everywhere.
Trolling with plugs is effective when inshore saltwater fishing
Trolling plugs is a great technique to locate fish when scattered about in a large area. This also works well with children and novice anglers; if they can hold rod they can catch a fish. This applies to the inshore bays, passes, and near shore open water. Simply let out half the line, close the bail, and drive the boat around just above idle speed. Sometimes working the rod tip will elicit more strikes.
One trick that served me well on charters when plug fishing is to troll the passes. The traditional method is to drift with the current and cast jigs plugs or spoons. Once the drift is complete the boat idles back up and drift is repeated. As you idle back to the start, why not drag plug behind? Many mornings I catch more Spanish mackerel this way, as they prefer a fast-moving bait.
Fishing with plugs in open water
Casting and trolling plugs in the inshore open bays, near shore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean is an extremely effective technique in the spring through the fall when pelagic species move through. Anglers should look for birds and bait schools on the surface and troll around the edges of the bait, not right through the middle.
Sight casting to breaking fish is terrific sport! Spanish mackerel, bluefish, striped bass, false albacore, and other species will often be seen tearing up schools of helpless bait fish on the surface. Spanish will stay on top longer and not move as much as the albies. False albacore can also be very fussy; you may need to scale down the offering and go lighter on the leader. With all species, ease the boat into position and cast into the fish or troll around the edge of them and be prepared to hear your drag scream!
Inshore saltwater fishing with spoons
Spoons are another simple, but effective fishing lure. Spoons are basically a piece of metal bent into the shape of a spoon with a hook in it. They wobble and flash and imitate wounded bait fish. Spoons come in metal finishes such as silver, gold, and copper and there are also painted spoons.
Fishing spoons come in two different varieties; casting spoons and trolling spoons. Both are extremely effective for certain game fish when presented properly. Casting spoons are usually wider and heavier. Trolling spoons are light and slender with a very tight “wiggle”. Both require the use of a swivel, otherwise line twist will become an issue.
Saltwater fishing with casting spoons
Casting spoons come in a variety of weights, with ½ ounce to 2 ounce spoons being the most popular. They wobble enticingly when retrieved. These lures are very easy to use. The angler simply casts it out and allow it to sink to the desired depth. The spoon is then reeled in using an erratic retrieve. These lures are great when fish are breaking on the surface. A very fast steady retrieve often works in this application.
Spoons are a great “search” bait. They cast a mile and a lot of water can be covered quickly. This helps anglers eliminate unproductive water in short order. Gold weedless spoons are very effective in shallow water. They also cover a lot of area while riding just above the submerged vegetation. Anglers targeting redfish have been using them for decades.
Saltwater fishing with trolling spoons
Trolling spoons are more slender. They are designed to be trolled and are fairly light. Trolling spoons are almost always used in conjunction with some device designed to get down in the water column, sinkers and planers are most commonly used.
Trolling spoons come in various sizes and colors. The lure used should match the size of the available forage. Fish can be surprisingly fussy when it comes to bait size. The same is true when it comes to speed. Mackerel prefer speeds of up to seven knots while other species prefer a slower moving bait.
Saltwater fishing tips
Bottom fishing is a very simple, yet effective, angling technique. Many fish live and feed on or near the bottom. Bottom structure holds bait and game fish.
Bottom fishing is an easy and effective technique that any anglers can use successfully. It places natural bait on the bottom in hopes of attracting a fish. Live, fresh dead, and frozen bait can be used. Baits vary by location, depending on the forage available locally. Bottom fishing is effective in just about every fishing location for a wide variety of species.
While bottom fishing is basically dropping a bait to the bottom using a lead weight, there are nuances that will make a difference in terms of success. Leader strength and length, hook sizes, weights, and rigs are all factors that the successful bottom fishing angler will take into account.
Effective bottom fishing rigs
There are several rigs that anglers use when bottom fishing. Sliding sinker rigs and spreader rigs are two of the most popular rigs for bottom fishing. Both have multiple variations and both are effective. Sliding sinker rigs allow fish to pick up a bait off the bottom and move off without feeling any resistance. Spreader rigs suspend multiple baits at various depths just off the bottom.
Sliding sinker fishing rigs
A sliding sinker rig consists of a leader and a sinker with a hole in it. Egg sinkers work well in this application. Egg sinkers come in many different sizes. They also roll on the bottom and do not hang up easily. Surf anglers use a device called a “fish finder”. This is a small plastic tube with a clip on it. The line passes through the tube and a clip is used to attach the weight. Pyramid sinkers are most often used by surf casters.
With either rig, most anglers use the same approach. The running line is passed through the sinker or fish finder. A swivel is then attached to the end of the line. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down. The leader is then tied on to the other end of the swivel. Leader lengths vary, but most anglers use 2′ to 3′ of leader. A hook finishes off the rig.
More bottom fishing rigs
One variation of this is called the “knocker rig”. It is just like the sliding sinker rig above, except the sinker is placed on the leader between the swivel and the hook. This results in the sinker sitting right on the eye of the hook. The knocker rig has two advantages. It keeps the bait right on the bottom where the fish feed. Also, if the hook hangs up, the sinker will often “knock” it free, thus the name. I use this rig a lot when sheepshead and snapper fishing. It is very effective.
Spreader rigs separate the hooks both horizontally and vertically. Wire arms are often used. Snelled hooks are attached to the arms. The hooks then go off to the side and away from the main line. Rigs can be hand-tied without the hardware. When the fish are biting, double headers are common. This rig works well fished vertically from a boat, bridge, or pier. Surf casters employ them as well.
Bottom fishing hooks and weights for inshore saltwater fishing
There are many different styles of hooks that anglers use when bottom fishing. Short shank live bait hooks are the most often used as they are easier to hide in the bait. Some anglers prefer a long shank hook. This is particularly true of flounder fishermen. Circle hooks are popular now as well. Circle hooks more often result in the fish being hooked in the mouth. This reduces the mortality rate among released fish. Circle hooks are mandatory in the Gulf of Mexico.
The rule of thumb when choosing a hook is to match it to the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. A small hook in a large bait will usually not result in a hook up. Using a hook too large may hinder a natural presentation. Many large fish have been landed by anglers using small hooks, anglers should resist the urge to use a hook that is too big. Hook strength is also an issue. Fine wire hooks are good for small fish or those with a tender mouth. Larger fish and fish that need to be horsed out of heavy cover require a hook that is stout.
Sinkers for inshore saltwater fishing
Sinkers also come in various styles. Egg, bank, and pyramid sinkers are the most commonly used in salt waters by inshore anglers. Egg sinkers work well with sliding rigs while bank sinkers are best for spreader rigs. Pyramid sinkers are primarily used by surf anglers. The amount of weight used is determined by the depth and current that the anglers is dealing with. The goal is for the weight to be just enough to hold bottom when anchored or bounce along the bottom when drifting.
Top bottom fishing baits
Bait choice runs the gamut and is generally determined by the local forage available. Just about any fresh fish caught can be cut into strips or chunks and used as bait. Check local laws for current regulations. Squid is a universal frozen bait that produces fish everywhere. Local bait shops will have other frozen baits available and will give anglers the best advice as to the bait of choice.
Shrimp is king in Florida where I fish and really along the entire Gulf Coast and up the east coast to the mid-Atlantic. Shrimp are a terrific bait live as well as fresh dead or frozen. They are the “nightcrawler of saltwater”, just about every inshore species love them. Live shrimp are hooked in the horn while dead ones are threaded on the hook.
Live bait fish can certainly be used by anglers bottom fishing. Flounder fishermen use live minnows with great success. Florida bottom fishermen use live pin fish for grouper and snapper. As with any fish, live or dead, check local regulations before fishing.
Saltwater bottom fishing techniques
Anglers fishing from boats need to make a choice; whether to anchor or drift. Both methods produce and have their advantages and disadvantages. Drifting is generally preferred when anglers are seeking a school of fish in open water. Drifting allows anglers to cover a lot of water, eliminating unproductive areas quickly. Both the spreader rig and slider rig will produce for anglers when drifting.
Flounder fishermen use a sliding sinker rig often. Flounder lie right on the bottom and this is an effective rig. Anglers targeting bottom fish that school up such as croaker, spot, weakfish, whiting, and sheepshead will do well with the spreader rig while drifting.
Note sinker at the eye of the hook, this is the “knocker rig”
Many bottom species such as grouper in the south and blackfish further north relate to structure. This structure includes ledges, hard bottom, wrecks, and artificial reefs. Anglers targeting these species usually choose to anchor and present their baits. This is especially true on smaller pieces of bottom.
Boat positioning is crucial when bottom fishing
Anchoring properly is critical to success when working a piece of structure. The preferred technique it to anchor so that the boat ends up just a bit up-current and up wind of the structure. Baits presented right on the edge of the structure will hopefully draw the fish out away from their protection. Anchoring is a skill that only time and experience will perfect. GPS trolling motors have helped greatly with this!
Anglers bottom fishing from bridges and piers usually choose a spreader rig. It is effective in this application. Sliding sinker rigs can certainly be used, especially when cast out away from the pier or bridge. Often times the best approach is to fish as close to the pier and bridge pilings as possible. A knocker rig works well when doing this. Sheepshead and other species feed on barnacles attached to the pilings.
Surf fisherman do a lot of bottom fishing. Most fish caught off of the beaches are done so by anglers soaking a piece of bait on the bottom. This is true from Texas to Maine. Cut squid, cut bait fish, shrimp, and crabs are all great baits that produce a wide variety of species.
Saltwater fishing on the flats
The term “flat” is a broad one. For the purposes of this discussion, it will be defined as follows; “a flat is a large area of similar depth surrounded by deeper water”. Flats are very productive fishing areas. The reason is simple; food. Much of the forage that fish feed on lives in fairly shallow water. For the most part, we are talking about water between 1 foot deep and 10 feet deep.
Grass can only grow in water as deep as the sunlight will penetrate. Water clarity, current, and bottom composition are all factors that determine whether submerge grass will grow. But, where grass beds do exist, bait fish and crustaceans will thrive. This in turn will attract game fish.
Flats do not need to have submerge grass beds to be productive. Sand flats will also have crabs and other crustaceans. Some flats will have hard bottom areas and submerged rocks. These flats will most likely hold bait and game fish at one time of the year or another.
Flats fishing techniques in saltwater
There are quite a few different techniques that will produce for anglers fishing the flats. Anglers can drift the flats, anchor and chum or bottom fish, and troll. All three methods will produce fish when done correctly. Obviously, game fish need to be present as well.
Drifting is a very effective technique when fishing the flats. This is especially true for large flats. Drifting allows anglers to cover a fairly large amount of area relatively efficiently. This will help locate fish while at the same time eliminating unproductive water.
Live baits and artificial lures are effective when drifting the flats
Anglers drifting the flats can choose to either cast artificial lures or drift with live or cut baits. The choice mostly depends on the area being fished and the species being sought after. Here in Florida where I fish, we cast jigs, spoons, and plugs in front of the drifting boat in search of speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species. This works well further north for species such as bluefish and striped bass.
Drifting the flats with live or cut bait can also be extremely effective. Flounder and other species caught on or near the bottom are particularly prone to a live or cut bait drifted in a natural manner. Squid cut into strips is a very effective bait. In reality, any type of cut bait or live bait will produce when bounced along the bottom.
Inshore drift fishing techniques
Free lining a live bait is a deadly technique when drifting the flats. As the name implies, it involves hooking a live shrimp or bait fish and floating it out behind the boat. The result is that the bait is slowly pulled behind in a very natural manner. If the current is strong or if wind is present, a split shot or two may be required to get the bait down in the water column.
The best technique when fishing a flat is to approach it upwind and up tide of the area to be fished. In a perfect world, choosing a flat where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same or similar direction is preferred. Anglers then cast lures ahead of the drifting boat while anglers using live or natural bait present their offerings under the boat or just behind it.
Anglers can drift fish or anchor
Once fish are located, anglers can choose to continue the drift or anchor. If continuing to drift is chosen, angler simply keep fishing until the bite slows, then they idle back around and re-drift the area. Anglers choosing to anchor drop the hook, fish the area thoroughly, then move on when the action dies down.
Anglers choosing to anchor a flat will do so in a similar manner. The boat is anchored up current and hopefully upwind of the spot to be fished. Generally, anglers choosing to anchor on a flat have a specific spot in mind. This could be a piece of structure, a ledge, a bridge piling, or an area of hard bottom. Chumming can work well in this application, as it will hopefully draw game fish from all over the flat up behind the boat.
Inshore saltwater fishing in inlets and passes
Inlets and passes are terrific spots to fish! These are basically “fish highways”that game fish use to migrate between the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico and the inshore bays. The term “pass” is used on the Gulf Coast of the United States. Pass is just a different word for an inlet, it is essentially the same thing.
Many inlets and passes have rock jetties running alongside. These jetties offer shore bound anglers a great spot to fish. Inlets and passes will naturally have good current flow as these are areas where the water bottlenecks down. In certain locations, anglers will need to plan their fishing trips around the slack tides. In many inlets and passes, the tides run very swift, making it difficult to fish during times of peak current flow.
Bait fish and crustaceans will seek refuge in the rocks of these jetties. Anglers casting artificial lures and live and cut baits will be successful. Often times, there is a hole on the backside of the jetty in the ocean or Gulf. This hole was created by an eddy in the current flow. This can be a great spot as fish will use the spot to stage.
Drift fishing inlets and passes
Fishing can be good in the inlet or pass itself. Again, anglers must choose the best times to fish. In Florida where I fish, tides are not quite as strong as they are in the North East. We often drift right down the middle of the pass while bouncing jigs in search of pompano and other species. Snook will stage in the passes and inlets in the summer time. Sheepshead and snapper will be caught in the structure itself.
Anglers fishing along the East Coast must be careful when fishing the inlets. Strong tides and high winds can create a very dangerous situation. Also, anglers must take boat traffic into account as well and never impede the flow of boats. Anchoring in a swift current can be quite dangerous as well. No fish is worth sinking the boat or getting hurt!
Chumming is very effective when inshore saltwater fishing
Chumming has been around for as long as humans have been fishing. Anglers use chum to catch a wide variety of species. Fish will respond to chum of all kinds in a variety of applications. These tactics not only work anywhere that anglers fish.
Chumming is basically the act of using food to attract fish to the angler. It can be done from shore, bridges, and piers. However, most associate chumming with boats. Chum can be live, fresh dead, or frozen. All are effective when used properly. Chumming is a deadly technique that should be part of every angler’s arsenal.
Fishing with frozen chum
Frozen chum blocks are very effective. These are basically chunks of ground up oily fish. Oily fish such as menhaden, sardines, mackerel, and mullet make the best frozen chum. The oils that are emitted from the chum block help to attract the fish. Chum blocks often come in a mesh bag. This makes using them very easy. They are simply tied to a cleat at the start of the boat. As the chum thaws, it is dispersed behind the boat. Chum blocks are available at just about every saltwater bait shop.
Fresh dead chum can also be extremely effective. This can be as simple as cutting up a few pieces of shrimp and tossing them in the water. This can work very well in the cooler months for fish species such as sheepshead and snapper. Anglers bottom fishing offshore will often cut up a fish they have caught, using it as chum.
Fishing with live chum
One of the most effective chumming techniques is the use of live bait fish as chum. This is a bit of a specialized method. It does require a lot of bait fish. Anglers catch small bait fish using a cast net. The baits are then put in a large, recirculating live well. Keeping a lot of baits alive and frisky is very important. The live bait is then tossed out behind the boat in hopes of attracting game fish.
The technique when using chum, no matter what kind, is basically the same. The angler is usually stationary, but it can be done from a drifting boat as well. Drifting is primarily done offshore in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. Whether from an anchored boat or a dock, bridge, or pier, the chum is dispersed into the water. The current will take the chum away from the boat or structure and draw in the game fish.
Strategy does come into play when chumming. Tide is the most important factor. Anglers will want to anchor the boat up tide of the area that is to be fished. This is true whether anglers are chumming inshore or offshore. The stronger the current, and the deeper the water, the further up current the angler will need to position the boat.
Fishing with chum offshore
Chumming has been a mainstay of offshore anglers for decades. Those fishing wrecks, artificial reefs, and areas of hard bottom use chum to excite the resident fish. Chum can be dispersed both on the surface and on the bottom surface. Chum will attract a wide variety of species. Bottom fish such as grouper, snapper, grunts, and other species will respond to chum on the bottom.
Chum deployed on the surface can attract bottom fish as well. This is true if the angler is fishing and water that isn’t that deep or if the current isn’t very strong. Surface chum can also be used to pull fish up off the bottom. It is very cool when a school of fish rises up off the bottom and starts feeding on chum right at the surface!
Anglers will oftentimes use both methods of chumming. A frozen chum block can be lowered to the bottom while another is tied off the stern. Sometimes the surface chum will attract bait fish, which in turn will attract the game fish. Anglers can use tiny hooks to catch some lively ballyhoo and other bait. Once the fish are in the chum “slick”, it is time to go fishing!
Best rigs for offshore chumming
Every angler has his or her favorite rig for offshore fishing. It is basically a running line, a leader, a hook, and if required, some weight. If fish are seen right at the surface in the chum, free lining bait back to them can be extremely productive. A piece of bait with no weight floating back looks very natural. In fact, the desired effect is to have it looked exactly like the other chum floating back.
Anglers bottom fishing will obviously need to add some weight. I prefer the “knocker rig”where the egg sinker lies right on the eye of the hook. Many anglers prefer to put the sinker on the running line then a swivel and a leader and hook. Both work fine, it’s just a matter of preference. With both bottom fishing and surface fishing, water clarity will be a determining factor in leader size.
Just a quick note; in the Gulf of Mexico, anglers are required to use circle hooks when fishing offshore. Florida fishing regulations have become a bit strict. There are closed seasons on grouper and snapper. The consensus is that circle hooks reduce the mortality rate of released fish.
Chumming is an effective saltwater fishing technique whether drifting or anchoring
Chumming can be effective from a drifting boat as well. This is something that is done more often in very deep water where anchoring is not practical. The chum is just dispersed over the side of the boat as it drifts with the current and wind. As in all forms of chumming, the hope is that it will draw game fish to the angler.
While many anglers think of chumming as in offshore technique, it is used quite often when fishing inshore as well. As a full-time fishing guide in Sarasota, I use every trick that I know to help my clients catch fish. I use chumming as a technique on a regular basis to achieve this goal.
On those days when the water is chilly, chumming with small pieces of shrimp can be the difference between success and failure. Sheepshead and snapper are a bit lethargic in this cold water. A couple shrimp diced up into tiny bits and tossed back into the current will oftentimes stimulate the fish.
Chumming with live bait fish
Chumming with live bait fish is a deadly technique! This is something I do all summer long and into the fall until the water temperature hits around 70°. When bait fish are plentiful, it is a simple matter to cast net up a bunch of pilchards (scaled sardines) or threadies (threadfin herring) to use. Local anglers call this “white bait”or “shiners”.
Using live bait is one of the chumming techniques that I use all summer long. I mostly do this on the deep grass flats. These are submerge grass beds in between 6 feet of water and 10 feet of water. This deeper water is cooler than the shallower water is. Anglers seeking action and variety target the deep grass flats in the summer time.
I anchor the boat up current and upwind of the flat that I want to chum. Then, I simply toss out a few handfuls of live bait as chum. If the game fish are around, it won’t take them long to find the chum. Often times fish will be seen “popping”the bait behind the boat. Hooked baits are then tossed out and hookups are soon to follow.
Chumming with live bait produces many different species
Many different species are caught on the flats using this technique. Speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, mangrove snapper, gag grouper, bluefish, sea bass, flounder, ladyfish, catfish, sharks, and other species will all be attracted to the chum. This is a great time of year for novice anglers and children to experience some terrific action!
Using the proper amount of chum is extremely important. This is something that an angler will only learn by experience. Also, every day is different. This is especially true with live bait chumming. Some days just several baits every five minutes will be plenty. On other days, it will take a lot of chum to keep them behind the boat and excited.
Using the right amount of chum when inshore saltwater fishing
The goal when chumming is to attract the fish, and get them excited, but without filling them up. If too much chum is used, the fish will remain back in the slick, but will become difficult to catch. The best bet is to use chum sparingly in the beginning then step it up if the bite is a bit slow. It is always better to start slow like this than to chum too much in the beginning.
Anglers will sometimes find that fish are hitting the chum bait but will not take a baited hook. This tends to occur more often when the water is very clear. The solution is to go lighter with the leader and use a smaller hook. Also, wherever possible use little or no weight.
Trolling for success inshore
Trolling with light tackle produces very well inshore. I do a lot of drifting on my Sarasota fishing charters, both in the passes and over deep expanses of grass. There are usually other anglers fishing, so courtesy dictates a slow idle back around to make another drift. Since we will just be easing along, why not drag a bait behind?
My go-to lure is a #8 X-Rap in olive or glass ghost (white), it has been very productive as it matches the bait we have in our area. Once the treble hooks get beat up, I remove them and add a single 1/0 hook on the rear. The hook-up ratio remains good and it makes releasing fish MUCH easier. In fact, some plugs now come with a strong single hook for just this reason.
Again, just let out about half the spool and move at idle speed or just above. Many times clients catch more fish doing this than they do when drifting and casting. Spanish mackerel in particular find it difficult to resist a fast moving plug, but bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, trout, and other species will also fall prey to this method. One technique that often pays off is the twitch the rod tip sharply while trolling along. This will often times elicit a violent strike! Fish find the little pause where the plug drops back to be irresistible at times.
Trolling is a great way to locate fish
Trolling is also a good technique to employ when fish are scattered about over a large area. The best approach is to move into the tide or wind and when a fish is hooked the boat is stopped. Anglers can then cast jigs, plugs, or spoons as the boat drifts back over the school. As action drops off, resume trolling again until another bunch of fish is found. One benefit to this is that the same lures that are great trolling baits are also equally effective cast out and retrieved back in; there is no need to have separate trolling and casting outfits.
Trolling has been a staple of anglers fishing the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean for many years. Pelagic species such as Striped bass, bluefish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and cobia migrate along the coastline. These game fish follow behind the huge schools of bait fish. This is their primary forage. A fast moving plug or spoon mimics the prey. This is a very easy technique than any angler can employ to catch a big fish!
Top trolling lures when saltwater fishing
Plugs are a great choice when trolling. The larger the lip on the plug, the deeper it will dive. Fairly stout tackle will be required when trolling a large plug. Conventional tackle in the 30 pound class is perfect for this application. Heavy spinning tackle will work as well. A plug that dives down fifteen feet or so is perfect to target a large king mackerel. I prefer to use a 5′ piece of 80 pound flourocarbon leader instead of wire. Wire will prevent cut-offs but will limit strikes.
Small plugs can also be extremely effective in open water. Often times the bait is very small. A #8 Rapala X-Rap is a prefect match for the smaller forage. White is a very productive color. Surface activity will alert anglers to the presence of game fish. Mackerel, striped bass, and false albacore can be seen terrorizing helpless bait fish on the surface. The best approach is to skirt the edge of the feeding fish. Do not drive the boat right through the action. They will go down and may not resurface.
Spoons also produce a lot of fish. Clark spoons and other manufacturers make special spoons designed for trolling. Spoons can be used when trolling in a couple of different ways. Due to boat speeds, some type of device is needed to get the spoon down in the water column.
Trolling techniques to get lures down deep
The easiest method is to tie a trolling sinker to the end of the line. These are torpedo shaped and come in a variety of weights. A ten foot long leader is tied to the sinker and then a trolling spoon is tied to the tag end. This is really quite simple and deadly on Spanish mackerel, bluefish, false albacore, and more. Fish will have to be hand-lined in once the trolling sinker reaches the rod tip.
Planers are another device used to get spoons down deeper. They are effective but are a bit more complicated. The planer is tied onto the running line. A twenty foot leader is attached to the planer, followed by the spoon on the tag end. Planers come in several sizes, but #1 and #2 planers are the ones used in shallow water. A #1 planer will dive five to seven feet. A #2 planer will dive down around fifteen feet.
Proper techniques when trolling with planers
The planer must be “set”. This is done by slowly lowering the planer into the water after the spoon is let out. With the ring up, water pressure will pull the planer down. The planer is then let out behind the boat to the desired length. The rod is then placed in a holder. When a fish hits, the planer will “trip”, allowing the angler to fight the fish without the drag of the planer. Plugs can be used with planers, but they must have a small lip. Large lips will trip the planer. Advanced anglers use wire line and umbrella rigs to catch striped bass and bluefish in deeper water. Downriggers are also used by some anglers. These are complex techniques that requires special, expensive equipment.
Inshore saltwater fishing, surf fishing
Surf fishing is a very popular form of angling, especially along the eastern seaboard. Gulf Coast anglers practice it as well, though to a lesser degree. Much of the shoreline from Florida to Texas does not have sand beaches. Surf fishing is basically standing on the sand and casting out into the ocean. But, as in all forms of fishing, it is much more complex than that.
Surf fishing is quite condition dependent. If the conditions aren’t good, fishing is usually pretty tough. Persistent anglers can always scratch out a fish or two, but if it all possible, it is best to maximize the conditions when going surf fishing. Wave height, water quality, winds, tides, weeds, and season are just a few of the factors. Many books have been written on the subject of surf fishing. I will try to cover the basics here.
Surf fishing tackle
Surf fishing tackle is similar to spinning tackle with the exception of the rod length. The smallest surf rods usually start at around 10 feet and go up to 14 feet or more. The longer rods are required for both casting distance and to keep the line up out of the breaking waves. Many anglers choose to fish with two different outfits. They will use a 10 foot rod for smaller fish and a heavier 12 to 14 foot rod for larger fish.
Many anglers prefer surf fishing on the high tide stage. Generally speaking, the two hours before the high tide and after the high tide are the prime times. Couple that with having those times at dusk or dawn, and the chances of success increase. Surf casting can be excellent at night as well, particularly in the warmer months. Serious surf anglers will often use the extremely low tides to scout out the best spots. Cuts and offshore bars can often be seen at this time. Fish will use these cuts to move through the bars and onto the beach.
Surf fishing baits
While many fish are certainly caught by surf anglers using artificial lures, the vast majority of anglers choose to surf fish with natural bait. This bait can be live, fresh dead, or frozen. Of the three, fresh cut bait is the best all round choice. The optimum bait will change with location and season. Local bait shops are a great resource to get information on what’s hitting in the surf and the best bait to use.
Shrimp are very popular bait from the mid-Atlantic south to Florida and around to Texas. Fresh shrimp works best but frozen shrimp are fine. Live shrimp are available in some locations. Shrimp catch just about everything in the water and are great choice for anglers searching a “mixed bag”.
Anglers using will do well with a two hook spreader rig, a pair of #4 or #2 hooks, each baited with a small piece of shrimp. This is a great all round rig and will catch smaller species such as whiting, sheepshead, pompano and more while still given the angler a chance to catch a larger drum or other species.
More surf fishing baits
Squid is another universal bait that will work everywhere. It is relatively inexpensive and available at just about every tackle shop. Anglers can cut the squid into small pieces and use it in the same manner that frozen shrimp is used. Squid can also be cut into strips and used on a fish finder rig. This is the preferred method for flounder and for other larger fish species.
Just about any fresh fish can be cut up and used for bait, as long as it is legal to do so. Anglers should check local fishing regulations. However, some fish are better than others. Generally speaking, the oilier the fish the better it will be for bait. Mullet, menhaden, small bluefish, and spot are all popular baits.
Crabs can also be used by surf fisherman as bait. They are particularly effective when fishing for red and black drum. Weakfish find them irresistible as well. Crabs can tend to be a bit more expensive and do not stay on the hook as well as other baits. Sand fleas ( AKA mole crabs ) are a popular bait for pompano and other species.
Surf fishing techniques
Many surf anglers use a two-pronged approach. They will use a lighter 10 foot rod with a two hook spreader rig to catch the smaller species. Once a legal fish is caught, they will cut it into large strips and use that on a longer 12 foot or 13 foot surf rod with a fish finder rig and a heavy sinker. This is a great approach as it allows anglers to experience action on the smaller outfit with smaller fish while still having the chance to catch a very nice fish on the larger outfit.
As mentioned above, artificial lures can certainly be used when surf fishing. Anglers targeting striped bass in the northern part of the country do well with large poppers. These are cast out and worked aggressively on the surface. The loud ‘pop” attracts the striped bass and bluefish to the bait. This works very well when fish are actively feeding on the surface.
Spoons and jigs can be cast out into the surface well. Anglers can wait until they see breaking fish or other activity such as bait fish on the surface, or just blind cast in hopes of a strike. it can get tiresome throwing a heavy lower on a big heavy surf outfit. As in all fishing, bird activity is a great sign that fish are feeding nearby.
Tides for inshore saltwater fishing
Tides are one of the most important aspects of saltwater fishing. They often confuse novice saltwater anglers. Tides are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. Tides are strongest around the full moon and then strong again on the new moon. Conversely, tides are not as strong on the quarter moons.
Every angler has his or her preferred tide. There is no one answer to the question,”what is the best tide?” Tides don’t determine when to fish, they determine where where to fish. Anglers fishing the flats often prefer a high tide. The same goes for surf anglers. Anglers fishing tidal rivers, inlets, and passes often prefer the outgoing tide.
Tides will position fish when saltwater fishing
The best approach is to look at the tide and imagine how it will affect the fishes movements. Low tides will move fish off of shallow areas and into deeper areas where the they will feel safe. As the tide rises, the fish will move out of these deeper areas and up onto the flats to feed. Falling tides will cost fish to stage at ambush points.
Only experience and time on the water will tell an angler what they need to know to be successful in the water that they are fishing. Logs can be helpful to some anglers. Noting tide stage on successful days will help anglers determine the ideal tides in their area.
Top inshore saltwater fishing species
Speckled trout; aka spotted sea trout
Speckled trout are one of the most popular inshore game fish. They are arguably the most popular inshore species from along the entire Gulf Coast. Speckled trout are available to anglers from Chesapeake Bay down to Texas.
Most anglers target speckled trout on the flats, though fish are caught in deeper water and off the beach as well. Trout are an aggressive, beautiful fish that hit hard, put up a bit of a tussle, and taste great. That explains why they are so desired by anglers, especially down south.
Speckled trout average around 16 inches. Anything over 20 inches is a nice fish and a speckled trout over 24 inches is a trophy. Anglers seeking numbers of trout will do best to target flats in 4 feet to 8 feet of water. This is where the majority of average sized fish will be found. These fish are generally found in fairly large schools. The larger fish are loners and can often be found in very shallow water.
Both live and artificial baits are effective for speckled trout
Both live bait and artificial lures produce a lot of speckled trout. It really is just a matter of the time of year and angler preference. The number one live bait is the shrimp. Live shrimp are available year-round and produce speckled trout along with just about every other inshore fish species. Shrimp are especially effective in the cooler months when pin fish and other small nuisance fish are less of an issue.
Live shrimp are often fished over the grass flats under a noisy float in southern waters. These floats are called “popping corks”. This is a very effective fishing technique. These floats are placed 3 feet above the hook. A live shrimp is then impaled on the hook. A # 1/0 live bait hook is a good all-around choice when targeting speckled trout.
The rig is cast out and allowed to settle. A sharp twitch of the rod produces a noisy “pop”. This simulates feeding fish and will attract trout and other species to the shrimp. Live bait fish can be used under the cork as well.
Fishing with live shrimp using no weight
Live shrimp can also be “free lined” out behind the boat. This means the shrimp is baited on a hook with no other weight. The shrimp can then be allowed to swim naturally. This works well in deeper water, over six feet deep.
Live bait fish are extremely effective for speckled trout as well. 2 inch to 3 inch pin fish, croakers, and grunts work well either free line or fished under a float. The float will keep the bait from getting down into the grass and suspend the bait at the proper depth in the water column.
Speckled trout respond well to live bait chumming
Chumming with live bait is an extremely effective technique anglers use in the warmer months. This is a staple for captains running fishing charters in Florida. A large cast net is used to procure several hundred scaled sardines or threadfin herring. The boat is then anchored in a likely spot and these live baits are used as chum to attract speckled trout up behind the boat.
Artificial lures fool many speckled trout. The number one artificial lure for anglers targeting speckled trout is the jig and grub combination. It is a simple yet very effective lure. This combo consists of a jig head and a soft plastic body. It is a very versatile lure as the tail sizes, shapes, and colors can be easily changed.
The jig/grub combo is the top trout fishing lure
The jig head is a hook with a piece of lead molded and near the eye. This lead adds casting weight and also is what imparts action to the jig. Jig heads come in many different sizes, weights, and colors. One quarter ounce jig heads are the best all round choice for fishing water between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep. Red, white, and chartreuse are the best colors. Jigs have one single hook which helps when releasing fish.
Plugs are also extremely effective lures for speckled trout. They tend to catch larger fish. Plugs are meant to imitate bait fish. Anglers should choose a plug that imitates the forage that the speckled trout are feeding on. Plugs that stay up on the surface are called “topwater” plugs. They produce explosive strikes and are very effective when worked in shallow water.
Diving plugs are effective when saltwater fishing the inshore waters for trout
Shallow diving plugs float on the surface but dive down several feet when retrieved. These plugs work well in water deeper than two feet. Suspending plugs slowly sink and suspend in the water column. They are deadly on speckled trout. Plugs do have a couple of drawbacks. They are expensive and sport a dangerous pair of treble hooks.
Most anglers targeting speckled trout choose to drift. Most flats cover a fairly large area. Drifting is the most efficient way to locate fish. Anglers using both live bait and artificial lures cast out ahead of the drifting boat and work the baits back. Once a productive area is found, anglers can anchor and cover the area thoroughly or re-drift the area.
Big trout are often found in shallow water
Larger speckled trout are often found in shallow water. These fish tend to be “loners” and not in schools. Potholes (small depressions in shallow flats) will hold some trophy speckled trout! The edges of oyster bars and mangrove shorelines will also produce.
These fish can be finicky in shallow water and they spook easily. Anglers need to be patient and stealthy. Long casts are required. Artificial lures work well as it can be difficult to use live bait in the shallow grass. Topwater plugs and soft plastic baits on 1/16 ounce jig heads work well.
Fishing for saltwater trout at night
Night fishing can be an extremely effective technique for speckled trout. Lighted docks and bridges attract shrimp and small bait fish. This in turn attracts the trout. Outgoing tides are generally preferred. Live and artificial shrimp work well free lined in the current.
Speckled trout are fantastic eating and prized wherever they are caught. Here in Florida, we have a slot limit on them, with one large fish over 20” being legal to keep. I personally strongly encourage anglers to release all large trout. These are breeder females and are crucial to the success of the species. With the angling pressure that trout receive in the more populated areas, it is very important to release these big girls unharmed to breed.
Striped bass are the most popular inshore saltwater game fish in the Northeast. They range from Maine down to South Carolina. They have also been transplanted successfully in many large freshwater lakes. There is also a population of striped bass in San Francisco Bay. Striped bass are often found in schools. They grow quite large with the world record being a touch over 80 pounds. Stripers can be caught using every inshore fishing technique.
Striped bass spawn in the brackish tributary rivers. Chesapeake Bay is responsible for about 80% of the striped bass spawning activity. The Hudson River in New York is second in that regard. Juvenile striped bass spend the first couple years in the freshwater and brackish rivers before migrating out to the open water. Striped bass can live up to 30 years old.
Striped bass can be caught using a wide variety of angling techniques. They are caught drift fishing, trolling, sight fishing, chumming, and surf fishing.
Drift fishing for striped bass
Drifting over productive areas with either live bait or artificial lures produces many striped bass for anglers. Channel edges, depth changes, areas of hard bottom composition, artificial reefs, bridges, creek and river mouths, and inlets are all prime spots.
Anglers choosing to drift with natural bait will have success use in both live and cut bait. A free lined pogy or menhaden is a deadly bait for a trophy striped bass. Small live eels are used as well, especially in Chesapeake Bay around the bridges. Cut bait such as strips or chunks of fresh fish and squid will also produce. Anglers choosing to drift while using artificial lures will do well with jigs and heavy vertical jigging spoons.
Some anglers choose to anchor and chum a spot, rather than drifting it. This can be an extremely productive technique. The boat is anchored up on a drop off, piece of hard bottom, or other likely spot. Menhaden oil or other chum is dispersed with the tide from the stern. Several rods are rigged and hooked up with chunks of fresh baits such as pogy or menhaden. Any oily fish will work; bluefish and mackerel are fine baits. It is important to use circle hooks in this application to reduce the number of fish that are gut hooked. Many states require this by law.
Surface action when striped bass fishing
There is nothing more exciting than casting to schools of “breaking” striped bass! Stripers will herd schools of bait fish up in the water column and trap them against the surface. Once they do this, the feeding frenzy is on. Fish can be seen splashing and feeding on the surface from quite a distance away on a call morning. Often times, bluefish and even false albacore are mixed in with the stripers.
Artificial lures are great fun in this situation. Anglers casting surface poppers, shallow diving plugs, spoons, and jigs will all experience fast action as long as the lure resembles the bait fish in size and color. Some days it does not matter, the stripers will hit just about anything in the water that is moving. This action normally occurs in the fall in the inshore bays and in the Atlantic Ocean close to shore.
Trolling for striped bass is very effective inshore
Trolling produces many striped bass, and normally the largest specimens. However, trolling can be cumbersome with all the gear that is required, but it is the most efficient way to get a lure down deep or many of the largest striped bass live and feed. Experienced anglers use wire line and specially designed to reels to get their umbrella rigs and other trolling gear down deep. Many of the charter boats in Chesapeake Bay are using this fishing method.
Anglers using lighter tackle can have success troll and as well. Anglers can use 20 pound conventional tackle and trolling sinkers or planers to get their lures down to the fish. Plugs with large lips will dive down without any other gear. For the most part, this type of trolling is best done in water 20 feet deep or shallower.
Inlets are great spots for inshore striped bass fishing
Inlets are excellent spots to target striped bass. This is especially true for anglers without a boat, as most inlets have jetties which allow anglers access. The best time to fish inlets is generally on the turn of the tide, when the current flow is reduced. It is difficult to fish when the current is running hard through the inlet.
Anglers fishing the inlets can choose to use both natural and artificial baits. Those casting poppers and other plugs along with spoons and jigs do quite well when working parallel to the rocks. They will also make opportunistic cast whenever breaking fish pop up. Anglers bottom fishing need to constantly adjust the weight in order to minimize snags. Often times, the best spot to bottom fish is on the backside of the jetty where there is a sandy bottom and a current eddy.
Striped bass are targeted by surf anglers as well. These fish are prized by surf casters from the main beaches down to Cape Cod and as far south as Hatteras in North Carolina. Experienced surf fisherman usually have several rigs ready to go. They will often bottom fish with a large piece of bait on a fish finder rig, letting it set in the holder. While waiting for a bite, anglers can cast poppers and other artificial lures and are also ready if a “blitz” should happen to occur.
Red drum, aka redfish
Redfish are one of the most popular inshore species, right up there with speckled trout and striped bass. Redfish inhabit the entire Southeast part of the United States, from Texas around to Florida and up as far as the mid Atlantic. They are an extremely popular game fish in all these areas.
Redfish are known by several different names depending on the geography. Red drum, channel bass, and puppy drum are several of the more popular ones. Here in Florida we simply call them redfish, or “reds” for short. They are found on the shallow grass flats where they school up. Redfish are often caught under docks and near other structure as well.
Fishing in shallow water presents some challenges. Fish are quite spooky when there’s barely enough water to cover their backs! This means that anglers must be stealthy when approaching them. Many shallow draft skiffs are specially designed to be extra quiet on the flats. Wading is also a great way to sneak up on skittish redfish.
Tides are important when fishing for red drum
Tides are critical when targeting redfish. Most anglers prefer a low, incoming tide. This tends to congregate the schools of redfish on the edges of bars and flats. They will also stage in what we call “potholes”. These are slight depressions in the shallow grass flats. The difference can be minimal, but enough to hold fish. A 3 foot depression on a flat that has 10 inches of water can hold an entire school of fish.
As the tide rises, reds will move up onto the flats and scatter out. They are feeding but are also scattered out. This can make them difficult to locate. On the highest stage, or flood tide, the fish will move way up under the mangroves. So, while it is easier to get the boat up on the flats on the higher stages of the tide, the fish are also much more difficult to locate.
Both lures and live baits are effective for redfish
Anglers targeting redfish in shallow water can be effective with both artificial lures and live bait. Artificial lures are generally best when prospecting for fish. The reason is simple; lures allow anglers to cover a lot of water much more quickly than they can do with live bait. Live bait can work very well once fish are located in a certain area.
One of the most effective lures for locating redfish on a flat is the weedless spoon. The venerable Johnson Silver Minnow in the half ounce, gold color has fooled many redfish over the years. It is a simple bait that can be cast a long way, is extremely weedless, and has a great fish attracting action. It has a large single hook which rides up in a weed guard covering the tip. There are many other manufacturers who produce quality weedless spoons as well. Local tackle shops will have a good selection of the most productive baits. A small black swivel is required when using spoons to help eliminate line twist.
Fishing for redfish with soft plastic baits
Soft plastic baits can also be very effective when searching for redfish. They don’t cover quite as much water as spoons do as the bait is moved a bit more slowly. Soft plastic baits are more effective when the angler has a general idea of where the fish may be. Bass assassin makes a terrific line of soft plastic baits in a myriad of sizes and colors. A 4” to 5” bait is about the right size with both paddle tales and jerk worms style baits being effective.
Anglers have a choice in how they rig their soft plastic baits. The most simple technique is to rig the bait on a 1/16 ounce or 1/8 ounce jig head. The hook will ride up in the bait will generally be snag free, though it will pick up grass on the head. Jig heads designed to fish in shallow water have a slightly different shape. The head curves up so that it skims over the grass. Jig heads can also be purchased with a weed guard, further reducing the chance of hanging up in the grass.
Other options when inshore saltwater fishing with soft plastic lures
Another option is a swim bait hook. These can be used to rigged the bait either Texas rigged while some have a weed guard. Both result in a fairly weedless presentation. These hooks also have a weight in the middle of the hook, resulting in the bait having a natural horizontal look.
Plugs can also be effective for redfish on the flats. If the water is very shallow, a foot or two deep, anglers will have to use top water plugs. Redfish have an inferior mouth, that means it is behind the nose pointing down. However, they will take a bait on the surface. Rapala Skitterwalk and Heddon Zara Spook baits are both very effective lures. Anglers working slightly deeper water or mangrove shorelines can score with a shallow diving plugs such as the Rapala X-Rap slashbait.
Live bait produces redfish
There are situations where live bait can be more effective when fishing the shallow flats. As mentioned earlier, redfish will stage up in potholes and in channels on the lower tide stages. A large live shrimp fished in these holes can be deadly. Many anglers remove the tail and insert the hook in that area. This results in the shrimps natural juices dispersing into the pothole. A # 1/0 live bait hook and a light split shot is all that is required. A float can be used to add casting weight and indicate bites.
It can be a bit overwhelming searching for reds on the shallow flats. There are just so many places that the fish can be! Many anglers believe that finding schools of mullet on the flats is a key to success. The thought is that the mullet stir up the bottom while swimming along, dislodging crabs and other forage from the weeds. This is a natural chum line that will attract redfish. Birds, bait fish, and other game fish are also signs of a lively redfish flat. Otherwise, it is just a matter of patience and experience.
Many redfish are caught by anglers fishing docks and other structure. Docks provide both cover and forage for redfish. I have found in my experience that the most productive redfish docks are in between four and 8 feet of water.
Dock fishing for red drum
Anglers who prefer casting artificial lures can use the trolling motor and slowly work a line of docks. A quarter ounce jig with a soft plastic body work well for this type of fishing. One days when the bite is tough, switching to a scented baits such as the Gulp shrimp can make the difference.
It is tough to beat a live bait when fishing docks for redfish and other species. It gives anglers the opportunity to thoroughly work a good dock. A large live shrimp is a great year-round bait. They are easily acquired at local bait shops. A #1/0 live bait hook in a split shot or two is a simple and effective rig. An added bonus to this technique is that many other species will be caught as well. Snook, mangrove snapper, flounder, black drum, and other species will intercept a shrimp meant for a red.
Live bait fish can also be used effectively when targeting redfish under docks. The same live bait chumming method is deadly on redfish and snook when implemented around the dock. A 3 inch pin fish or grunt can also be deadly and will usually catch larger fish. The downside to using live bait fish is that anglers in most instances will have to catch their own.
Seasonal redfish patterns
Redfish in the south follow a seasonal pattern. In the winter most reds are caught in canals, creeks, and under docks in the backwater areas. In spring they scatter out onto the flats. Most fish will be in very small pods. By late summer they are schooled up into larger numbers on the flats before moving out into the Gulf. In the fall, reds can be anywhere, flats, Gulf, Atlantic Ocean, and backwater spots.
Large schools of big redfish are often encountered in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. These schools are easy to spot. In clear water, the water will actually turn red. Fish are also seen milling and busting baits on the surface. These fish are tackle-busters. Anglers need to gear up for these fish!
Redfish are caught by surf anglers as well. These fish can be very large. Runs of “channel bass” as they are known in the mid-Atlantic, are legendary. Crab fished on the bottom is the top bait. Clams, shrimp, and cut bait will also produce redfish.
Spanish mackerel are a terrific, and in my opinion, underrated game fish. They are widely distributed along the East Coast of the United States as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They are very fast fish, feed aggressively, and are excellent table fare when eaten fresh.
Spanish mackerel are a pelagic species. This means that they spend most of their time in the middle of the water column. They do not relate to bottom structure, other than the fact that that same structure attracts bait. Spanish mackerel also make a seasonal migration up the coastlines in the spring, then back down in the fall. They spend their winters in the tropical moderate climates.
Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide, our prime times for Spanish mackerel are spring and fall. However, if we experience a very moderate winter or a cooler than average summer they can be caught all year long. Spanish mackerel are a fish that pleases every angler, whether they fish from shore, in the bays, or out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
Spanish mackerel fishing techniques
Mackerel can be taken using a variety of baits and techniques. I personally enjoy catching them using artificial lures and fly fishing. Mackerel hit so hard and make such long runs that it is really quite exciting to catch them while casting artificial lures on light tackle.
The most productive artificial lures are spoons, jigs, and plugs. Live shrimp and bait fish catch plenty of fish as well. Anglers can fish from the surf, jetty, or pier. They can also fish bays, passes and inlets, in the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean from a boat.
The lead head jig plastic grub combination produces a lot of fish in Florida and beyond. These lures are very versatile, cast well, are cost-effective, most importantly catch a lot of fish! Spanish mackerel most often respond to a fast retrieve. Therefore, jigs with a Shad tail body work best when targeting them. The Shad tail grub has a terrific motion when retrieved through the water either slowly or more quickly. Anglers cast the lure out, allow it to sink, then retrieve it back in at a fairly brisk pace with sharp hops.
Spoons and plugs are productive baits for Spanish mackerel fishing
Silver spoons are another very effective lure when targeting Spanish mackerel. Their main advantage is that they cast a long way. A 1/2 ounce silver spoon is a very good all-around size when targeting Spanish mackerel. The lure can be cast out and retrieved back steadily or by using an erratic motion. It is important to use either a snap swivel at the lure or a swivel between the leader and the running line to prevent line twist.
Plugs are another very effective lure for catching Spanish mackerel. However, they do have a couple disadvantages. They are bit more costly, which can be an issue when the toothy Spanish mackerel start cutting lures off with their teeth. Also, dealing with trouble hooks and a thrashing Spanish mackerel can be dangerous. Careful anglers will find them worth the trouble, especially when trolling.Anglers can see Capt Jim’s top Spanish mackerel fishing lures in this article.
Spanish mackerel habits
Spanish mackerel prefer clear water. They mostly feed by sight. Anglers should therefore target Spanish mackerel in clear water using light colored lures. Lighter colors tend to be more effective in light clear water. White, silver, and olive have all been productive patterns for clients on my fishing charters.
Live bait certainly accounts for many Spanish mackerel landed by anglers. Live shrimp are the most effective and widely used live bait for anglers targeting Spanish mackerel. Just about every bait shop along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard up to the mid Atlantic carry live shrimp.
Inshore saltwater fishing for Spanish mackerel
Shrimp are very easy to use. Anglers simply hook the shrimp under the horn just above the brain and cast it out into the water. Anglers fishing from the surf or jetties as well as piers may need to add a sinker for casting weight. A hook with a long shank will help reduce cutoffs from mackerel. A #1/0 is a good all-around hook size.
Whenever possible, the best approach is just allow the shrimp to be hooked on with little or no weight. This is called free lining and it works very well. Sometimes a small split shot will be required. This is the best approach when fishing with live shrimp from a drifting boat or when anchored over and artificial reefs.
Live bait fish are extremely effective for anglers targeting Spanish mackerel. However, catching in using them is a bit more involved. Most anglers using live bait fish will catch them themselves. A cast net, the ability to throw it, in a large bait well with a good recirculating pump are required.
Spanish mackerel respond to chumming
Chumming is one of the most productive fishing methods in saltwater. It is a very effective technique as mackerel respond well to chum. Anglers can chum with frozen blocks or with live bait fish. It works very well over structure such as artificial reefs.
Anglers will need a leader of some sort when targeting Spanish mackerel. While some choose to use a wire leader, I stick with a heavier fluorocarbon leader. I feel that the risk of getting cut off versus the extra number of bites is worth using the fluorocarbon leader.
Anglers can attach the leader to the running line by using a small number 10 black swivel. It is important to not use a shiny swivel as this will attract mackerel, resulting in them severing the line at the swivel.
The leader may also be attached to the running line using a leader to leader not such as the Double Uni-knot. Finally, the hook or lure is attached to the terminal end.
Spanish mackerel fishing techniques
As mentioned above, there are multiple techniques which will produce Spanish mackerel. Casting, drifting, trolling, and fly fishing will all put Spanish mackerel in the boat. As with all fishing, current conditions will dictate the best place to fish in the technique to employ.
Drifting open water while either casting artificial lures or flies or free lining a live bait out behind the boat is simple and very effective. On the West Coast of Florida and along the entire Gulf Coast this method works well both on the deeper grass flats and 4 foot to 10 feet of water as well as the open Gulf of Mexico. Anglers will do well to keep their eyes peeled for signs of fish such as birds working and fish feeding on the surface.
Drift fishing passes and inlets is effective
Drifting can work very well in the passes and inlets also. Anglers simply set up a drift allowing the boat to cover a productive area. Both lures and live bait work well. Anglers on the East Coast will have to choose times when the title flow is moderate. It is just too difficult to fish this way when the tide is very swift.
Anglers without a boat most certainly catch their share of Spanish mackerel. Piers, jetties, bridges, and beaches can all be productive areas, especially in the spring and fall. The keys to fishing these areas are clear water and the abundance of bait fish. Anglers encountering these conditions when the water temperature is in the low to mid 70s have an excellent chance of successfully targeting Spanish mackerel.
Shore fishing for Spanish mackerel
The same methods that work while fishing from a boat are productive for shore bound anglers. Lures can be cast out and retrieved while live bait can be allowed to naturally attract mackerel. It is important to try to make the presentation as natural as possible and use as little weight as is required. As with boat fishing, keeping a sharp eye out for signs of activity will lead to a productive outing.
Trolling is an incredibly productive technique for Spanish mackerel. It is also quite simple. Anglers tie on a lure such as a spoon or plug, and let it out behind the boat a good distance. Then, the boat is simply driven around a bit above idle speed. When a Spanish mackerel takes the lure, there is little doubt. This is a very easy and relaxing way to fish and is productive both inshore, in the passes and inlets as well as out in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
Spoons and plugs are the two best lures to employ when trolling. The jig will tend to roll and spin at those higher speeds while the plug and spoon will track naturally with a great wobbling action. Once a productive area is located, anglers can troll back and forth through that area maximizing the action.
Bluefish are the sole member of the family “Pomatomidae”. They are a pelagic species, meaning they spend their time in the middle of the water column. They are widely distributed throughout the world. Anglers from Maine south and around to Texas target them from boats, jetties and piers, and the surf. Pound for pound, bluefish are one of the strongest fighting game fish in the sea.
Most of the bluefish that we see in Florida are smaller than their northern brethren. Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide, bluefish average 2 pounds and a 5 pound blue is a nice fish. However, though they are smaller, they are just as much fun. This is due mostly to the fact that we fish for them with very light tackle. Bluefish grow much larger in the northeast. The world record is almost 32 pounds!
Bluefish are caught in the inshore bays, passes and inlets, along the beaches, and offshore in open water. They prefer clean, clear water. Bluefish school up in large numbers and are very aggressive. Often times bluefish will be seen feeding voraciously on the surface. This is a great opportunity as just about any lure or bait cast into the mix will draw strike.
Bluefish will feed on the surface
No matter what the bait fish being pursued, there are few angling circumstances that can compete with breaking fish when it comes to pure excitement! The sight of a school of game fish terrorizing hapless bait fish on the surface is exhilarating. Also, anglers know that just about any bait or lower tossed into the mix will draw a strike.
While many anglers target Spanish mackerel, false albacore, and other species, bluefish can be often found in these feeding frenzies. This is one instance whether anglers can bump up the leader to steel and not see a marked decrease in strikes. These fish are usually so fired up and aggressive that they will hit a spoon, plug, or jig with reckless abandon.
Bluefish will be caught when fishing for other saltwater species
Many bluefish are landed by anglers seeking other species. A very popular technique in Florida is to drift the grass flats while casting a lower or live bait in search of fish. Anglers will encounter schools of Florida bluefish while doing this. When one fish is caught, expect more to follow. Bluefish will sometimes be seen feeding on the surface, but quite often there will be no indication of their presence until one is hooked.
Bluefish are very aggressive and a fast-moving lure will get their attention. Jigs, spoons, and plugs are the most popular artificial lures. If I was targeting bluefish or was fishing in an area where I knew they could be present, I would choose a jig and grub as my preferred lure.
Jigs are a productive lure for bluefish
Jigs are my preference when fishing for bluefish for several reasons. Most importantly, they are effective and catch fish. But there are other reasons as well. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and cutoffs will occur.
In clear waters, a fluorocarbon leader will produce many more strikes than a steel leader will. For this reason, lures and hooks will be cut off by bluefish. Jigs are relatively inexpensive. They also have one large single hook, making handling and releasing bluefish easier.
Fishing for blues with spoons and plugs
Spoons are another effective lure when targeting bluefish. A 1/2 ounce spoon is very aerodynamic and will cast a long way on light spinning tackle. Silver is the preferred color in clear water. Most casting spoons come with a treble hook which can be easily replaced with a single hook if desired. A snap swivel at the lure or a swivel between the leader and running line will reduce line twist.
Plugs are very productive when chasing bluefish. It is very exciting to see bluefish blowup on a top water plug! However, there are a couple drawbacks to casting plugs. Plugs are expensive with the average cost being around $10. Several anglers casting into a school of bluefish can lose a fair amount of money quickly! Also, most plugs come equipped with treble hooks. These can be dangerous when trying to unhook an angry bluefish.
Fishing for bluefish using live and cut bait
While casting artificial lures and flies is great fun, many bluefish are caught using live and cut bait as well. Live shrimp and live bait fish are the top live baits. Mullet, squid, mackerel, porgy, and sardines are the top cut baits. In reality, any fish that is legal to keep can be cut up and used effectively as bait.
Anglers choosing to surf fish almost always opt for cut bait. It really just is a practical decision that is also effective. The East Coast beaches tend to have higher waves and rougher surf. Cut bait stays on the hook better during a long cast and with the stronger current and wave action. Bait can be cut into long narrow strips or into chunks. Pier anglers often times use cut bait as well. The best rig when using cut bait to surf fish for bluefish is the fish finder rig.
Anglers can certainly use live bait when surf fishing as well. This is particularly true on the Gulf Coast where the wave and tide action is generally more gentle. When using live bait, the best approach is to use the least amount of weight possible. Anglers will find bluefish on the West Coast quite close to shore, often in the first trough.
Drift fishing for bluefish
Anglers drifting over the flats and in the passes and inlets will catch bluefish on live bait. One technique that works really well is to free line the bait. This means that the shrimp is hooked on to the hook with no weight being added to the line. The shrimp or bait fish then swims naturally in the water. Since bluefish are often high in the water column, this is a very effective technique. To reduce cutoffs, a long shank hook is preferred.
Passes and inlets are virtual fish highways that game fish and bait fish use to migrate between the inshore bays and the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. These are natural spots to find bluefish. Currents can be strong in these areas, so artificial lures are usually a better choice. Anglers can cast to rocks and rip rap or bounce a jig vertically along as they drift. Once again, keeping an eye out for surface activity will increase the chances of success.
Bluefish are good eating when prepared correctly
In my opinion, bluefish get a bad rap when it comes to eating quality. I find the smaller bluefish and the 2 to 3 pound range to be delicious! However they do require a bit more care. I bleed any bluefish that I plan to keep. I do this by cutting the gills and putting the fish in the bait well. This will result in the fish pumping all the blood out of its body, making the flesh not quite as dark. Then, I get the fish on ice as quickly as possible.
Bluefish are oily and do not freeze well. Keep only what you need for a meal that evening. There is an area of darker meat on the backside of the fillet. On larger fish, this area can be cut out for cooking. On smaller fillets, it is best to cook it and work around the dark strip if desired. This darker meat is perfectly safe to eat, some people just find it a bit unappealing.
Flounder and fluke
Flounder and fluke are without doubt one of the favorite species of inshore saltwater anglers. They fight hard and are fun to catch, but their popularity rises from their value on a dinner plate. They are fantastic eating!
The term “flounder” is a bit confusing. Down south, we have southern Gulf flounder. Up north, anglers have fluke and winter flounder. The fluke is more like a southern flounder, having a very large mouth. Both are voracious predators. The winter flounder has a very small mouth. For the purposes of this discussion, we will term both fluke and southern flounder as “flounder”.
Flounder and fluke habits
Flounder are a unique fish. They begin their lives like most fish. At some point, they start swimming on their side and the eye migrates so that both are on the same side. The fish then spends the rest of its life swimming on its side and “looking up”.
Flounder are perfectly designed to live and feed in inshore saltwater bays. They bury themselves in the sand, completely camouflaged. They lie there in wait, ambushing prey as the tide brings bait past. Flounder will relate to structure of some sort when available. Bridges with good current flow are prime spots, as are docks and inlets. Flounder are also taken in the surf and in the open Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.
Flounder fishing techniques
Fuke and flounder are predators and target live bait fish and crustaceans. Live minnows are a top flounder bait. They can be purchased at some bait shops. Many flounder anglers use a minnow trap to catch their own bait. Shrimp are a great bait in southern waters. Strips of squid and other cut bait work quite well and are a good choice when fishing in areas with a lot of crabs.
Artificial lures catch plenty of flounder as well. The most effective flounder lure is without a doubt ta jig. Jigs can be fishing right on the bottom, where the flounder feed. Both buck tail and plastic grub jigs produce fish. Many anglers combine both the jig and bait by adding a minnow, strip of squid, or piece of shrimp to the jig. This approach works very well!
Drift fishing works very well for flounder
Many anglers choose to drift fish when targeting flounder. This is an effective technique when fish are scattered out over a large area. A sliding sinker rig will keep the bait right on the bottom. Spreader rigs work well, too. Often times the bite will feel like a snag. This is due to the flounder being buried in the sand. But, don’t be surprised when the “snag” comes alive!
Anglers targeting structure usually anchor, though a piece of structure can be drifted as well. Flounder will often position themselves in the sand just off the edge of the structure. Also, flounder will usually be on the up-current side of the structure. This applies to bridges as well.
Bridges are great flounder fishing spots
Bridges are flounder magnets. Often times, bridges are constructed in a spot where the bay narrows down. This means that current flow is usually stronger under bridges. This makes them excellent ambush spots for flounder and other inshore species.
The channel edge under the bridge can be the best spot. Fish like edges and depth changes. That, in conjunction with the structure of the bridge makes this a prime fishing spot. Anglers can anchor or drift, depending on current and laws. Some bridges prohibit anchoring underneath them.
Pompano are found along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast and up the Atlantic coast to the mid-Atlantic. Most pompano are caught by anglers surf fishing. Pompano may be encountered at any time of the year, with spring and fall being the prime times.
Pompano look very similar to juvenile permit. They also tend to live in the same environments. Permit have longer fins with a bit of black on the tips. If anglers have any doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and release the fish.
Many pompano are caught by anglers fishing with jigs
Jigs produce most of the pompano landed by anglers fishing the inshore bays. A close look at a pompano will reveal a small, inferior mouth. The term inferior mouth refers to the fact that the opening of the mouth is on the underside of the head. This will indicate the method by which a pompano feeds. It swims with its head down and tail up forage on the bottom for crustaceans such as shrimp and crabs.
This explains why jigs are so productive when targeting pompano. A jig that is bounced off the bottom kicks up a tiny puff of sand. This very closely mimics the action of a fleeing crab or shrimp. Jigs produce on the beaches, in the passes and inlets, and in the bays. Bright colors such as red, chartreuse, and white are the most productive patterns, but as with all fishing, keep changing it up until a favorite emerges.
Small jigs work best for pompano fishing in inshore waters
Many anglers land pompano while casting 3 inch to 4 inch jigs while drifting over the deep grass flats. The same Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits that work so well for trout, bluefish, ladyfish, and other species will also fool pompano. The same jig and fall retrieve is productive. The deeper flats, those between 8 feet and 10 feet deep, produce more pompano. However, they can be encountered over sandbars in as little as 2 feet of water.
While the larger jigs will catch the occasional pompano, when specifically targeting pompano, smaller jigs are often used. Not surprisingly, these are called “pompano jigs”. As noted earlier, pompano have a quite small mouth, so a smaller bite-size jig works well. These jigs are very plain looking. There simply a round jig head with a little bit of dressing, usually synthetic care. Combinations of white, yellow, chartreuse, and red have proven to be effective colors.
Pompano fishing with bananna jigs
There is another type of lure specifically designed to for pompano. They are called “banana jigs”. They are long and slender, and shaped like a banana, thus the name. When jerked up sharply, they fall in a very erratic manner. Pompano find this action irresistible. Some also have a little fly near the hook. Often times pompano will be hooked under the chin with the second little teaser hook.
Anglers drifting the deep grass flats simply cast the jig out ahead of the drifting boat, allow it to sink, and work it back in using short hops. The same technique works for those fishing for pompano off the beaches. When the bite is tough or when the water is a bit off-color, tipping the jig with a small piece of shrimp can really make a difference.
Many pompano are caught using live bait as well. Live shrimp are the most popular bait. They are readily available at every Florida bait shop. While live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp are best, pompano will certainly take a frozen shrimp as well.
Sand fleas are a top bait when pompano fishing
There is another bait that’s very effective when targeting pompano, though using it can be a bit more involved. These are called mole crabs, better known as sand fleas. Very few shops keep these, though some do have frozen sand fleas available. Live sand fleas are much preferred to frozen baits. Dedicated surf anglers use a special rake which they use in the surf line to catch the sand fleas. Obtaining sand fleas requires more effort, but many anglers swear by them.
One great thing about pompano is that anglers without a boat catch more than their fair share. Surf fishing for pompano is very popular throughout the state. Pompano Beach is even named after this special fish! Surf fishing tactics very a bit on each coast, so I will go into the difference and techniques.
Surf fishing for pompano
The surf along the Gulf Coast is generally a bit more gentle than that of the Atlantic Ocean. Starting from the beach and moving out to sea, beaches will have several troughs and bars. Many times the pompano will be in the first trough 10 to 15 feet from shore. This means that long casts are not required.
The best approach for targeting pompano on the Gulf beaches is to use fairly light spinning tackle, in the 10 pound class. Anglers can then choose to use a quarter ounce jig and cast and retrieve, or to fish with live bait. As stated above, putting a piece of fresh shrimp on a jig head can be the best of both worlds. As an added benefit, other species such as whiting, sheepshead, flounder, ladyfish, and more will take a shrimp-tipped jig.
Small hooks and baits work best when surf fishing for pompano
Anglers choosing to fish with live bait will do well by keeping it simple. A small #4 hook and a split shot or two will get the job done. By using as little weight as possible, anglers will achieve a very natural presentation. It is best if the shrimp is slowly moving along the bottom with the current.
The surf on the Atlantic Ocean tends to be a bit rougher. Also, tide differences are more extreme. Lastly, anglers are often have to cast into a stiff breeze. For these reasons, angler surf fishing for pompano on the East Coast use the more traditional style.
Atlantic coast surf fishing
Surf rods are spinning rods that are 10 to 13 feet or even longer. They have large spinning reels with high-capacity spools. These long rods allow anglers to make a very long cast and keep the line up out of the crashing waves. After the cast rods are placed into sand spikes. These are simply pieces of PCV tubing that hold the rod upright.
There are several rigs that can be used for this type of surf fishing. The most common when targeting pompano is the “high low” rig. This is simply two different hooks where one is close to the bottom and the other about a foot or so above. A heavy pyramid style weight is at the very bottom. It is not uncommon to catch two fish at once with this rig.
Ocean surf fishing techniques
The other commonly used rig off of the surf is the fish finder rig. This is a device that has a clip to hold on the pyramid sinker with a hollow tube allowing the line to run freely through it. The biggest advantage of this rig is that fish can pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker. However, because the bait lies on the bottom it tends to attract more sharks and other undesirable species.
The fishing technique with both rigs is basically the same and quite simple. The hooks are baited up, and the rig is cast out as far as possible. Once the bait settles, the rod is placed in the sand spike with the line taught. Once the rod tip indicates that a fish is biting the rod is removed from the spike in the hook is set.
Sheepshead are a member of the Porgy family. They feed primarily on crustaceans and are rarely taken using artificial lures. Live shrimp and fiddler crabs are the top baits. Sheepshead fishing is best in February and March in the south, later in the season up north. Fish are schooled up thick around structure as this is when they spawn. Sheepshead are very good eating, but are difficult to clean.
Sheepshead will almost always relate to some type of structure. Docks, bridges, seawalls, piers, rocky ledges, and oyster bar are all structures which will attract sheepshead. They are caught on ledges and artificial reefs in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean as well.
Most sheepshead are caught on or near the bottom. The basic rig consists of a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of fluorocarbon leader. 30 pound test is a good all-around strength. Some weight will be required to get the bait down to the bottom. In fairly shallow water with little current, a split shot or two will be plenty. In deeper water or with current present, a 1/2 to 1 ounce sliding egg sinker should be fine. Tie on a #1 or #1/0 live bait hook.
Bottom fishing rigs for sheepshead
There are a couple different ways to use this sliding egg sinker. Both allow the sheepshead to move off with the bait without feeling any resistance. The first method is to slide the egg sinker on the running line. A #10 black swivel is tied between the running line and the leader. The swivel stops the sinker from sliding down while still allowing the line to slide freely through the sinker.
The second method is called a “knocker rig”and is the technique that I usually employ on my fishing charters. With the leader attached, the end of the leader slides through the sinker and then the hook is tied on. The sinker will lie right against the eye of the hook. This rig results in the bait being right on the bottom. It tends to hang up less. The sinker being on the hook does not discourage bites.
Shrimp are by far the number one bait for anglers sheepshead fishing. Shrimp are available at nearly every bait and tackle shop. Live shrimp are generally preferred, however fresh dead and frozen shrimp catch plenty of sheepshead as well. Some serious sheepshead anglers prefer fiddler crabs. These are fine baits, however anglers will usually have to catch their own. The same goes for oyster crabs. Sand fleas will also produce sheepshead. A few bait shops keep these in stock.
Best technique for hooking sheepshead
Sheepshead are notorious for being expert bait-stealers. Often times anglers will only feel a slight “tap” or two and then the bait is gone. One mistake many novice sheepshead anglers make is to try to set the hook when they feel a bite. This will usually result in the fish getting away with the bait unscathed.
This is the best technique to use when sheepshead fishing regarding hooking these sneaky fish. Cast the bait out and let it settle. Tighten up the line and then keep it as still as possible. The first indication of a sheepshead being interested is a subtle “tap”. It is very important to not move the rod tip at all! The angler needs to wait until a steady pull is felt. Often times, there will be multiple “taps” before this happens.
Once a steady pull or a little weight is felt on the line, the line should be reeled up quickly than the rod tip slowly raised. Reeling quickly will remove any slack and get the hook started into the sheepshead mouth. That mouth is full of hard teeth and often times the hook will not penetrate. Reeling quickly and slowly lifting the rod tip offers the best chance for success. But one thing is for certain when sheepshead fishing, more fish will be missed that will be hooked!
Jack crevalle are very powerful, using their broad bodies and large forked tails to put up a terrific fight. They are generally found in fairly large schools, and this adds to the aggressiveness. Competition forms within the group to see who can catch and devour the prey. This makes them a fantastic game fish!
Jack crevalle are perfectly suited to anglers who prefer casting lures and flies. While they can certainly be caught on live bait, and many are, they are so aggressive that using lures is a natural choice. Just about any artificial lure will catch jacks. Jigs, spoons, plugs, and flies are all effective. Jacks prefer warmer water but are caught up to the mid Atlantic.
Inshore saltwater fishing for jacks
Here in Florida, jacks do have a seasonal migration pattern. They are generally found in creeks and residential canals in the cooler months. Jacks are a subtropical species and cannot tolerate water temperatures in the mid-50s for very long. The water in these residential canals in creeks can be up to 10° warmer than the exposed open flats. This results in jacks being congregated in a small area, making them much easier to locate.
As it warms up jacks will move out of the creeks and canals and onto the nearby flats. The warming water temperatures will have them in a mood to feed. Often times they will give away their location by feeding aggressively on the surface. Anglers can scan the water surface for feeding fish along with bird activity. At this point it is just a matter of getting a bait in front of them. Any lure that even mildly resembles the forage will draw a strike.
Jacks will seek out cooler water in the summer time. This can be deeper flats and 10 feet of water, deeper canals, the passes, in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Summer is the one time when live bait can be more effective for jacks. The water temperature being warm has them a little less aggressive. Chumming with live bait fish will fire them up and get them in a mood to feed.
Jack crevalle fishing strategies
One technique that we use here in Sarasota quite often is drifting the deep grass flats. We simply drift over the submerge grass with the wind and tide while casting out lures in search of game fish. Jacks will often times be found in such locations, even when surface activity is not present. As with jack fishing everywhere, they usually school up and are quite aggressive.
The jig and grub combo is a great all round saltwater bait. It is a great choice when targeting jack crevelle, and really any other inshore species. A quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch shad tail trailer is a good all-around combo. Color doesn’t matter that much, though when possible it is best to match the clarity of the water. Light-colored baits work best in clear water while darker colored baits work better and water that is stained.
Anglers casting plugs enjoy some terrific light tackle action on jack crevelle. They will draw some ferocious strikes! Top water plugs are fun and exciting, however shallow diving plugs are generally more productive. Anglers can blind cast likely looking spots such as mangrove shorelines, seawalls, docks, and other structure. Casting plugs into breaking fish is obviously great fun. Two drawbacks to using plugs are the initial cost and having to deal with a pair of treble hooks. Some manufacturers are now offering plugs with a pair of single hooks.
Tackle used when jack crevalle fishing
Spoons are very effective lures for jack crevelle as well. They cast the mile, can be worked back aggressively, and closely mimic most bait fish that are in the water. They are reasonably priced and anglers can easily replace the trouble hook with a single J hook.
Fly anglers will do well with any bait fish imitations. In all white or chartreuse over white clouds or minnow on a number one hook is a great all round choice. One of the few times that jacks can be fussy is when they are feeding on tiny glass minnows. This is a circumstance where the fly fisherman can shine, as it is easier to match the hatch with a small fly than it is with a heavy artificial lure.
The tackle an angler uses when targeting jack crevelle depends on the size of the jacks that may be encountered. After all, the world record is 66 pounds! In Sarasota where I fish, most jacks are in the to to 5 pound range with the occasional fish reaching 10 pounds. For this fishing, the same light to medium spinning tackle that is used for snook and redfish and other species works fine. A 30 pound to 40 pound piece of fluorocarbon leader is used between the running line and the lure.
Jack crevalle fishing can require stout tackle
Anglers who fish on the East Coast of Florida may need to beef the tackle up a bit. The inlets and residential canals there as well as the open bays hold some very large jack crevelle. Light conventional tackle may be a better choice, especially when fishing around docks, bridges, and other structure.
The same decision holds true for fly anglers. While an eight weight outfit is perfect for the Sarasota area, anglers on the East Coast or in the Caribbean might be better off with a 10 weight outfit. With either selection an intermediate sink tip line is the best all round choice. An 8 foot to 10 foot paper leader with a 30 pound bite tippet finishes off the rig.
Jack crevalle are targets of opportunity
As a fishing guide in Sarasota, I’m on the water around 200 days a year. Rarely do I actually target jacks. In most instances they are a happy interruption to our snook fishing attempts. I treat them as a target of opportunity, never turning down a chance when I see a school of jacks foraging on the surface.
The one time I do target jacks is in the creeks and rivers in the wintertime. Starting around late October depending on the year, jacks will begin their migration up into the creeks, rivers, and canals. For whatever reason, they tend to do less feeding on the surface in these areas. Blind casting with plugs such as the #8 Rapala X-Rap will allow anglers to cover a lot of water quickly and find the jacks of their in the area. In most instances, finding jacks is equal to catching them.
Fly fishing for jacks
This is a great opportunity for novice anglers to catch a large fish on fly. Short easy casts are the norm in jacks are generally not fussy about presentation. A 5 pound Jack puts up a terrific fight on a seven weight or eight weight fly rod.
It disappoints me to hear jack crevelle called trash fish or an undesirable species. Pound for pound, very few game fish strike as violently or pull as hard as do jacks. There is no need to disparage them just because they aren’t as desirable table fare
as some other species. Instead, appreciate them for what they are, one of the hardest fighting fish in the sea!
Snook are the premier inshore game fish in Florida. They are very similar inhabits to largemouth bass. However, they can grow to 50 pounds! Snook can be caught all year long using a variety of techniques and baits. They do have a limited range and are generally found in the southern half of Florida and in south Texas.
Snook have a very distinct seasonal migration. They spawn out onto the beaches and in the inshore Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean from May through September. Many snook will stay in the passes and inlets as well. They find the deep water, good current flow, and abundant structure quite attractive.
Late spring and early summer are great times to catch a trophy snook in the passes and inlets. They are bunched up and in relatively large schools in a pretty small area. While artificial lures will produce, live bait works best in this situation. Live shrimp, pin fish, grunts, croakers, and large scaled sardines are the top baits. Most anglers anchor and cast the baits out near docks and rocky shorelines.
Fishing for snook on the beaches
Snook are sight fished off of the beaches. This is great sport, especially on a fly rod. Snook can be seen cruising right in the surf line just inches from shore. They are bit spooky, in a quiet presentation is required. This is part of what makes fly fishing so effective. Small white buck tail jigs, small plugs, and small white flies are the top baits. Anglers can go fairly light on the tackle as there is usually very little structure for the fish to break off on.
After the spawn as fall arrives and water temperatures begin to cool, snook will move out of the passes and off the beaches. They will spread out into the inshore waters to feed. Fall is an excellent time to target snook. Flats and structure inshore will hold good numbers of snook.
Snook fishing with artificial lures
Anglers who enjoy bass fishing and casting lures will find snook fishing appealing. Top water and shallow diving plugs, soft plastic baits, and weedless spoons are the top lures. Mangrove shorelines, docks, and oyster bars are prime spots. Anglers can cover a lot of water and a lot of likely looking spots using artificial lures. It can also produce some very exciting strikes! See Capt Jim’s snook fishing tackle and lure recommendations.
One deadly technique this time of year is to chum using live bait. This is a bit of a specialized technique. It requires a large bait well, good pump, and a large cast net and the ability to throw it. Once the angler has several hundred to inch to 3 inch baits in the well, the boat is anchored up in a likely spot. A few of the live baits are tossed out unhooked to attract snook up behind the boat. Once they are attracted and excited, they are usually fairly easy to catch using hooked live baits. This is a great opportunity for an angler who is less skilled and experienced to catch snook.
Tactics for winter snook fishing
Every winter is different here in Florida. If the winter is mild, snook will remain on the flats all year long. However, a severe cold snapper or two will push them up into residential canals and creeks. Snook are a tropical species and cannot tolerate water temperature below 58° for very long. These canals and creeks are warmer and offer snook a refuge from the exposed open bays.
Miles of residential canals along with creeks and rivers provide sanctuary for snook in the winter. Casting or trolling artificial lures allows anglers to cover a lot of water quickly. Shallow diving plugs work very well. A 5 inch or 6 inch soft plastic swim bait on a light jig is another effective bait. Large live shrimp can be deadly once a productive area is located.
As it starts to warm up and spring, snook will move out of their winter hunts and spread back out onto the flats and inshore waters. This fishing is a lot like the fall fishing. Both artificial lures and live baits will be effective. There is one difference however, normally the large scaled sardines have not arrived yet. Once they do, live bait chumming again becomes a very effective technique.
While snook do not have teeth, they do have very sharp gill plates. For this reason anglers use a shock leader. A shock leader is a 24 inch to 30 inch piece of leader tied onto the end of the running line. Most anglers prefer a line to line knot such as the double Uni knot when attaching the leader. This eliminates the use of a swivel which can detract from the action of the lure.
Snook fishing at night
Snook are also nocturnal. This obviously means that they feed at night. Many snook have been caught from lighted docks and bridges at night. These lights attract shrimp and other bait fish, which in turn attracts the snook. Outgoing tides are preferred. The basic technique is to anchor a cast away from the light on either the dock or the bridge fender, cast the bait up current, and let it work back naturally towards the light with the tide.
The best live baits for snook are shrimp and live bait fish. Live shrimp can be purchased at all local area bait shops. The larger hand picked shrimp are preferred when fishing docks and other structure. When they are not available, normal-size shrimp works fine. Small to medium-size shrimp are actually preferred when fishing at night as they match the size of the shrimp that are naturally in the water.
False albacore fishing is incredible! It is one of my favorite forms of angling where I fish in Sarasota, Florida, right up there with casting plugs for big snook. Part of what makes it so exciting is that there is much more involved than just fishing. It is a bit like hunting and fishing combined. Patience is required as we tried to figure out the movements of the false albacore, waiting for a good opportunity.
False albacore are a pelagic species. That means they spend most of their time in the middle to upper part of the water column. They range from Texas to New England. Bottom structure and other cover is really not a factor, other than bait tends to congregate in those areas. False albacore basically tear around the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and devour helpless bait fish.
But, it’s not as easy as just seeing where they are, driving over, and casting into them. Will actually, sometimes it is! But most of the time it is not. Most of the time the fish are quite fussy. There are days where they pop up here, pop up there, never stay in one place long enough to get a good shot. That is just part of the game. Most days though, staying patient will result in at least a few good opportunities.
There are several factors that add to making the fish finicky. Generally speaking, fishing for false albacore is best when the water is clear. Obviously, that means they can see well. Therefore, longer casts and lighter leaders are required. Also, often times the false albacore are feeding on glass minnows. Glass minnows are very small, sometimes only and inch long. A a 6 inch bait tossed into the middle of that 1 inch bait will not look natural and usually will not draw strike.
False albacore fishing tackle
Tackle for false albacore fishing is pretty basic, though it needs to be an excellent working condition. False albacore make long, fast runs and will test the drag system on the reel. They are basically small tuna fish and are fast and powerful. The guides on the rod need to be free of nicks and abrasions. Finally, all knots need to be well tied.
The best all round outfit for false albacore fishing is a 7 foot spinning rod in a medium heavy action. A stiffer butt section is required to subdue a nice false albacore. But, the tip needs to be limber enough to cast a light lure a fair distance. A 3000 series spinning reel spooled up with 10 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line completes the outfit.
I like to double 4 feet or so of my running line when using monofilament. I do so using a spider hitch, but a Bimini Twist is fine as well. Then, I attach a 30 inch section of 20 pound fluorocarbon leader to the double line using a Double Uni Knot. Going as light as 20 pound leader will increase strikes. However, Spanish mackerel can be a nuisance. They will cut right through that 20 pound leader quickly. If Spanish mackerel are present, and you can get away with it, bump the leader up to 30 or even 40 pound test.
A strong onshore breeze will shut down the false albacore fishing. Rough, choppy, dirty water is not to the liking of the fish. Several days of land-based wind will have the water settled down. That is just part of the game when false albacore fishing, and really fishing in general. Seasons vary, but spring and fall are generally the best times to fish.
Artificial lures and flies work best for false albacore fishing
I rarely use live bait when false albacore fishing. Artificial lures are very productive and to me just more enjoyable to fish. My number one bait is a #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait. White and olive are my two favorite colors. These lures are just the right size and have a great action. They float on the surface and dive down a couple feet when retrieved.
Bass Assassin Sea Shad jigs are my second choice for false albacore fishing. Lighter colors work best. Jigs are particularly effective when the fish are a little deeper in the water column. There will be days when the albacore are up and down. Anglers cast the jig to the last known location of the fish and are allowed to sink before being retrieved back in.
Small spoons work well when saltwater fishing
Small Silver spoons are another productive lure for false albacore. Spoons come in all shapes and sizes and can be easily tailored to match the available forage. Spoons cast a mile and can be worked either near the surface or down deeper. They are great all round lure for both false albacore and Spanish mackerel.
With all artificial lures the technique is basically the same. I like to run on plane as slowly as the boat will stay up and search for signs of fish. Any bait fish dimpling on the surface or birds working will get my attention. I will then stop and patiently scan the area to see if fish are coming up. If nothing materializes, I move on.
Fishing strategies for false albacore
Sometimes, if I see a big flock of birds sitting there, I will give it more time. This can be an indication of a big school of bait beneath them. Birds will often times sit on the surface like that waiting for the false albacore and mackerel to drive the bait fish to the surface.
Once fish are found, the boat is stopped and I try to determine a pattern in their movements. Here in Sarasota, the fish mostly seem to be moving north to south. If the fish are staying on the surface and not moving the boat can be eased into casting position. I then shut the motor off and allow the boat to drift into casting range.
The best retrieve for false albacore fishing is usually a very fast and erratic one. The plug and spoon both have this type of action built-in. A fast retrieve with short jerks of the rod tip should produces strike.
A fast retrieve works best when false albacore fishing
The best retrieve with the jig and grub combo is usually to allow the jig to sink a few seconds then reel it back in as fast as humanly possible. But, fishing is not the same every day. If you get into the fish and these retrieves don’t produce, switch up the retrieves and then even maybe the baits until a productive pattern is found.
Ideally, fish will surface and stay up and in one spot. But, that does not happen all the time. More often than not the fish pop up quickly for a few seconds and are moving fast. If the speed and direction can be determined, the boat can be placed in a position to intercept them. If this sounds hit or miss, well that’s because it is! There are times where you just can’t get on them. But that’s part of the challenge and part of what makes it fun.
Trolling produces false albacore
While I prefer casting lures to breaking false albacore, trolling can be an effective way to locate them. If the fish are up and down and hard to get on, trolling can be an effective way to hook one. Those Rapala X-Raps do a fine job when trolling.
Spoons may be trolled as well, though anglers will need to use a swivel between the leader and the running line. Jigs tend to roll over and are not as effective when trolling.
While I primarily fish for false albacore with artificial lures, live bait will certainly catch them. One extremely effective technique is to chum with live bait or frozen chum. This is a great technique for children and other inexperienced anglers. It gives them a good chance to catch a big fish without having great casting skills.
Once the boat is anchored a couple handfuls of live chum is tossed out or a bag of frozen chum is tied to the stern. If the mackerel and false albacore are around, it won’t be long before they find the chum. Then, it is just a matter of hooking a bait on and tossing it out behind the boat. A hookup should quickly ensue. No weight is used on the line, just a #1/0 hook.
Fly fishing for false albacore
Fly fishing for false albacore is fantastic sport! Other than tarpon, it is the hardest fighting fish that Sarasota offers to visiting fly anglers. The technique is basically the same, as I try to put the boat 30 or 40 feet away from a school of breaking fish. The fly is cast out and the angler strips back as quickly as possible. The strikes are ferocious!
A 9wt fly outfit is best, though if the albacore are run an unusually large, a 10wt will be a better choice. Floating lines are fine as the fish are almost always taken on the surface. A 10 foot tapered leader with a 20 pound bite tippet and a #4 bait fish pattern fly completes the rig. Glass minnows, Crystal Minnows, Clouser Minnows, and D.T. Specials are the top producing flies.
False albacore release techniques
False albacore are generally considered not very good to eat. After catching one of these gallant game fish, angler should hoisted up for a quick photo than get it back in the water as soon as possible.
The procedure for releasing a false albacore is a bit different than other species. They need water moving through their mouth and over their gills. Therefore, when a fish is being released, the angler throws it headfirst into the water as quickly as possible. This will get the water moving over it skills and it should respond and swim away.
Anglers targeting false albacore do have opportunities for other species. There are days when many Spanish mackerel are seen, but not as many false albacore. The same artificial lures mentioned above will catch a lot of Spanish mackerel. The only real difference is the need to bump the leader up to 40 pound test. Northern anglers may encounter bluefish and striped bass.
Cobia are a species that are caught along both the Atlantic coast up to Chesapeake Bay and along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast. They are found inshore in the bays, along the beaches, and offshore. Cobia grow very large, over 150 pounds. They are generally found alone or in very small pods.
Cobia often times relate to structure. Anglers targeting cobia will run the navigation markers in search of fish. They will hover near the surface on the down current side of the marker. Most of the time, they are easy to catch once spotted. Small baitfish, shrimp, eels, and artificial lures will produce cobia.
Artificial reefs hold cobia, as do natural ledges. Often times the fish will come up right behind the boat. Anglers also slowly cruise the beach in search of cobia milling right on the surface. Anglers catch cobia in the inshore waters as well. They are normally an accidental catch. Even a small cobia will put of a great fight on tackle designed for smaller fish!
King mackerel are ordinarily found offshore in deeper water. However, they do come in close to the beach at times.Trolling is a very productive technique. Anglers troll with lures such as plugs and spoons as well as with live bait fish. Reefs, ledges, and bait schools are all prime spots for inshore fishing for king mackerel.
Bottom fish are highly sought after by inshore saltwater anglers. In an effort to not be repetitive, I am going to include them all in one section. For the most part, locations and techniques are quite similar. These species include snapper, grouper, tautog (blackfish), grunts, croaker, spot, perch, black sea bass, whiting, and winter flounder,
Most bottom fish are caught on some type of “natural” bait, whether it is live, freshly dead, or frozen. Top northern baits include bloodworms, squid, crabs, clams, minnows, and cut fish. Southern anglers use shrimp, small bait fish, squid, and cut bait. Spreader rigs and sliding sinker rigs are equally effective.
Most bottom fish relate to structure. This is especially true for grouper, snapper, and blackfish. They are often found very tight to the cover. Other species such as perch and spot will school up in open water. Drifting is often the best way to locate these fish. Snagging is usually not much of an issue in open water with sandy bottom.
Grouper are a highly desired bottom fish in southern waters. They taste great and are almost always caught close to structure using natural bait. There are many species of grouper throughout the Gulf and southern Atlantic Ocean. Gag grouper pic posted.
Snapper are another family of very desirable and tasty fish. They school up in large numbers and relate to structure of some sort. They are plentiful in the shallow inshore southern waters. Most snapper are caught on bait. This is a mangrove snapper.
Black sea bass
Black sea bass are a very popular bottom fish along the entire east coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. They relate to structure and school up in large numbers. They are a staple of head boats from the Carolinas to New England. Sea bass are great eating!
Black drum range from Texas to the mid Atlantic. They are very popular throughout the Gulf states and are targeted in shallow water. They grow large and put up a good fight. Most anglers consider the smaller specimens to be much better to eat.
Key West grunt
Grunts are a staple of charter and head boats along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts up to Virginia. They are easy to catch and taste great. They school up over ledges and structure.
Tautog (blackfish) are a very popular bottom fish that are targeted around structure in the New England area. They prefer small crabs and other crustaceans. Tautog are famous for being very light biters. They are terrific table fare.
Inshore Saltwater fishing Conclusion
First of all, thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you found it informative and worth the time and cost. I tried to include as much of the basic information that I thought would be useful, without it being overwhelming.
Any angler who would like some clarification or has a question on something that I did not cover, especially if it is Florida related, can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will try my best to help you out, if I can.
Also, the same goes for anglers visiting the Sarasota, Florida area who might like to give our inshore fishing a try! Sarasota offers anglers quite a few fishing options all year long. Sarasota is also a destination that has something for the entire family. World class beaches, shopping, and restaurants will keep all of the members of the family busy and happy.
In conclusion, this article on Saltwater Fishing, Tips, Tackle, Techniques, and Species will help anglers catch more fish!
This article will feature 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips. Tampa Bay is a large Bay and estuary system on the West Coast of Florida, pretty much in the center of the state. It consists of a large, open bay which still gets significant commercial traffic. It has miles of mangrove shorelines, acres of pristine grass flats, and many tributary creeks and rivers. These are combined to make Tampa Bay an outstanding fishery for a variety of species.
Special thanks to Paige for the great photos! Follow Paige on IG
One of the advantages of fishing in this part of Florida is the variety that anglers can experience. Tampa Bay offers those casting artificial lures, live baits, and flies the opportunity to catch a myriad of saltwater species. These include tarpon, redfish, spotted sea trout, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, sharks, cobia, pompano, permit, snapper, grouper, sheepshead, flounder, drum, jack crevelle, and more.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
Just as with the abundant species, anglers have a choice as to how they want to pursue their quarry. Spinning tackle is the primary choice and is most often used to cast artificial lures or live bait. Anglers can use heavier tackle to bottom fish near the shipping channel and around the Skyway Bridge. Fly anglers have many opportunities as well.
11 valuable Tampa Bay Fishing Tips
The list of 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips is a guide to get anglers unfamiliar with the area or the tactics a place to get started. However, even the most seasoned angler may pick up a tip or two
1) Medium action spinning outfit is the best rod and reel choice
Number one on the list of Tampa Bay fishing spots is choosing the best rod and reel combination. For most anglers, a medium spinning outfit is the best choice. Most of the fish landed will be between 1 pound and 10 pounds. This makes a medium action spinning outfit an excellent choice which will handle virtually all of the situations that an angler fishing Tampa Bay will encounter. Of course, anglers targeting very large species such as big grouper or tarpon especially around heavy cover will have to bump up the tackle a notch or two.
A 7 foot medium action rod with a fast action is an excellent all round choice. Fast action refers to the design of the rod. It will be stout at the lower half to enable fighting a big fish while being limber at the tip to make casting lighter lures and live baits easier. A 3000 series reel spooled up with either 20 pound braided line or 10 pound monofilament line completes the rig. Below is a quality Penn Conflict combo at a reasonable price.
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2) Chumming with live bait is extremely effective in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay has become a bit of a live bait fishery. This is especially true in the warmer months. Many guides as well as experienced recreational anglers use a technique called “live bait chumming”. This is an incredibly effective technique that produces a lot a fish and is easy for even the novice angler to succeed with. It is a bit complicated and require some special gear, but the efforts are worth it.
In the warmer months, the flats are inundated with millions of small a bait fish. These are locally called white bait or shiners. For the most part, they include scaled sardines, threadfin herring, and Spanish sardines. Large rounded live wells with high-volume pumps are required to keep the bait alive.
Using a cast net, the angler loads up the bait well with between several hundred and a thousand or more frisky live baits. Then, the boat is anchored up current from a productive spot and this live bait is used as chum to lure in snook, redfish, trout, jack crevalle and other species. It can get very exciting seeing the game fish viciously attack the freebies that are tossed out behind the boat. Of course, it is even more exciting when one takes a bait with a hook in!
3) Live shrimp is the best all round bait in Tampa Bay
Live shrimp are the most versatile and widely available live bait for anglers fishing in Tampa Bay and throughout the southeast part of the United States. Every species in saltwater will happily devour a live shrimp. They are available at every bait and tackle store and are fairly easy to keep alive, especially in the cooler weather. A simple aerator and stone will keep them alive and frisky all day.
Live shrimp can be fished a variety of ways. Anglers bottom fishing around docks, bridges, submerged rocks, and other structures do well using a live bait hook and just enough weight to get to the bottom. Snapper, sheepshead, grouper, drum, and a variety of other species can be taken. Anglers fish them either under a float or free lined on the grass flats as well for speckled trout, snook, redfish, and more.
4) Frozen shrimp produces as well
Frozen shrimp can be quite effective as well. There are times both in the summer and in the winter where live shrimp are not available. This usually happens in the winter when several days of rough weather prohibit the shrimp boats from going out. However, anglers who prefer to fish with live or natural bait can do very well using frozen shrimp. In some cases, it is actually preferred.
Anglers will get more bait for their money when purchasing frozen shrimp over live shrimp. While live shrimp are much preferred on the flats, frozen shrimp work very well for anglers bottom fishing. Again, in some cases they actually work better. Frozen shrimp are easier to dice up into smaller pieces. There are many days when sheepshead, drum, and snapper will take a piece of frozen shrimp eagerly.
5) The jig and grub combo is the top artificial lure
The number one artificial lure for anglers fishing Tampa Bay is the jig and grub combo. In fact, this bait is the most popular lure for anglers fishing the inshore salt waters from Texas all the way up to New England. There are several reasons for both the popularity and effectiveness of the jig and grub combination.
These lures are very cost effective. They consist of a jig head and then a plastic body of some type. The jig head is simply a hook of lead molded near the eye. This molded material is available and several different shapes and designs as well as multiple colors. The grub bodies are available and countless sizes, shapes, and colors. Most are designed to imitate either a shrimp or a bait fish. All of them will catch fish when properly presented.
The weight of the jig had will be determined by the depth of the water being fished and the amount of current that is present. Anglers fishing the deeper grass flats for speckled trout, Spanish mackerel, and other species will do well with a 1/4 ounce jig head and a 3 inch to 4 inch grub body. Those plying the shallow flats will go down as light as 1/16 of an ounce to avoid snagging in the grass.
6) Understanding seasonal migrations when fishing Tampa Bay
One key to having fishing success is understanding the seasonal migrations that the local fish exhibit. Understanding these migrations is number six on the list of 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips. Basically, at the temperature extremes, both hot and cold, fish will go deep. Then, as the water either warms up or cools off, fish will move to the mid depth areas and feed heavily.
In the winter, many fish species will move up into area rivers in creeks as well as residential canals. This is especially true for temperature sensitive species such as snook, jack crevalle, and juvenile tarpon. Other species such as spotted sea trout and redfish will often move into deeper holes near the flats as well as deeper residential canals.
As it warms up, fish will move out of these winter hunts and scatter out over the flats. This is an excellent time to fish for a variety of species! As the water temperature reaches the mid 70s, baitfish will show up in huge numbers. This action will continue all summer and into the fall. During times of very warm weather, fish may become a little sluggish and once again seek out deeper water. As winter approaches, the pattern will reverse itself and fish will begin moving back into their winter areas.
7) Noisy popping corks are productive and easy to use
Popping corks have been used in Florida for a long time on the grass flats. A popping cork is basically a float that makes some noise which attracts fish. In times past, these corks had a slit and the side and a stem which held him in place along with a concave face. These corks are handy and that they are easily added, removed, as well is the depth being fished can be easily changed.
Some newer designs are very popular as well. The Cajun Thunder is an example of this. These were designed in Louisiana where the water is much murkier than here in Tampa Bay. A 2 to 3 foot leader is used under the float with a hook attached. This rig is most often fished with a live shrimp. However, anglers can use a jig or artificial shrimp under the popping cork as well.
The concept with either float is that the rod is twitched sharply in the cork either pops or makes a bunch of noise. This noise simulates fish feeding and in turn attracts game fish such as spotted sea trout to investigate. Once in the area, the fish spots the live shrimp or artificial offering dangling below and hopefully takes. This is a great rig to fish children and novice anglers as it is easy to cast as well as easy to see the bite.
8) Trolling is a very productive fishing technique in Tampa Bay
Trolling is an excellent technique that anglers can use to locate and catch fish. It is simply the act of idling the boat around while pulling artificial lures behind. It can be done in a variety of depths to catch multiple species.
Many anglers overlook trolling on the flats. However, this is a very effective technique, especially when there is little wind which inhibits drifting. The best lures to troll are plugs and spoons. The #8 Rapala X-Rap in olive or white is an excellent bait for this application. It closely matches the size of the locally available forage. The lure also dives down to to 3 feet, which will keep it from snagging in the submerged grass. 1/2 ounce silver spoons are excellent as well. Anglers need to make sure they use a swivel when using a spoon or line twist will ensue.
Experienced anglers have learned that trolling the open waters of Tampa Bay can be extremely effective as well. This is particularly true around the channel edges of the main shipping channel. The steep drop-offs along with abundant structure make this a natural fish holding area. Anglers in the winter troll large deep diving plugs and catch some very large gag grouper. In the spring and the fall, silver spoons trolled behind number one and number two planers produce king mackerel and Spanish mackerel.
9) Best time of day to fish varies with seasons
Anglers who are successful fishing and Tampa Bay will also adjust the time of day that they fish to the time of year. In the warmer months, the best action is almost always in the morning. Water temperatures will cool slightly on the flats before heating up during the middle of the day. Also, from an angler comfort level, warnings are the way to go in the summer time. The exception to this is anglers who fish at night around the lighted docks and bridges.
Conversely, anglers fishing in the wintertime will often do better by going out in the afternoon. Winter tides can be extremely low in the morning, making fishing difficult. Also, the water will be quite chilly. The best bite on the flats in the cooler months is in the afternoon when the tide comes in and the water warms up a tad. The same is true for anglers chasing snook and area creeks and rivers.
In the spring time, action can be good all day long as the water temperature is in the optimal zone and anglers will be comfortable for most of the day. During this time of year, tides are the prevailing factor as opposed to weather.
10) Understanding how tides affect fishing in Tampa Bay
Understanding tides and their effect on fish is crucial to angling success in Tampa Bay and really anywhere in saltwater fishing. While there is no one perfect tide, it is more about understanding where fish will feed on certain tide stages. There are two things to consider when dealing with tides; the strength of the tide and the height of the water.
The level of the water is crucial when fishing the shallow flats. On extreme low tides, fish will have no choice but to gang up in the holes. As the tide comes in, they will move up out of these holes and scatter out over the flats to feed. By high tide, many of the fish will be up under the mangroves and difficult to reach. Most anglers prefer the low, incoming tide when fishing the shallow flats.
Tides affect fish on the deeper flats as well. Most anglers fishing for spotted sea trout and other species on the deeper flats prefer two hours before and after the high tide. While fish can certainly be taken at other times, this is an excellent time to fish in those locations.
Tides will affect anglers fishing in deeper water as well, especially when bottom fishing. While the height of the tide matters very little, the strength of the current is a significant factor. While fish like to feed during strong current, fishing can be difficult both anchoring and getting the bait down to the fish. Many anglers choose to bottom fish and the deeper areas during periods of slack tide were controlling the bait and the boat is much easier.
11) Leaders are important when fishing in Tampa Bay
Anglers will almost always have to use a leader of some sort. That is tip number x on the list of xx fantastic Tampa Bay fishing tips. Most saltwater fish species either have teeth, raspy lips, or a sharp gill plates. This means that tying the hook or lure straight to the running line will result in a lot of lost fish. For that reason, anglers almost always opt for a shock leader of some sort.
In the vast majority of fishing applications, a 2 foot section of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader is an excellent choice. Anglers can bump it up to 40 pound leader or even higher when targeting large snook and jacks around mangrove shorelines and other structure. Conversely, when the water is very clear and trout or snapper are the quarry, anglers can reduce the leader down to 20 pound test. The leader can be attached to the running line by using a line to line not or a small swivel.
Some anglers opt for wire leader’s when targeting king mackerel and Spanish mackerel. However, this can be a trade-off as wire will almost certainly reduce the number of bites in the clear water. It can be necessary though at times, if constant cutoffs become an issue. Anglers targeting king mackerel in particular when using large live bait fish almost always use a wire leader.
In conclusion, this article on 11 valuable Tampa Bay fishing tips will help anglers catch more fish. Check the FWC site for current Florida fishing regulations.
Surf Fishing Tackle and Techniques, a Complete Guide
This article will thoroughly cover surf fishing tackle and techniques. There is something magical about standing on the shores of an ocean and casting a lure or bait out into it in search of fish. In some ways, surf fishing is very simple and basic. However, there are nuances that will be the difference between success and a slow day. These techniques along with surf fishing tackle, rigs, baits, and more will be discussed.
Special thanks to Henry Busby for a bunch of great surf fishing pictures!
Capt. Jim Klopfer is a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. While he runs his trips out of a 22 foot bay boat, he has extensive surf fishing experience. He has caught fish from the beach in Maine, the Maryland and Virginia beaches where he grew up, the famous Outer Banks of North Carolina, the East and West Coast of Florida, and in the Panhandle.
Best surf fishing rods and reels
Like most sports and hobbies, some equipment will be needed in order to participate. While surf fishing is fairly simple and uncomplicated, it does require some special fishing tackle. All of the rods, reels, hooks, sinkers, line, and other gear needed will be covered thoroughly and in detail.
Spinning tackle is best for surf fishing
The main piece of equipment that an angler will need when getting started surf fishing is the rod and reel. The primary difference between surf fishing outfits and regular inshore saltwater outfits is the length of the rod. 10 foot rods are quite common, but anglers can go as long as 16 feet. Longer rods are used to make further casts as well as to keep the line up over the crashing waves.
The majority of surf fishing situations, spinning tackle is the best choice. It is certainly easier for novice anglers to learn to use. Spinning tackle is easy to use and versatile. Also, with the spool being exposed, it is easier to rinse the sand off when the rod falls, which will invariably happen.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
Conventional, or bait casting, tackle does have its place in surf fishing as well. In fact, in the hands of a skilled angler, it will outperform spinning tackle in most cases. It is more difficult to master.
Surf fishing rod and reel combinations
Anglers can get by with one basic surf fishing outfit. However, to really cover all the circumstances and situations that may arise when surf fishing, three outfits will be needed. These are a 7 foot medium spinning outfit, a 10 foot medium surf fishing outfit, and a 13 foot to 15 foot heavy surf fishing rod and reel.
Light spinning outfit
A 7 foot medium or medium light spinning outfit will catch a lot of fish in the surf. A 7 foot rod with a fast action and paired with a 3000 series reel is a great all round combo. The good thing is, many saltwater anglers already own a suitable light tackle rod and reel such as this. It is perfect for casting lighter lures such as jigs and spoons. Often times, fish will be found close to shore, right in the first trough. Casting these lighter lures can be the most productive technique to catch fish in this situation. 10 lb monofilament or braided line works well.
Medium surf fishing outfit
The second rod and reel combination would be a 10 foot rod paired up with a 6000 size or so reel. This is a versatile combination, and if anglers had to only choose one outfit with which to surf fish, this would be the best choice. It is long enough and heavy enough to soak a cut bait on the bottom while still being suitable for casting larger lures such as spoons and plugs to breaking fish. it can be spooled up with 15-20 lb braided or monofilament line.
Heavy surf fishing outfit
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The third outfit would be a heavy outfit between 12 feet and 15 feet long. These are known in North Carolina as “Hatteras heavers” as they are used to cast heavy weights a long way over the breaking surf. Of the three outfits, this one can be omitted by anglers who do not think that they will be doing this type of fishing very often.
Many anglers take a two-pronged approach when surf fishing. By having these several different outfits, live or cut baits can be soaked on the bottom while the rods sit in a rod holder. Anglers can then work the trough close to shore with the lighter spinning outfit while waiting for a bite on the heavier rigs. This is a versatile way to approach surf fishing, and often times the most productive.
Surf fishing rigs
There are two basic rigs that will cover the majority of surf fishing situations. These are the fish finder rig and the high low rig, also known as a spreader rig or chicken rig. Some anglers will use other specialized rigs or variations, but these two basic rigs will get the job done and just about every situation.
Fish finder rig
The fish finder rig is a staple among surf fisherman everywhere. The main component is a device called a slider. The running line passes through a hole in the slider and then a swivel is attached. A leader is then used between the swivel and the hook. The leader lengths will vary depending on the situation, but generally around 2 feet or so is used. Some anglers will put a small float near the hook to lift the bait up off the bottom, especially when crabs, sharks, and skates become a nuisance.
The slider has a clip on it which makes changing sinkers quick and easy. Most anglers use pyramid style surf fishing sinkers with these rigs. When cast out, the sinker will dig into the bottom and hold. The hole in the slider will allow a fish to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling the weight of the sinker. This is an extremely productive and effective rig, especially when fishing for larger species.
High low rig
The high low (AKA chicken rig and spreader rig) is a very basic bottom fishing rig used by anglers surf fishing. It is also used extensively by those vertically bottom fishing from boats and piers as well. The advantage of this rig is that multiple baits can be presented at varying depths. This rig is most often used when fishing for smaller species such as whiting and pompano. However, larger fish can certainly be caught by anglers using this rig as well.
The high low rig consists of a sinker at the bottom and then multiple hooks at several different depths coming off of either the mainline or a prepared rig. Most tackle shops that cater to surf anglers will have ready-made rigs for sale. Some of these consist of wire arms that protrude off to the side, spreading the baits out. Anglers can quickly and easily tie their own by simply using dropper loops. Pyramid sinkers are mostly used, though bank sinkers can be used as well.
Surf fishing sinkers
Most anglers surf fishing will use pyramid style sinkers. These cast well and will generally hold the bottom, unless the current is very strong. In some types of fishing, it is desired to have the bait bouncing along the bottom. In most surf fishing situations, this is not the case. It is preferred to have the bait anchored in one spot. Anglers who desire the bait to move about the bottom will use a sliding egg sinker in place of the fish finder slider.
For most anglers surf fishing, 3 ounce or 4 ounce weights will work fine. As in all fishing, the size of the weight can be adjusted to the given conditions. Often times, anglers are dealing with wind right in their face, limiting casting distance. Heavier sinkers may be required in this situation. Conversely, on calm days when the fish are not too far out, a lighter sinker may be a better choice. Anglers using heavy rods and large baits will often go up to 6 ounces or even 8 ounces of weight.
Surf fishing hooks
Hooks come in a myriad of sizes and designs. Anglers often make the mistake of using too large a hook. The hook size should match the size of the bait being used, not the size of the fish being targeted. In most situations, a short shank, stout, live bait hook is the best choice. Some of these hooks have little barbs on the shank which helps hold the bait on the hook. These are called bait holder hooks for obvious reasons. Flounder and fluke anglers will sometimes use a long shank hook.
In Maine and other parts of the Northeast, circle hooks are required to reduce fish mortality. Many anglers have switched over to circle hooks even when not required by law. A circle hook has a unique design which most often results in the hook rotating and ending up in the side of the fishes mouth. This certainly reduces fish mortality, especially when using cut bait.
Fishing line choices
The best line for surf fishing is a matter of debate. The two basic choices are monofilament and braided line. Like most things in life, each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. It really just comes down to personal choice Monofilament line is less expensive, knots are easier to tie, and the line is easier to manage. However, monofilament line will twist up and need to be replaced much more often. It is probably the best choice for beginners and novice anglers. In most situations, 20 pound monofilament line is a good all-around choice.
Braided line is much more expensive, however it lasts a long time. Braided line is much smaller in diameter when compared to monofilament lines of the same strength. It also has no stretch, which is both good and bad. Strikes are very easy to detect. However, the drag needs to be set a bit lighter as there is no stretch in the line from a surging fish when being landed. Finally, knots can be a bit more difficult to tie with braided line. Anglers most often used 30 pound to 40 pound braided line on their surf fishing tackle.
Other surf fishing gear
There are a few other pieces of gear that anglers will want when heading out surf fishing. Sand spikes are essential! They allow anglers to bottom fish with one rod or more as well as casting lures with a lighter outfit. Even if anglers do not plan on bottom fishing, a sand spike gives anglers a place to put the rod up out of the sand while re-rigging or taking a break.
A good pair of saltwater resistant fishing pliers is another basic piece of equipment that all surf fishing anglers will need, for obvious reasons. Anglers will need to work on their terminal rigs as well as release fish. Pliers is assistant both of these situations.
Surf fishing cart
Some serious surf anglers either purchase or build a cart. These can be very handy when getting all of the tackle and gear required out to the beach and back. This is particularly true in places were anglers can’t park very close to their fishing spot. They can be made cheaply and easily using PVC pipe from the hardware store. Carts can also be purchased commercially.
Knives and cutting boards
Surf fishing anglers will need a cutting board and a couple of different knives as well. An inexpensive bait knife can be used to cut fresh or frozen bait. The fillet knife can be used for this as well, though some anglers prefer to save the blade when filleting a fish. Some type of cutting board comes in handy for both cutting bait and filleting fish.
Surf fishing techniques
Many entire books have been written about surf fishing. In this section, some basic tips, techniques, locations, and species will be covered. Fishing in the surf is no different than fishing anywhere else and fish have similar requirements. Game fish will look for advantageous spots to stage where they can feed efficiently and easily. Obviously, some type of forage needs to be present. One different aspect of surf fishing as that most often there is no cover present.
Reading the surf
One of the most difficult things for novice surf fishing anglers to learn is how to read the beach. Experienced anglers will stand on the beach and scan the horizon and pick out areas where fish are more likely to move through and be located. While this really only comes with experience, there are few tips that will help novice anglers achieve success a little more quickly.
The waves are the best indicator as to what is going on below the surface. The further out a wave breaks, the more shallow the water. Gaps in between areas of breaking waves often signal a deeper trough or hole. This can be a prime spot to fish! Also, the further the water pushes up on the beach when it hits the shore often indicates a slightly deeper area. These depth changes are subtle, only a few feet, and they make a huge difference when it comes to fish locations and movements.
While most angler surf fishing prefer the higher tide stages, anglers can learn a lot about the beach by doing some scouting on the lower tide stages. This is particularly true on the extreme low tides. During these times, anglers will be able to better pick out sandbars, cuts, troughs, and holes that can be likely fish holding spots when the tide comes in.
Importance of tides when surf fishing
Tides are one of the most important factors to consider when saltwater fishing, and surf fishing is no exception. The two most important factors are the height of the tide and the strength. It can be very difficult fishing when the tide is running hard. Even large weights will not hold bottom and the bait will roll and tumble in the current. This is especially true up north, were tides can exceed 10 feet of movement and six hours. Capt. Jim ran into this one fish in old Orchard Beach Maine for stripers in the fall several years back.
One tried-and-true rule that seems to hold up well no matter where angler surf fish is to fish two hours before and after the high tide. As the tide reaches both high and low, the current flow eases up and then eventually stops before changes direction. In many situations, due to thermal dynamics, this results in the wind easing up as well. If anglers can time this high tide with dusk or dawn, so much the better!
However, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. The old saying that the best time to go fishing is whatever you can pretty much holds up. Each trip will bring an angler more experience as conditions change constantly with each fishing trip. The only time Capt. Jim will really cancel a trip is when it is extremely windy and the surf conditions too rough. Fishing cannot only be difficult, it can be dangerous under these circumstances.
Best surf fishing baits
The best baits to use when surf fishing will very depending upon a geographical location. In most situations, anglers not familiar with the area will do best to visit a local bait and tackle shop that caters to anglers surf fishing. They will get some excellent advice that will save them a lot of time regarding both fishing conditions, spots, and the best baits to use.
From the Carolinas south around Florida and over to Texas, it is tough to beat either fresh or frozen shrimp. Everything and saltwater eats these tasty little critters! Shrimp are also easy to obtain and fairly economical. Most anglers agree that fresh shrimp is better, however frozen shrimp will work fine in most situations.
The majority of surf fishing anglers who fish with bait or use some variety of cut up fish or other marine animal such as clams, squid, and oysters. In many cases, anglers use one of their lighter rods to catch a smaller fish and then use it for bait. It is important to make sure that it is a legal fish and that all regulations are being obeyed. It is really tough to beat a fresh cut a piece of fish that is locally available. Cut bait also stays on the hook longer than any other bait. These fish vary greatly depending on the area being fished.
Anglers who do not want to catch their own bait can certainly buy it as well. Local bait shops will have a good supply of bait as well as information as to what the fish are hitting. Squid is a great all round bait for a variety of species anywhere on the planet. It is easy to use and stays on the hook pretty well. Anglers fishing with cut squid or cut bait will either use a strip or a chunk, depending on the species being targeted. Smaller chunks are better for smaller fish on a high low rig. Larger strips work better on a fish finder rig when targeting larger species.
There are a few other baits that anglers can you surf fishing as well. Bloodworms and sandworms are popular baits in the Northeast. They are a bit expensive but are also quite effective. Clams and oysters are used by some anglers as well. Clams stay on the hook better than oysters do. Finally, in some parts of the country crabs are used. In the southern part of the country and along the Gulf Coast, mole crabs, also known as sand fleas, are a popular surf fishing bait.
Best surf fishing lures
Artificial lures can be extremely effective for anglers surf fishing as well. The main three types of artificial lures that are used are spoons, plugs, and jigs. These are basically the same lures that anglers have been using and saltwater from boats and from shore for a long time. One difference anglers have one casting lures from the surf is that the bait needs to be fairly heavy as anglers are often times facing a fairly stiff breeze.
Jigs are very effective lures to use when fishing the surf. Anglers most often used them when blind casting. By this we mean when fish are not seen actively feeding on the surface. Capt. Jim was visiting Nags Head in the spring a few years ago and the most productive technique for most of the anglers was casting a 1/4 ounce jig and grub combination into the first trough right near the shore. Bluefish and spotted sea trout were plentiful!
In most situations, anglers casting jigs will find fish in this location, the first deep trough off of the beach. Game fish will run parallel to the shore in search of food. A jig cast out and bounced along the bottom can be an extremely productive way to catch a variety of species. Jigs between 1/4 ounce and 1 ounce work best. A white buck tail jig is extremely effective. Many anglers have gone to the jig and grub combination, as it makes changing the tail quick and easy.
Spoons are another very effective surf fishing lure. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. While they come in a variety of colors, most anglers casting off the beach use silver as it imitates locally available forage fish the best. Spoons also come in a variety of sizes to match the local bait fish.
One of the advantages of using spoons is that they can be cast a long way. This can be very important when fish are seen breaking just outside of the first bar. This is too far for anglers casting a small jig on a light spinning rod. That 10 foot outfit will cast a three or 4 ounce spoon far enough to get in on the action. Spoons can also be used to blind cast in area. They are very effective search baits is a lot of water can be covered in a fairly short amount of time.
Plugs are basically chunks of plastic or wood that resemble wounded bait fish. Surf fishing anglers are especially fond of using surface plugs such as pencil poppers. This type of fishing is great fun as anglers can see the strike. Striped bass and bluefish are often caught by anglers surf fishing with top water plugs in the Northeast.
Subsurface plugs, or jerkbaits, generally float on the surface and then dive down a few feet when retrieved. They are more often times more effective than top water plugs, though the strike is not quite as exciting. Plugs come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and styles. Once again, local bait shops are by far the best resource to pick up the best plug for the area being fished.
Top surf fishing species
There are a wide variety of species that anglers can catch when surf fishing in the United States. It would be impossible to cover them all, the Capt. Jim will list the top species as well as the range that they inhabit and a tip or two to catch them.
Striped bass are arguably the most popular species targeted by anglers surf fishing. They are found from the Outer Banks in North Carolina up to Maine. The season with which they can be caught will vary depending on the geographic location. Striped bass stocks seem to fluctuate quite a bit. This results in fish management constantly changing the regulations in order to protect the species. Anglers need to stay abreast of these laws when fishing for striped bass.
Stripers can be caught by anglers using both natural bait and artificial lures. Striped bass are an apex predator that grow very large, with some specimens pushing 100 pounds. Fresh cut baits such as pogies, menhaden, and mackerel work well. Any freshly caught fish, especially oily ones, will catch striped bass. Blood worms, sandworms, crabs, and even live eels are top natural baits.
Striped bass will take just about any artificial lure as well. A white buck tail jig with a strip of squid is an excellent choice as it combines both and artificial lure with the scent and smell of bait. Jig heads with larger swim baits are productive as well. Silver spoons and plugs are excellent lures to cast, especially when fish are seen feeding on the surface.
Bluefish are another popular species caught by anglers surf fishing. Larger bluefish are caught in the Northeast and down to the Carolinas, while in Florida and along the Gulf Coast bluefish average a couple pounds. They are a very hard fighting and aggressive fish and are an excellent species to catch from the beach.
Bluefish are a schooling fish that are voracious in their feeding habits. In fact, they are one of the few if not the only species that will regurgitate its food so that they can keep feeding even when they are full. Many of the “blitzes” that surf fishing anglers talk about involve bluefish. They do have very sharp teeth and anglers will often times opt for a wire leader when bluefish are plentiful. However, this will often times reduce the number of bites, so anglers will have to make the decision as to which is more important.
Bluefish will hit just about any live or cut bait as well as flashy, erratic, fast-moving artificial lures. Silver spoons are excellent lures to use when targeting bluefish. Most anglers choose not to use plugs for them, as the treble hooks can be tough along with the chance of the bluefish biting off an expensive plug. A swim bait on a jig head works quite well, too. Just about any piece of fresh cut bait will produce bluefish when fished on the bottom.
Fluke and flounder
There may not be any other species that are prized more than fluke and flounder are by anglers surf fishing. While they put up a decent fight, these fish are prized for their snow white fillets. Known as fluke in the Northeast and flounder south of New Jersey, they are basically the same fish and habits.
Flounder and fluke are bottom dwelling species that bury themselves in the sand and ambush prey as it goes by. That is the reason one side of the fish is white, the other side is camouflaged and both eyes are on the same side of the head. Obviously, the best presentation is one on or near the bottom. While some flounder and fluke are caught by anglers bouncing jigs, particularly with a live or frozen minnow or strip of cut bait, most fish are caught by anglers bottom fishing. Top baits include minnows either live or frozen, squid, and strips of cut bait.
Spanish mackerel are an aggressive, schooling fish that are found from the mid-Atlantic states south. They are beautiful, fast, and put up a terrific fight. They are often times found feeding on the surface and will attack any fast moving lure or fly. Spanish mackerel are good eating when prepared fresh that day or the next, but they do not freeze well. They also make terrific cut bait for striped bass, sharks, bluefish, and other species.
Spotted sea trout
Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, become a prime surf fishing target from the mouth of Chesapeake Bay south. These are a schooling fish that are very beautiful and put up a decent little battle. They are outstanding on a dinner plate! Most are caught by anglers casting a jig head with a grub body on it fairly close to shore. However, they will certainly take a fresh bait fished on the bottom, especially shrimp.
Red drum, also known as redfish or reds are an extremely popular game fish that are found from Virginia south along Florida and along the entire Gulf Coast to Texas. Redfish vary greatly in size from small rat reds to the giant bulls of over 50 pounds. Smaller redfish in the 20 inch to 25 inch range are generally considered the best to eat. In many states, fish over 27 inches must be released.
Artificial lures catch many redfish for anglers on the shallow flats and bays, and they will catch a few fish in the surf. However, the majority of red drum and landed by anglers surf fish and are done so using natural bait. A chunk of fresh mullet is tough to beat. Half a blue crab or a large shrimp will work as well. Redfish do tend to school and when the bite is on the action can be hot.
Whiting are a top prize of angler surf fishing, both for their spirited tussle given their size and their fantastic eating! Also known as surf mullet, whiting are a schooling fish and once located the action can be fast and furious. They are best targeted by anglers fishing with medium-size surf rods, fairly small hooks, and pieces of shrimp. A few may be taken by anglers using artificial lures, but the majority will be taken on bait. They are widely distributed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
Surf fishing for sharks, especially large ones, is a bit of a specialized pursuit. Anglers will often times use very heavy tackle and even sometimes use kayaks and row offshore in order to get the bait out a ways from the beach. However, smaller sharks can be great fun for anglers fishing with normal surf fishing tackle. If sharks are around, a strip or chunk of fresh bait on the bottom will catch them. Some species are good to eat, but anglers need to check local regulations and be very careful when handling sharks.
Pompano are a highly desirable species caught in the surf from Chesapeake Bay south. The average a couple pounds and put up a terrific fight for their size. There may not be a better eating fish in the sea! Pompano can be caught by anglers surf fishing in saltwater by using small jigs, often times tipped with a piece of shrimp. Most pompano are caught by anglers using a high low rig with either pieces of shrimp or sand fleas.
There are a variety of bottom fish that anglers can catch when surf fishing. These include croaker, spot, white perch, scup, sheepshead, and more. Most of these fish are caught by anglers using small pieces of cut bait or shrimp on smaller hooks. While not huge, they can be fun to catch, especially when a fish fry is the result.
In conclusion, this article on surf fishing tackle and techniques will help anglers catch more fish off of the beach!
This post will list the best 6 top water plugs for saltwater fishing. Most anglers enjoy catching fish on top water plugs. Being able to visually see the strike is very exciting! Top water plugs float on the surface. They are designed to imitate a wounded bait fish that is struggling on top of the water. For the most part, they are most effective in fairly shallow water.
Anglers can purchase Capt Jim’s E-book, “Inshore Saltwater Fishing” for $5 by clicking on the title link. It is 23,000 words long and covers tackle, tactics, and species.
There are several varieties of saltwater top water plugs. These include poppers, propeller baits, and “walk the dog” baits. While they are similar in that they float on the surface and put out some type of commotion, there are differences as well. All three are designed to imitate struggling bait fish on the surface of the water.
The best 6 top water plugs for saltwater fishing are the Rapala Saltwater Skitter Prop, MirrOlure 5M, Heddon Saltwater Super Spook, Rapala Skitter Walk, Atom Popper, and Storm Rattlin” Chug Bug. These 6 saltwater topwater plugs will cover every angling situation.
Rapala Skitter Prop
Heddon Salatwater Super Spook
Storm Chug Bug
Rapala Saltwater Skitter walk
Poppers are top water plugs that have a concave face. The I let for the line tie is in the center of the bait in most cases. When twitched sharply, the face digs into the water emitting a popping sound as well as producing some splash. These type of lures can call fish up from a long distance and a fairly significant depth. They are very popular on a wide variety of species and many saltwater fishing applications.
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The Atom Popper is a very popular top water lure that is in the popper family. It is fairly long and slender, making it aerodynamic which increases casting distance. It comes in several different sizes from 7/8 of an ounce to 3 ounces. It is a durable plug and is a very popular choice among striped bass anglers in the Northeast. It is a versatile bait that is used by anglers fishing from the surf, jetties, peers, and boats.
The Storm Rattlin’ Chug Bug is another popular saltwater popper. It is used more often by anglers fishing the inshore waters. It is a bit smaller at 3 1/4″, which is better suited for inshore fishing. The rattle helps call game fish in to the bait. This lure will take a variety of species including striped bass, bluefish, spotted sea trout, redfish, and more. It is available and many different color patterns and several different sizes.
Propeller Topwater Baits
Propeller baits or prop baits are another type of surface plug that has been around for a very long time. Some baits have propellers at both ends while many only have one at the rear of the lure. When twitched sharply, the propeller digs into the water and puts out a loud and distinctive churning sound. These baits can put out a lot of noise and commotion without moving very far.
The Rapala Skitter Prop is a popular saltwater top water bait that falls into the propeller family. It has one propeller on the rear of the bait with a conical shaped nose. This bait puts out a lot of commotion while moving a very short distance. This lore is a good choice for anglers fishing inshore waters, especially on calm days. The bait will call fish up from quite a distance away.
The MirrOlure 5M is a more aggressive propeller style bait. It has a propeller on both the front and rear of the lure. It puts out quite a commotion and is an excellent choice when there is a bit of chop on the water or when fish are especially aggressive. It is a durable bait that comes with saltwater hardware. The 5M comes in a couple different sizes and many color variations.
Topwater Fishing with Walk the Dog Baits
The last type of top water plug for saltwater fishing is the walk the dog bait. Unlike the previous two lures, these have very little built in action. Instead, the angler must work the bait in a way that elicits a strike. These baits are long and slender and tapered at the front and rear. When worked properly, the lore zigzags back and forth as it moves across the water. This type of lure is better for anglers who need to cover a fair amount of distance.
Heddon Super Spook
The Zara Spook is one of the most famous and recognizable top water fishing plugs. It is one of the original top water lures that is in the walk the dog family of baits. Their saltwater version in the Super Spook. It is a long and slender lore that is tapered at both ends. It comes with very sturdy saltwater hooks and hardware. The bait is available in several different sizes and multiple finishes.
Rapala Skitter Walk
The Rapala Saltwater Skitter Walk is very similar to the Super Spook. It is a bit smaller in size and profile, making it a better choice on very calm days. It is available and a couple different sizes and several color patterns. Like all lures in the walk the dog family, the action on this bait must be imparted by the angler.
Best Tackle for Fishing Topwater Plugs
In most saltwater fishing applications, spinning tackle is the best choice. However, while spinning tackle can certainly be used, and most situations conventional, or bait casting tackle is best. There are a couple of reasons for this. Due to the manner in which these top water plugs are worked, anglers will invariably get slack in the line. Bait casting outfits are better suited to handle this while spinning outfits will often create loops.
Furthermore, most of these top water plugs are fairly heavy. While spinning outfits have the advantage when casting light lures, bait casting rigs are often better when throwing heavier baits. Bait casting rods offer anglers the ability to cast towards shoreline cover then stop the bait exactly where needed using the angler’s thumb. This results in a fairly subtle presentation given the weight of the lure.
Best Baitcasting outfit
While there is no one best conventional or bait casting outfit, a 7 foot to 7 1/2 foot medium heavy rod with a matching reel is an excellent all round combination. While anglers targeting larger species such as trophy striped bass will need to bump it up a bit, this rig will cover the vast majority of angling situations involving top water plugs.
Top Spinning Rig
Anglers can certainly use spinning outfits when casting top water plugs as well. Just as with bait casting outfits, there is no one combination that will cover every situation. However, a 7 foot medium heavy spinning rod with a 3002 4000 series real will get the job done in most situations.
Fishing Line Choices
Anglers have a couple different choices when it comes to fishing line. Braided line is very thin in diameter and will allow anglers some extra casting distance. However, many anglers actually prefer the stretch of monofilament line when using top water plugs. The stretch and the line can result in more fish being hooked and landed. Florocarbon lines are a bit of a combination, but are quite expensive. It really just is a matter of personal choice. 20 pound braided line and 12 to 15 pound monofilament line are good all-around choices.
Topwater Lure Fishing Techniques for Saltwater Anglers
Anglers saltwater fishing with surface plugs can find success in a variety of situations. While for the most part these types of baits are most effective in fairly shallow water, they can be used in deeper water as well. This is especially true when the water is clear. Top water baits will catch fish on shallow flats over bars and grass. They are also effective when cast towards shoreline cover such as docks, seawalls, riprap, fallen timber, oyster bars, and more.
The best approach is to cast the lure out and allow it to settle for a few moments. Once the rings have dissipated, the retrieve can begin. Anglers using poppers and propeller baits will do best to twitch the lure sharply, then allow it to set a few moments again. This is repeated several times then the lure is reeled back in and cast out to another spot. These lures work best around structure as a can be worked multiple times without the lure being moved very far.
Walk the dog baits are a better choice for anglers looking to cover a larger area of water such as an expansive flats. Once again, the lure is cast out and allowed to settle. Then, with the rod tip held low towards the surface, the angler begins reeling it in while twitching the rod tip in a rhythmic pattern. When done properly, the lure will dance side-to-side as it comes back in towards the angler.
Proper technique for setting the hook
It is very important when fishing with top water plugs in saltwater to not set the hook when visually seeing the strike. This can be difficult as the take is often quite explosive. However, anglers who do so will most often miss the fish while sending the lure with multiple treble hooks back towards the angler.
Instead, the technique that works best when setting the hook with a top water plug is to wait until the fish is actually felt on the end of the line. This may seem like a long time, but it is not only more effective, it is much safer as well. Also, instead of an aggressive hook set, the best approach is usually a sideways sweep of the rod while reeling tight to get all the slack out of the line.
In conclusion, this article on the best 6 top water plugs for saltwater fishing will help anglers catch more fish using this exciting and productive technique!