Fishing for Ladyfish in Florida, Tips to succeed!
Many anglers enjoy fishing for ladyfish in Florida. Ladyfish put up an excellent fight for their size. They only average a couple of pounds, but will leap high up out in the water and larger specimens will usually take some drag. Ladyfish do not get a lot of respect from local anglers. This is due mostly to the fact that they are not very good to eat. However, ladyfish are and underrated light tackle game fish!
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Ladyfish, Elopidae are a family of fish containing only one living genus Elops. They can be found in just about all of the inshore waters of Florida. Ladyfish are caught by anglers on the deeper grass flats in bays, in passes and inlets, from the beaches, and in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Ladyfish can be caught on a wide range of artificial lures and live baits. While not considered to have food value, they are great fun to catch.
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 on the PRODUCTS page.
Fishing for ladyfish; tackle, lures, and rigging
The same inshore tackle that most anglers use for targeting speckled trout and other species as well suited when pursuing ladyfish as well. A 6 1/2 foot to 7 foot medium light spinning rod matched with a 3000 series real works fine. Anglers can use 10 pound monofilament or braided line, depending on their preference.
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Fishing for ladyfish in Florida with artificial lures is great fun! Ladyfish often school up in large numbers and can be very aggressive. For this reason, fast-moving flashy lures are often produce the best results jigs, spoons, and plugs are the top artificial lures for catching ladyfish in Florida.
Ladyfish do not have teeth, however the use of a shock leader is required. This is a 24 inch piece of 30 pound to 40 pound monofilament leader that is attached to the running line. Ladyfish have a raspy jaws and gill plates which will quickly fray lighter line. Even with the use of a shock leader, anglers will have to constantly cut and retie as the line becomes worn.
Fishing for ladyfish with live bait
Live bait certainly accounts for many ladyfish catches. As with most fishing in Florida, the number one live bait is shrimp. Live shrimp are available at just about every bait shop serving saltwater anglers in Florida. They can be free lined over the deeper flats, or fished under a cork on the shallower flats, or bounced off the bottom on a jig head.
Live bait fish will also produce for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida. The top live bait fish are the family of small shiny fishes such as scaled sardines, Spanish sardines, and threadfin herring. Finger mullet may produce as well. Larger bait fish such as pin fish and grunts are generally not as effective. Chumming with live bait fish can produce nonstop action.
Techniques that produce ladyfish
The reality is that most ladyfish are caught by anglers searching for other species. The same areas that produce the other more “desirable” fish species such as speckled trout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and other species will often times hold ladyfish as well. The primary techniques that are effective when fishing for ladyfish are fishing the deep flats, fishing the passes and inlets, and fishing the inshore open waters.
Fishing for ladyfish on the flats
Many ladyfish are caught by anglers drifting the grass flats throughout the state of Florida. Many northern anglers will recognize the term “weed beds”. They are essentially the same thing. Submerged vegetation and water depth between 4 feet deep and 10 feet deep hold a lot of game fish in Florida. Ladyfish are no exception.
In many instances, drifting is the most efficient way to fish the deeper grass flats. This is particularly true in large expanses of grass. Drifting with the wind and tide allows anglers to thoroughly cover a large area in a relatively short amount of time. This eliminates unproductive water while helping to locate fish.
Ideally, anglers choose a flat where the wind and tide will move the boat in the same direction. Anglers casting lures fan cast out in front of the drifting boat. Live shrimp work well free lined back behind the boat. Once a productive area is found, the boat can be anchored and that area worked more thoroughly.
Fishing for ladyfish in passes and inlets
Ladyfish will often times school up in huge numbers and passes and inlets. “Pass” is just another word for an inlet that is used on the Gulf Coast of Florida. These are natural fish holding locations. Currents are stronger in passes and inlets as the constricted water is forced through. This results in a natural feeding station for ladyfish and many other species.
Bouncing a lead head jig on the bottom while drifting along with the current will produce ladyfish, pompano, and other species. Specially designed jigs are often used. They have a heavy head and sparser dressing. This allows the jig to get down to the bottom in swift currents. The jig bouncing along on a sandy bottom closely imitates a fleeing crab or shrimp.
This is very easy fishing that can be quite productive. It is an excellent method to use for inexperienced anglers. No casting is required. All and angler needs to do is drop the lure down to the bottom, engage the reel, and sharply twitch the rod tip as the boat drifts along. Anglers can tip the jig with a piece of shrimp or even fish with a live shrimp on a bear jig head as well.
At times, anglers will see fish feeding violently on the surface. This is often referred to by anglers as “breaking fish”. Most often, these are ladyfish, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel. This is exciting fishing as just about any lure or bait cast into the fray will draw strike.
Fishing for ladyfish in the Gulf and Atlantic
Anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida will often find them in the inshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Shallow bars at the mouths of most passes and inlets are prime spots to find these feisty game fish. Jigs cast onto the bar and then bounced off into deeper water will often prove productive.
Just as in fishing the passes and inlets, ladyfish will often be seen feeding on the surface in these inshore waters. The boat is eased into casting position, preferably upwind of the feeding fish. Baits can then be cast into the surface action. Silver spoons are excellent for this type of fishing as they can be cast a long way and have a terrific erratic action.
Best lures for catching ladyfish
Anglers drifting the grass flats do well casting artificial lures. As mentioned earlier, ladyfish can be quite aggressive. They respond well to fast-moving and flashy baits. The number one artificial lure in the inshore waters of Florida is the jig and grub combination. This is a lure that has proven to be very effective for a wide variety of species.
Jigs are both productive and cost-effective. The jig head is a hook with a piece of lead molded near the eye. This weight provides both casting weight and gives the bait its jigging action. Jig heads come in a variety of sizes and shapes. For most anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida, one quarter ounce jig heads are a good all-around size.
The jig head is then adored with some type of plastic tail. Again, these grubs come in a wide variety of styles, shapes, and colors. Most either imitate a bait fish or a crustacean. 3 inch to 4 inch grubs work very well. Shad tail baits have a great swimming action while paddle tail baits flutter seductively in the water column.
Other ladyfish lures
While jigs are the most popular artificial lures for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida, there are other productive baits as well. Silver spoons are very effective lures for ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish, and trout. Spoons can be cast a long distance. This can be an advantage when fast-moving schools of fish are seen breaking on the surface. Spoons can also be trolled effectively to help locate fish.
Plugs are another effective lure anglers use on the deep grass flats. They can be either cast or trolled quite effectively. One disadvantage to using plugs is the fact that most come with treble hooks. Since the vast majority of ladyfish caught by anglers will be released, this can be a problem for both fish mortality and angler safety.
Using live bait to catch ladyfish
Anglers who prefer fishing with live bait have a couple of choices. Shrimp and bait fish are the two most popular live baits for anglers fishing for ladyfish in Florida. Live shrimp are easy to procure and keep alive. They are very versatile and will catch ladyfish and just about every other saltwater species that swims. Bait fish can be very effective, though are a bit more complicated to catch and use.
Live shrimp are very productive
Live shrimp are extremely productive! Just about every saltwater species that swims will devour a live shrimp. Anglers drifting the flats do well hooking a shrimp just behind the eyes. It is important to avoid the dark spot, which is the shrimp’s brain. Putting a hook through this spot will kill it instantly. The shrimp can then be free lined behind the boat in deeper water or fished under a cork in shallower water.
Anglers fishing in deeper water such as passes and inlets often times use a live shrimp on a jig head. The jig head provides both the hook and the weight in one tidy unit. The shrimp is hooked just behind the eyes up from the bottom. This results in the jig bouncing on the bottom and the shrimp naturally walking behind.
Shrimp produce ladyfish and many other species for angler surf fishing as well. On the Gulf Coast, most fish are found in the first trough, not very far from shore. In this situation, a hook with a split shot or two is plenty. Angler surf fishing off of the East Coast often encounter rougher conditions. This will require heavier weights and more conventional surf casting rigs.
Live bait fish
While most anglers using live bait while fishing for ladyfish in Florida prefer shrimp, live bait fish can certainly produce as well. Small shiny fish such as sardines and threadfin herring are the top live bait fish. Smaller pin fish and grunts can be used as well. In most instances, the bait fish is hooked through the lips or nose in order to keep it nice and lively
Chumming with live bait fish is an extremely productive technique used by anglers in the warmer months. Bait fish are plentiful and hundreds of them are caught by anglers throwing a cast net once the well is fall, the boat is anchored in a likely spot. Handfuls of live bait fish are then tossed out behind the boat. If ladyfish and other game fish are nearby, it won’t take long before they show up in the chum. Hooked baits are then cast out in action is practically guaranteed.
Ladyfish make great bait
Ladyfish are used by many anglers as bait. They are a shiny, oily fish in the scales come off quite easily. This makes them great candidates for cut bait. Both inshore anglers in offshore anglers use cut ladyfish successfully. Using chunks of ladyfish under a cork near mangrove shorelines has become a popular way to catch redfish.
Chunks of ladyfish work very well for sharks as well. Smaller sharks in the 15 pound to 40 pound range are great fun and sport on fairly light tackle. They are often found in shallow water, which adds to the fun. The boat is anchored up current of a likely flat. Several chunks of ladyfish are put out on larger hooks with wire leaders. They can be free line or put out under a cork.
Serious anglers will use live ladyfish for bait as well. Primarily, anglers doing so are fishing for tarpon and will giant snook. There are certain times of year one tarpon will move into the base and feed on ladyfish. During these times, a ladyfish hooked under the dorsal fin and fished under a float will result in a giant tarpon. Snook fisherman will free line ladyfish around bridges at night.
In conclusion, this article on fishing for ladyfish in Florida will help anglers catch more of these hard fighting and underrated game fish!