How to Catch Catfish, a Comprehensive Guide

How to Catch Catfish, a comprehensive guide to catching the top 3 catfish species

“How to Catch Catfish” is a comprehensive guide. It will cover all aspects of catching catfish, including tackle, baits, techniques, species, and locations.

Catfish are growing in popularity as a game fish in North America every year. There are several reasons for this. Catfish are widely distributed and are available to most anglers in the United States. Catfish grow very large, up to and over 100 pounds. They are fairly reliable in terms of behavior and habitat and not overly difficult to hook. Catfish put up a great battle. Finally, they are fantastic eating!

fishing for catfish

Three different catfish species dominate lakes, rivers, and streams in North America. These are the channel catfish, blue catfish and hardhead or yellow catfish. At least one species is available in every state throughout the lower 48. While there are many other species of Bullhead that are fun to catch and quite tasty, this article will focus on the larger catfish species that are regarded as game fish.

While catfish are taken occasionally by anglers using artificial lures, the vast majority of catfish are caught by anglers using live, natural, or prepared baits. Catfish have a keen sense of smell and use their barbells to help locate food. Catfish are opportunistic feeders, however they have had a bad reputation in the past for feeding indiscriminately on anything that they find.

fishing for freshwater catfish

The truth is that catfish are apex predators. In most instances, they prefer live prey. This is especially true with blue catfish and flathead catfish. One element that does make catfish so successful is the fact that they are very adaptable in their diet. They will feed on insects, worms, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, and other fish.

How to catch catfish; tackle

Tackle for catfish varies depending on the size of the fish being targeted. For most serious catfish anglers, medium heavy conventional tackle is the best choice. Landing a large blue catfish or flathead catfish near heavy cover will requires some stout tackle. A 7 foot medium heavy rod with a matching conventional reel spooled up with 40-60 pound braided line is a good all-around combination.

Click on the link to purchase this recommended conventional outfit.

fishing for catfish

Spinning tackle can certainly be used, especially for anglers targeting smaller channel catfish. 7 foot to 8 foot spinning rods matched with 4000 series reels spooled up with 25 pound braided line work well in multiple applications when targeting catfish. This outfit is light enough to enjoy the fight of a 5 pound channel cat while still giving an angler a chance should they hook a trophy catfish. Below is a nice outfit at a reasonable price. Click the link to purchase this spinning outfit.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon”

Catfish rigs

For the most part, catfish are bottom feeders. They are built to cruise along on the bottom and forage for food. Therefore, anglers targeting catfish do well to present their baits on the bottom. Anglers can use different types of sinkers and different rigs to present their baits naturally and effectively on the bottom. Experienced anglers do their rigging at home before the fishing trip. They then use special boxes to keep them neat and ready to go when needed.

catfish rigs and leaders


Leaders rigged and ready to go!

Probably the most commonly used an effective rig is a sliding sinker rig or “Carolina rig”. This rig employs a sinker with a hole in the center. A swivel is tied onto the end of the running line. A leader is then used between the swivel and the hook. This allows the bait to move naturally in the current. It also lets the catfish pick up the bait and move off a bit without feeling the resistance of the sinker.

catfish leaders

Top rig: sliding sinker rig with no-roll sinker Bottom rig; sliding sinker rig with float and rattle

The other commonly used rig is a “spreader” rig, also known as a “chicken rig” in the South. This rig suspends baits up off the bottom. Where legal, multiple hooks can be used to cover the bottom few feet of the water column. Most anglers using a spreader rig use a bank sinker.

fishing for catfish

Catfish sinkers

Anglers have a couple of choices when it comes to sinkers when using sliding sinker rigs. Egg sinkers have been used for many years and still work fine. However, no-roll and coin sinkers have gained in popularity of late. These sinkers lie flat on the bottom. They tend to result in less line twist and snags.

Sinker slides are a clever little device that allow anglers to change sinker size quickly and easily. It is a small plastic tube that slides on the main running line. It has a clip where the sinker can be added. This makes changing sinker weight to match the current conditions quite simple.

whisker bomb

Whisker bomb, used for precise bait placement

Sinker weight will be determined by several factors, primarily water depth and current speed. The general rule is to use the minimum amount of weight required for the bait to reach and hold bottom. As current strength and depth of water changes, so will the required weight. Of course, anglers casting out from the bank will add distance needed to the list of fishing sinker requirements.

Leaders and hooks for catfish

Leader strength and hook size will depend on the size of the bait being used and the size of the fish being targeted. An 18 inch long leader is a good all-around choice, though anglers can go longer or shorter depending on the circumstances. Shorter leaders work better and heavy current and around structure such as fallen trees. Some anglers prefer to use a longer leader, up to 5 feet long, and at a small float near the end to lift the bait up off the bottom.

fishing for catfish

Hooks come in a myriad of sizes, strength, and designs. The two most commonly used hook types are “J” hooks and circle hooks. “J” hooks have been around a long time and are your basic stout short shank live bait hooks. Circle hooks have become more popular of late. There is evidence to show that circle hooks result in more fish being hooked in the mouth, reducing catfish mortality.

A #1/0 or #2/0 short shank live bait hook or a #5/0 circle hook are good choices for anglers targeting channel catfish and using smaller baits such as nightcrawlers. A larger #5/0 live bait hook or #8/0 circle hook is a better choice for anglers targeting larger fish with larger baits. It is a tad confusing, but sizing for “J” hooks and circle hooks is a bit different.

Advanced catfish bottom rigs

While the simple slider and spreader rigs catch plenty of catfish, experienced anglers and those fishing tournaments have a few extra tricks to enhance their presentation. A Whisker Bomb is used when precise bait placement is desired. The weight right at the hook eliminates the bait swinging back on a leader.

catfish fishing rigs

Other devices can be placed inline between the hook and the swivel. These add flash and action and float the bait up off of the bottom. Demon Dragon and Whisker Wobbler are two examples of this. Leader lengths vary to get the bait up off of the bottom the desired amount.

How to catch catfish, best catfish baits

As previously mentioned, catfish have a varied diet. This ability to adapt to a number of forage sources is a key element in their prolific numbers. Catfish baits can be broken down into several categories; live bait, cut bait, and prepared baits. Many different baits are effective and productive when targeting catfish. Most anglers try to have several different baits as every day is different and one bait may prove to be more productive than another on a given day.

Live baits for catfish

Catfish bait

Nightcrawlers are very productive live bait for catfish and just about every other freshwater species. They are easily obtained at bait shops and even larger retail stores. They are easy to keep alive as long as they are kept in a cool place. Nightcrawlers are generally threaded on and hooked through the body several times. This allows the juices to leech out into the water, helping to attract the catfish.

Live bait fish are very effective and are the baits of choice for anglers targeting trophy catfish. While channel cats will take a large live bait, more often than not a large blue catfish or flathead catfish will be the target. Commercially raised minnows can be bought at bait shops. However, most serious trophy catfish anglers catch their own creek chubs or suckers and use those as bait. It is important to check local regulations to make sure that local laws are being obeyed.

catfish bait

Crawfish are another fantastic live bait for catfish. This is especially true for channel catfish, which are often found in flowing streams and small rivers. They are generally hooked through the tail and drifted naturally with the current. Crawfish can be purchased occasionally, but most are caught by anglers using traps. Small frogs, salamanders, and tadpoles are other effective live baits.

Using cut bait for catfish

Just about any fish that is an effective live bait can be just as effective when used as a cut bait. Suckers and chub minnows are prime examples. Many anglers prefer oily fish such as shad and herring. In the south, mullet are a popular cut bait for anglers targeting catfish. Again, anglers should check local regulations to ensure that the laws are being followed.

While frozen bait can be used, in most instances fresh dead bait is the best choice. This usually requires anglers to catch their own, though sometimes bait is available at local shops. Once acquired, the bait fish is either cut into strips or chunks. Both approaches are effective, it is mostly a matter of angler preference.

catfish fishing

Anglers can also acquire catfish bait at the grocery store. Liver is an excellent catfish bait! Chicken livers work well, but pork liver stays on the hook a bit better. Is a very inexpensive bait. Shrimp are a bit more expensive, but are another excellent catfish bait. Ivory soap is an old-school catfish bait!

Prepared catfish baits

There are also commercially prepared catfish baits on the market. In days past, these were referred to as “stink baits”. That nickname was well earned as some of these baits smell awful! They are messy, though effective. There are different methods used to present these baits.

One great alternative is to use Catfish Bubblegum. This is a product developed by fishing ladies catfish expert Rachelle (AKA Guppy) and her husband. It has a long shelf life, is easy to use, stays on the hook well, does not smell, and most importantly, catches fish! All pink, no stink is their motto.

catfish bubblegum

Dough balls are an age-old catfish bait. Recipes for dough balls are closely guarded secrets among catfish anglers. Most consist of flour, water, and some type of scent, with anise oil being a top choice. Dough balls are effective, but do not stay on the hook as long as some other baits.

Top catfish species

While all three catfish species, channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish are similar, there are enough differences in location and feeding habits to cover all three separately.

Channel catfish

Channel catfish are by far the most widely distributed of the three catfish species. They are found throughout the United States and Canada. Channel catfish can tolerate a wide range of environments. Their ideal waters are large creeks, small to midsize rivers, and ponds and small lakes. Channel catfish average around 3 pounds with the current world record being 58 pounds. This fish was caught in Santee-Cooper reservoir in South Carolina.

fishing for channel catfish

Channel catfish are fairly easy to distinguish from blue catfish and flathead catfish. They have a deeply forked tail, similar to a blue catfish. However, the coloring is quite different. Channel catfish are a slate gray to olive in color with a white underbelly. Black spots are normally present, except in the largest specimens. Channel catfish also have a protruding upper jaw.

Like most fish, channel catfish spawn in the springtime. They prefer water temperature of around 75 degrees. Nests are made by the male fish in in some type of structure. Rocks, rip rap, fallen timber, and undercut banks are prime spots. Once the eggs are laid, the male guards the nest.

channel catfish fishing

Juvenile channel catfish feed mostly on insects. As they grow, their diet becomes very diverse. This is certainly one of the keys to the success of the species. They will feed on just about any live prey that they run across. They are also not above scavenging off the bottom.

Blue catfish

Blue catfish are normally found in larger river systems and lakes. Large river systems in the middle of the country such as the Ohio River, Missouri River, and Mississippi River all have good populations of blue catfish. They have been successfully stocked all over North America, offering anglers the chance to catch a true trophy fish.

fishing for blue catfish

Blue catfish are apex predators. They are very large and consume considerable amounts of prey. They are actually considered to be a problem in some areas, particularly the Rappahannock River in Virginia, where they are displacing native species. Blue catfish are commonly caught to 25 pounds but can easily exceed 100 pounds. The world record blue catfish is a 143 pound beast that was caught in Buggs Island Reservoir.

Blue catfish have a forked tail. Smaller fish can be confused with channel catfish. However, blue catfish do not have spots. Like channel catfish, most anglers consider them both a predator and a scavenger. Mature blue catfish do feed primarily on bait fish. Blue catfish spawn and similar areas to channel catfish. They often times live to be 30 years old.

fishing for blue catfish

A large blue catfish will put up a terrific battle. Anglers targeting a trophy fish will need to use fairly heavy gear. Most trophy blue catfish are caught by anglers using bait fish. A large live bait fish will not draw many strikes, but will attract larger fish. Fresh cut bait is extremely effective as well.

Flathead catfish

Flathead catfish also grow quite large, with the world record being 123 pounds. It was caught in the Elk City Reservoir in Kansas. They are also known as “yellow catfish”. Flathead catfish are fairly easy to distinguish from blue catfish and channel catfish. Flathead catfish are found in larger river systems throughout the middle part of the country.

fishing for catfish

As their name implies, they have a large, flat head. They are generally light yellow to light brown in color, thus the nickname “yellow catfish”. They also have a protruding lower jaw with a tail that is notched instead of being deeply forked.

Flathead catfish very significantly from blue catfish and channel catfish in their dietary habits. They feed exclusively on live bait fish. They are less opportunistic and do not scavenge on the bottom. Flathead catfish spawn a bit later in the year as well, preferring water temperatures up to 80°.

flathead catfish fishing

Mature flathead catfish are loners. They will stake out a prime ambush spot under a fallen tree, undercut bank, or other heavy structure. Flathead catfish prefer deeper holes and slow-moving water. They will move up into very shallow water at night to feed. While flathead catfish can be taken by anglers using cut bait, large live bait fish are preferred.

Fishing for catfish, locations

Catfish can be caught in a wide variety of environments. They are landed by anglers fishing in the smallest of creeks as well as the largest lakes in the country. Slow-moving, mid-sized rivers are prime habitat. Tailwaters are fantastic spots to target catfish as well.

How to catch catfish in rivers

Rivers are great waters to target catfish. Anglers fishing in rivers have an advantage over those fishing and lakes; there is simply much less water in which to search for fish. Small rivers in particular are excellent spots to target catfish, especially for novice anglers.

Outside bends in rivers are the top spots in most cases. The current flow gouges out and undercut bank as well is a deep hole on the outside bends of river channels. This results in these areas often times being the deepest portions of the river. Additionally, current deposits debris such as fallen trees and other cover which then accumulates in these holes. This is perfect catfish habitat.

fishing for catfish in rivers

Anglers can have great success by simply moving from one outside corner or bend to the next. Generally speaking, the straight portions of rivers tend to be less attractive to fish. There is nothing of interest to hold them, unless there is a significant depth change or other feature that will attract fish.

Larger rivers are a completely different situation. These rivers can be dangerous and angler should always put safety first! Strong currents and eddies along with unseen hazards can create a very dangerous situation. Commercial barge traffic is often present. However, some of the largest catfish in the world are caught in large rivers.

Outside bends are less of an issue in large rivers as they are in small rivers. Catfish will relate more to underwater bars, sunken debris and other structure, holes, ledges, points, bridges, and anything else that will break up the current and give them a good ambush location.

River conditions affect catfish

Conditions are an important factor when river fishing for catfish and other species. Water height and flow will have an impact on fish movements as well as being a safety consideration. During periods of high water, which is often times in the spring, fish will move out of the main river channels to escape the strong current. Sloughs and backwater areas off of the main channel will be better spots to fish. This can also be a dangerous time to be out an angler should be extra careful!

fishing for river catfish

Conversely, during periods of low water catfish will congregate in the deeper areas of rivers. There simply will not be enough water on the shallow bars and flats to hold them. This often occurs in summer when the water is warm. The deeper holes will be cooler, which is another factor that will attract and hold fish.

Bait presentation is important in rivers, whether anglers or fishing from a boat or from shore. In most cases, the best technique is to approach the structure or area to be fished from the up current side. The bait is then presented downstream to the fish, with the bait being placed just ahead of the structure. This will result in the current taking the scent of the bait downstream to the fish and hopefully pulling it out away from the structure. Presenting the bait right in the structure will often result in a snag.

How to catch catfish in lakes

Lakes throughout North America offer anglers excellent opportunities to catch all three major species of catfish. Targeting catfish and large lakes can be overwhelming as there is so much area to be covered. However, lakes often produce the largest catfish. The primary reason for this is simple, forage.

Many lakes, particularly Southern impoundments, are full of shad and herring that were stocked as forage for striped bass. This has resulted in an outstanding environment for catfish to thrive in.

bank fishing

Catfish are similar to other game fish in that they have the same basic needs. They prefer some type of structure that they can relate to. Cover and structure offer fish a feeling of safety along with a spot from which to ambush prey. While catfish are fairly tolerant to a wide range of water temperature, water that is either very warm or very cold will affect their movements and behavior.

The same types of spots that produce striped bass, largemouth bass, and other game fish species will hold catfish as well. These include bends in the sunken river channel, long sloping points, bluff banks, flats, bridges, docks, artificial reefs or fish attractors, the mouths of creeks are rivers entering the lakes, and deeper holes.

Catfish migrations in lakes

Catfish do have a seasonal migration in most lakes. As it warms up in the spring, they move up into the rivers, creeks, and tributaries in order to spawn. Areas with gravel or rocky bottom are prime spots. Once the spawning process is completed, catfish will scatter out into the main lake areas. During summer, catfish will often be found in the deepest portions of the lake, particularly near the dam. This area of the lake is often the deepest, coolest, and will attract the most bait.

As it cools off in the fall, catfish will once again move shallow as the water temperatures drop. Large flats in 10 feet of water to 15 feet of water adjacent to deep channel edges are great spots to try. Tributary mouths along with sloping points are also high percentage catfish spots in the fall. Striped bass often times will be seen schooling on the surface this time of year. Catfish can often times be found under the schools of feeding fish, gorging on the easy scraps.

catfish fishing

Anglers targeting catfish in lakes have one advantage over river anglers; they can put out multiple lines behind the boat and off to the sides in search of fish. Often times, anglers fishing and rivers can only put out a couple of lines due to the current. However, this is not to case and lakes. Depending on local laws, anglers can put out quite a spread and cover a large area of water from a single location. This will help the catfish angler dial in the depth, presentation, and bait that is most effective on that outing.

How to catch catfish in tailwaters

Tailwaters are fantastic spots to fish for catfish as well as just about every other freshwater species. Fish just naturally are attracted to current, and catfish are no exception. Flowing water gives game fish an advantage over bait fish. The water flowing through and/or over a dam can be quite swift. Catfish are well adapted to maneuver in this environment and they will feed heavily on the available forage.

fishing in tailwaters for catfish

Often times, bait fish such as shad, herring, bluegill, and other species can get chopped up going through the turbines of a hydroelectric dam. This provides an easy meal for catfish and other species as they lie in the current at the base of the dam and wait for the buffet to begin.

Boating in tailwaters can be dangerous! Anglers should always heed warnings and never anchor the boat from the stern. In many cases, these areas are accessible from shore. This is an excellent opportunity for anglers without a boat to have the chance to catch a big fish. Any lake or river system that has a decent population of catfish should have excellent fishing in the tail water area below the dam.

In conclusion, this article, “How to catch Catfish, a comprehensive Guide” will help anglers all over North America have more success!









Fishing for River Catfish, Tips and Techniques

Fishing for river catfish, tips and techniques

Many angler associate rivers with catching catfish. This article on fishing for river catfish will explore two of the top catfish rivers in North America. The red River and Ohio Rivers are two very productive catfish rivers.

channel catfish fishing

Red River Catfish Tips

This article shares Red River catfish tips, tackle, and techniques. The Red River is acknowledged as the “channel catfish capital of the world”. While this piece focuses on the Red River, these techniques will produce for anglers targeting catfish anywhere.

The Red River flows north between Minnesota and North Dakota. It empties into Lake Winnepeg in Manitoba. The river offers excellent fishing in the United States, but anglers seeking a trophy channel cat will do well heading to the Manitoba portion of the Red River. The statistics tell the tale; the Red River gives up the majority of trophy catfish in the region. Anglers looking to catch catfish on the Red River can access it at many different points. The Red River is a relatively slow moving river, often muddy. It is perfect channel catfish habitat. There is plenty of access and shore bound anglers can experience success. Boats are nice, but not required.  

fishing for river catfish

Anne is our Fishing Ladies northern catfish contributor. She is a professional tournament angler from Billings, Montana. She has fished the Scheels Boundary Battle on the Red River in Grand Forks North Dakota for the past three years. Anne catches more than her share of trophy cats, along with many other species available to Red River anglers. She is sharing her wealth of knowledge here for you!  

Red River catfish by region

While the entire Red River, both in the United Sates and Canada, can be quite productive, there is a small stretch that makes the river famous. The area from the route 101 Bridge to the Route 4 Bridge in Manitoba offers anglers the opportunity for epic catfish fishing. Though it is a short stretch and it gets a fair amount of fishing pressure, there is plenty of room for visiting anglers to enjoy this unique experience. Fishing in the United States portion of the Red River is excellent for catfish as well. It also offers opportunities for many other species.

fishing for freshwater catfish

Fishing baits and techniques for catfish and this portion of the Red River are pretty much the same as in the Canadian stretch. Anglers can find detailed maps with access points and other fishing information HERE.   There is a dam at the town of Lockport. This is the only obstruction on the Red River. The tailwater stretch of river below the dam is a top spot for catfish anglers. Despite the popularity of this spot, anglers have a great chance to score on a ten pound catfish on a daily basis. Fish to 15 pounds are common and 20 pound cats are caught on a daily basis.

Red River catfish conservation

North Dakota, Minnesota, and Canada have all recognized incredible opportunity this fishery offers and they work together to regulate the size and quantity of fish that are taken on a daily basis. Utilizing a slot limit, the fishing game departments have allowed the fishery to thrive, while still offering the angler a chance to catch the fish of a lifetime!   These groups also work together to tag and monitor the movements of channel catfish through the Red River basin.


Grand Forks guide Brad Durick works with the DNR as well to track and monitor those channel catfish tags. He catches many catfish each year that were tagged in both the United States and Canada. Their research has shown that Channel cats travel much further than previously believed. Brad is a coordinator for the Sheels Boundary Battle tournament. His website is a good source for Red River anglers.

Red River catfish tips; seasons

While the Red River can be productive for much of the year, and recommends the time from May to early June and late July to early October as the prime times to fish Spring can be difficult as a river floods regularly and the fish generally go to spawn in late June. These factors result in more difficult conditions to catch fish. The river is relatively shallow with an average depth of 18 feet. It is also relatively narrow, with a width of 50 to 100 feet in the section that and fishes.

fishing for channel catfish

This is generally the case for much of the Red River in the central portion of the North Dakota and Minnesota border. This is one factor that makes it fairly easy to fish.   Many anglers are mistaken in thinking that catching a catfish is just a matter of putting out some stinky bait and having a beer while waiting for a bite. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, a few fish will be caught this way. However, successful catfish anglers are constantly refining and adjusting their baits and presentations.

River catfish rods and reels

Anglers fishing for river catfish will use two basic outfits. Boating anglers will do well with a 7′ medium heavy conventional rig such as the one listed below. Click on the link to purchase it.

Spinning outfits are more versatile and can be used by anglers fishing from both shore and a boat. Obviously, spinning outfits are much easier to cast. Click on the link to purchase this spinning outfit.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon”

Red River catfish techniques

Red river channel catfish received quite a bit of pressure. They often times do not respond to the standard “stink baits”and prefer a nice juicy chunk of fresh cut sucker or chub minnow. Ann does use Bradley’s Catfish bubblegum, an effective non-stink bait. Anglers can see more about it HERE.

Catfish Bubblegum

A standard catfish rig of a large hook (and uses Hookers Terminal Tackle 8/0-10/0 Mad Catter hooks) on a 12 inch to 18 inch leader. This is attached to the main line with a swivel, and front of which she slides on a no roll sinker. 3 ounce to 5 ounce sinkers work well and most situations.

catfish leaders

Adding a peg float to the leader line will often entice those picky catfish into taking the bait when a normal bottom presentation fails to draw strike. Other tricks include using a Demon Dragon rattle float in place of the peg float. These floats, or line rattles, at a bit of noise and motion that will trigger a reaction bite in the bigger males, especially if used during the spawn, when fish are more difficult to catch.  

Catching Red River catfish from shore

One great thing about the Red River is that anglers without a boat can be just as successful as those with a boat. Access is easy for those fishing from the banks. There are numerous public fishing access sites along the Red River in every major town from Fargo to the Canadian border. A visit to the North Dakota or Minnesota Fish and game websites will give the angler a great idea of where to start.

catfish fishing rigs

In Grand Forks in particular, there is a city managed Greenway through the entire length of the river that offers walking pass, benches along the riverside, and historic markers that indicate significant points of interest. Grand Forks was devastated by Red River floodwaters in 1996. Evidence of the power of the river flood can be seen in many different areas of town and its surroundings.

Red River catfish techniques

Angling techniques are similar for both boating and shore bound anglers. Those fishing from boats will often target cover, especially on the outside bends in the river. These areas are naturally deeper and the debris offers protection from the high, fast-moving water. The best approach is to anchor up current from the area that is going to be fished and cast down into the snag or hold being targeted Water level and the corresponding current flow will dictate where the fish will stage up. When the water is high, fast, and dirty, catfish will seek refuge from the current. Sloughs and eddies will be the best spots. The catfish can sit in a good ambush spot without expending a lot of energy.

whisker bomb

Also, anglers will find it much easier fishing these spots when the current is fast. Conversely, low water will concentrate the fish in the deeper areas of the river. This is a great time to target these big catfish as there is simply less area in which to look for them. Deeper holes on the outside bends are prime spots to set up during periods of low water. Low water often coincides with warmer water temperatures. Catfish are generally more active during the night during this time. Areas with cooler water will provide daytime action. The shady side of the river with overhanging brush can be a good spot to try.

Additional Red River species

While channel catfish get a majority of the attention, the Red River offers visiting anglers the opportunity to catch several other species as well. The fall walleye run can be legendary as fish to ten pounds are taken regularly. The mighty sturgeon may intercept your offering meant for a catfish. Bullhead, burbot, carp, freshwater drum, goldeye, northern pike, rock bass, sauger, and white bass are also available.

Ohio catfish fishing tips with Joanna

This article will share some great Ohio catfish fishing tips. Catfish are a very popular freshwater species and are growing in popularity all over the country.

Catfish are a warm water freshwater species that are abundant in the state of Ohio and throughout the country. They are being targeted more than ever before. Tournaments for catfish are becoming more common. Channel catfish, Flathead catfish, and blue catfish are the most commonly caught catfish species in the United States. Catfish thrive in both Ohio lakes and rivers.

flathead catfish fishing

Joanna Rafeld is our Fishing Ladies Ohio catfish expert. She was born in Canton, Ohio and has lived there her entire life. Joanna knows these waters well. She is a VERY enthusiastic catfish angler! This is her story;

I’m 31 years old born and raised in Ohio. I am divorced and have 4 children. During my divorce, I started nursing school after being a Phlebotomist for 8 years and I have been a Registered Nurse for 5 years. I began fishing with my dad and grandpa before I can remember and most of my fondest childhood memories involved an old pontoon on the lake just about every weekend. Memories include sleeping on the boat and hearing the bell on my dads fishing pole start ringing and the boat simultaneously would start rocking under me as he ran for his rod.

Targeting trophy catfish

During my divorce I began fishing more often and started learning my own techniques of how to be a successful fisherman. Once, I read a quote that said “Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.” Being by the water and fishing, whether catching fish or not, is the most relaxing, and often rewarding, places I have found. I started catching Ohio catfish about 6 years ago, mainly channel cats in ponds or lakes in the Muskingum Watershed.

fishing for catfish in rivers

I recently began targeting trophy flathead catfish and tournament catfishing about 3 years ago. Currently, I am a sponsored angler by Reddi Bait located in Bridgewater, PA, Anvil Rods, and Beaver Marine in Magnolia, Ohio. River fishing is my favorite, though I do fish in lakes as well. I am strictly catch and release and am an advocate for large catfish conservation.”

After our spring fishing season kicks off in Ohio I keep my rods, cast net and a bucket in my minivan. I do this in case I see a new bait hole or have a few minutes to throw a line out. Most of my friends call me crazy and don’t understand why I love catching Ohio catfish so much. Being a female angler can be controversial at times. I’ve found many fishermen don’t take women that enjoy fishing seriously.”

More women seeking catfish

Meanwhile, the female fisherman that spends hours upon hours catching bait, rigging rods, and catching record sized fish is overlooked because she is in a hoodie and thermal pants. I think more women would love the sport of fishing if we removed the stigma of what a “fisherman” is to most. Hopefully, with the recent increase in publicity of lady angling, the number of female fisherman will go up as well.

fishing for blue catfish

I take my kids to catch bait with me most days and we camp and fish often during the summer. I hope I am creating the memories that I was fortunate to have as a child. Catching Ohio catfish is not only my hobby but it is my passion and I enjoy sharing it with my family and friends. There is nothing I love more than watching someone reel in a new personal best fish. I personally prefer the quality over quantity of catfishing.

I generally use large live bait, and would much rather catch one 50lb flathead instead of twenty small channel cats in one night. Sometimes, that doesn’t work in my favor and I may not catch anything by using large baits and waiting on that new state record flathead to bury my rod, and I’m okay with that.

Ohio Catfish tackle

I prefer 7’-6” medium/heavy graphite casting rod with 65lb braid and a 12-16in 30lb monofilament leader. Anvil Rods and Lews baitcaster reels have worked well for me. I also use sinker slides, swivel, and coin sinkers varying in weight from 2-10oz on my rigs depending on the conditions and type of water that I am fishing. I use 8-10/0 Offset circle hooks for flathead and 5-8/0 circle hooks for channel cats. On occasion I will use a rattle or peg float depending on what the fish are looking for that day.

bank fishing

Baitcasters can be tricky and some anglers prefer to use spinning reels. They are easier to cast long distances than conventional and you don’t have the possibility of backlash and bird nesting your reel, which can take hours to correct. An 8′ medium/heavy action rod, 4000 to 5000 series reel spooled up with 50 lb braid is a good all-round spinning outfit for catching Ohio catfish.

Fresh bait is the best for catching catfish

I use a cast net to catch my fresh live bait which is primarily suckers, shad, and creek chubs. Different times of year the fish prefer live bait over frozen or cut bait and vice versa. My personal favorite bait is a live 8-10 inch sucker. Throwing a cast net takes a lot of practice and a lot of nets. Reddi Bait in Bridgewater, PA can handle the bait for you if you’re short on time or unable to throw a cast net. They carry live bait as well as frozen shad and skipjack and all of the terminal tackle you need for catfishing.

Catfish bait

If you can’t make it to Reddi Bait, live nightcrawlers, shrimp, hotdogs, and chicken livers can be found just about anywhere and should produce channel catfish. There are many baits available in stores and even new products are coming out everyday. Catfish Bubblegum is a new product that is the first “all pink, no stink” catfish bait. It appears easy to use and has no smell like most “stink baits”.

River catfish vs lake catfish

While catfish are found in both rivers and lake environments, tactics are a bit different. River catfish will use current to their advantage. They will hold in eddies, holes, and around wood. Lake catfish relate more to rock structure. Successful catfish anglers should understand the differences in order to catch the trophy fish we are all looking for.

River catfish tactics in Ohio

A few differences between lake and river fishing in Ohio that I’ve found is that in a river you generally battle strong current, heavy debris, barge traffic, and other large species possibly taking your bait. But, with the unpredictability of the river also comes great reward. You can catch multiple trophy flathead catfish in one night opposed to on the lake you may sit for 12 hours and catch one fish, or none.

river catfish

River conditions have a huge influence on catfish productivity. When the water is high, fast, and full of debris, fishing can be tough. Catfish will seek out protected water such as eddies and tributaries when the river is raging. Rivers can also be very dangerous under these conditions. If fishing the river in less than ideal weather be sure to have a boat and anchors that can hold in the fast current and always wear a life jacket. Before fishing on the Ohio River you should also become familiar with barges and the dangers of fishing in the barge channel or around barges that aren’t in use.

Conversely, when the water is low, fish typically congregate in the deeper holes and channels. The Ohio river has many tributaries and large catfish often use them to feed. Catfish anglers use the river current in our favor and will hard anchor and cast off the back of the boat which lets the current carry the scent of your bait, luring catfish towards you.

Under normal river conditions, catfish will hold in several locations. Outside bends in the river are prime spots, especially if cover is present. Other productive spots in rivers are the heads and tails of holes or ledges, creek mouths, barges, and sunken structure.

Fishing for catfish in Ohio lakes

When lake fishing in Ohio there is a thermocline. A thermocline is like an invisible line between the warmer water at the surface and the cooler deep water below. Lakes endure seasonal water temperature changes and when water temperatures rises in early summer, so does the density between that surface layer and the deeper layers.

fishing for catfish

The surface water gets hot and forms a thermal energy which opposes wind energy and when this happens the water doesn’t mix very far down. The warm top layer has good oxygen, and little temperature change. While below that layer is colder water with poor oxygen levels. On the cusp of that is what they consider the thermocline.

Catfish will lay right at the thermocline and feed during the day sometimes going below to cool off but never for very long. To work with the thermocline to catch catfish you would want to suspend your bait just above the temperature drop. If your bait goes below the thermocline it will inevitably die due to lack of oxygen.

Ohio catfish fishing tips; Thermocline fishing

If you have a depth finder you can visibly see the thermocline and can adjust your floats to ensure you stay above the thermocline. If you don’t have a depth finder or are fishing from the bank it might take a little trial and error before figuring out where that thermocline is. I suggest staggering your baits so you have some variability and whether they’re above, below, or on the edge of the thermocline you will find them. The thermocline can be tricky and frustrating but very rewarding during the dog days of summer.

Our state record Flathead was caught out of a Muskingum Watershed lake and we typically see much larger fish in lakes opposed to rivers here. Early spring flatheads are found mostly in shallow back waters. Pre-Spawn and Post spawn they can still be caught in slack shallow water but are primarily targeted near heavy structure, deep holes, ledges, or wood.

Catfish anglers seeking numbers of fish in lakes as opposed to a trophy should change tactics just a bit. Hook sizes can be dropped down to a 3/0-5/0. The top baits when seeking numbers of channel catfish in the lake are shrimp, hotdogs, and night crawlers. Some people can even use crappie jigs to jig catfish! I’ve never personally done that but have seen it work for some.

Ohio Catfish species

While the three catfish species are similar, they do have different habits and diets.

Flathead catfish

Flathead catfish are the only catfish of these three species that doesn’t have a forked tail it is slightly notched. Their bottom jaw protrudes out like an “under bite”. They vary in color but are generally a brownish yellow mottled color. They have a “flat head” and can be referred to as shovel head or yellow cat. Like most catfish, they are a bottom dwelling fish. They are a predatory fish and will sometime stalk their prey before eating it, as a general rule they prefer live bait. They can be finicky eaters and mostly feed in shallow waters at night but during the day they travel to deeper water and hide among structure. Popular baits include shad, suckers, blue gill, goldfish, mooneye, skipjack, and crappie.

Blue catfish

Blue catfish have a forked tail and protruding upper jaw. They are a blue color varying in shades of gray and even white. They are often confused with channels but Blues do not have speckles or spots like the channel and they have a straight anal fin. Blues also grow to over 100lbs. They are found mostly in rivers or large lakes or reservoirs they can be found over rocks, sand or wood piles. Blues are considered opportunistic feeders they primarily eat live or fresh cut shad or other fish.

Channel catfish

Channels also have a deep forked tail and have a protruding upper jaw. They vary in color but are often a grey/brown colors and some have speckles or black spots. Their bellies are usually white or silvery and they have a curved anal fin. Channels are not picky eaters and are actually omnivorous. They are the smallest and easiest of these 3 species to catch. They are also bottom dwellers and typically are found in rock piles, log jams, and seaweed. Channels will eat smaller cut baits like shad, suckers, bluegill, but also eat insects, worms, crawfish, hotdogs, stink baits, even some plants.

Catfish pressure

Many very popular catfish rivers get a lot of pressure. The popularity of catching catfish is exploding. Regulations need to keep pace with the demand. This is especially true with the trophy fish in each lake or river system. Those big fish are crucial to the fishery., it is important to release them and if desired, keep a couple small ones for dinner. They are much better to eat anyway.

The Red River on the North Dakota/Minnesota border and into Canada is a prime example of a trophy catfish fishery that is highly managed and remains incredibly productive.

I would really like to emphasize that I catch, picture and release or “CPR” all of my fish. I do not discourage harvesting fish to provide meals for yourself or family. 2-6lb catfish are the ideal size for “eater fish”. Anything larger than that will be tough, gamey, and an undesirable flavor. It takes many years for catfish to reach “trophy”  size.

There has been a rise in the paylake industry over the years which has proven to be detrimental to the catfish population in our rivers. Across the country commercial fishermen are using gill nets, trot lines, and whatever means necessary to remove trophy flatheads and blues from our rivers and sell them to paylakes. Big fish need big water to thrive and paylakes are a fishbowl compared to the miles of rivers these fish have lived in for 20-30 years.

Problems with catfish pay lakes

Some paylakes admit to using excessive amounts of copper sulfate to burn the gills of the catfish to make them more aggressive and send them into a feeding frenzy. These fish are then caught over and over and over until they die which is not long after their arrival. I encourage everyone to research paylakes. Anglers need to stand with myself and fellow fishermen to help increase the regulations for commercial fishing trophy catfish in our rivers.

I want to help educate people on the importance of preserving these big fish. Without CPR and new regulations regarding paylakes and commercial fishing for large catfish, I fear that my children will never get to catch the magnificent fish that we see today.

In conclusion, this article on fishing for river catfish will help you catch some trophy catfish!




Spotted Sea Trout Fishing, Tips to Succeed

Spotted Sea Trout Fishing, Tips to Succeed

This article on spotted sea trout fishing tips will help anglers catch more of these popular inshore saltwater fish.

Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, are plentiful in the inshore waters of the southeastern United States. They are arguably the most popular saltwater inshore game fish species. Spotted sea trout range from Maryland down the East Coast and along the entire Gulf of Mexico. Trout are a beautiful fish that strikes hard, hits artificial lures readily, are usually cooperative, and are terrific eating! What more could an angler ask for?

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.

Sarasota family fishing charters

There are quite a few different areas that provide excellent fishing for spotted sea trout. However, the prime areas for both numbers and trophy fish are the bays and flats all along the Gulf Coast. The waters from the Ten Thousand Islands in southwest Florida north and around the coastline to Texas provide perfect habitat for these fish. The abundance of shallow water flats with grass and oyster bottom are perfect for sea trout to flourish.

Spotted sea trout can be caught on a wide variety of artificial lures and live bait. The top live baits are shrimp and small bait fish such as pinfish, grunts, mullet, croakers, and herring. The jig and grub combo is the most popular artificial lure. Plugs also catch plenty of spotted sea trout. Spoons are another effective lure. Anglers fly fishing catch plenty of spotted sea trout as well.

Sarasota jig fishing

18 Spotted Sea Trout Fishing Tips

Following is a list of 18 useful tips on fishing for spotted sea trout. These tips will help anglers understand the local migrations, tips, and tackle that are effective for catching fish.

1)  Grass flats hold spotted sea trout

Anglers targeting spotted sea trout will do well to find grass. Submerged grass flats are the prime fish holding habitat for speckled trout. The shallow grass holds bait fish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. This is the main forage for spotted sea trout and other saltwater species. Grass grows in Florida in water up to ten feet deep. Trout will be found at any depth, with the fish being deeper in the cooler and warmer months.

best Sarasota fishing charter

2)  Trophy trout are found in shallow water

It sounds like a paradox, but the largest fish are often found in the shallowest water. Large spotted sea trout are often times loners. They abandoned the sanctuary of the large schools to strike it out on their own. Once they reach 20 inches in size or so, they have very few predators. Dolphin, sharks, large birds, and large predator fish are there only true enemies at this point. Therefore, they are more comfortable in shallower water than are the smaller trout. Large schools of smaller trout, between 12″ and 16″, are often found in deeper water on the flats.

plug fishing Sarasota

3)  Spotted sea trout love shrimp

Shrimp are the primary forage for spotted sea trout for most of their lives. This can be said for many other saltwater species as well. Shrimp are abundant on the flats throughout the southeastern United States. They are rich in protein and are relatively easy prey. Anglers targeting spotted sea trout will do well using live shrimp or artificial lures that imitate shrimp. Many lures including jigs are designed to mimic the erratic motion of a fleeing shrimp. They definitely trigger strikes!

top 8 Sarasota fish species

4)  Large baits will catch trophy fish

As trout grow, they gradually switch their diet from shrimp and crustaceans to large bait fish. Ever the opportunist, large trout will rarely turn down a nice juicy shrimp. However, larger bait fish such as grunts, mullet, croakers, and pin fish become more important parts of their diet. Larger trout will have to feed less often if they can find more substantial meals. Anglers targeting trophy trout will do well using larger hard body plugs, soft plastic jerk baits, and live bait fish. Topwater plugs in particular tend to fool larger spotted sea trout.

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5)  Popping corks produce a lot of trout

It would be easy to make the argument that more speckled trout have been caught by anglers using a live shrimp under a popping cork than all other methods put together. Popping corks are an incredibly effective technique for trout and other species. It consists of a noisy float, or cork, which makes a popping sound when twitched on the surface. This simulates fish feeding and attracts game fish to the noise. Some corks simply slide onto the line while others require a leader from the cork to the hook.

Once drawn to the sound of the popping cork, the helpless shrimp just dangling there will usually draw a strike. Anglers will it just the float depth so that the shrimp suspense just above the submerge grass or bottom. Other baits besides live shrimp can be used as well. Many anglers of late have switched to using artificial lures, especially soft plastic baits, under the cork. A small live bait fish can be used as well.

guide to inshore fishing

6)  Spotted sea trout love the jig and grub combo

The combination of a lead head jig and a soft plastic grub body is without a doubt the number one spotted sea trout artificial lure. Size requirements will vary, however a 1/4 ounce jig with a 3 inch to 4 inch grub is an excellent all-around bait. Anglers can choose a tail that resembles the available forage.

Soft plastic tails can imitate crabs, shrimp, and bait fish. Shad tail and twister tail bates have a lot of built in action. Paddle tail and shrimp tail lures require more of a twitch from the angler. Dark colors work well in darker waters. Light colors perform best in clear water. Bright colors such as pink and chartreuse will stand out in dirty water.

spotted sea trout fishing

7)  Spotted sea trout will bite at night

Lighted docks and bridges will attract shrimp and glass minnows at night. This in turn will attract spotted sea trout and other predator fish. They will lurk in the shadows just outside the light, waiting to pounce on their prey. Strong outgoing tides are preferred. The best approach is to anchor up current and 45° from the light or shadow line. Anglers then cast upstream ahead of the light and allow the current to take the lure or bait to the fish. Most bites will occur in the transition area where the shadow line is.

8)  Oyster bars attract spotted sea trout

While many anglers focus on grass beds, and rightfully so, oyster bars are fantastic spots for speckled trout fishing. The best bars will be shallow on one side while dropping off to several feet of water on the other. Most fish will be caught on the deeper edge as the trout cruise in search of food. Low, incoming tides are best as it will concentrate fish in the deeper areas. Spotted sea trout caught near oyster bars are often loners, and larger, fish.

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9)  Winter spotted sea trout will seek deep water

Spotted sea trout will school up in big numbers in holes in channels in the wintertime. Water temperatures that drop down into the low 50s will send spotted sea trout scurrying for warmer water. This can be the channel of the Intracoastal Waterway, deeper residential canals, holes in the flats, and outside bends and rivers. Passes and inlets will also hold winter trout. A free lined live shrimp is tough to beat. Jigs bounced on the bottom will produce fish as well. Anglers locating such as school can experience incredible, nonstop action!

10)  Release tools for spotted sea trout fishing

Anglers targeting spotted sea trout should always have a release tool on board. These are clever little devices with a “j” at the end of them. They allow the angler to slide the tool down and grab the hook, then simply shake the trout off. This is best for the fish as the angler never actually has to put his or her hands on the fish. Spotted sea trout are a bit delicate and need to be handled gently.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

11)  High tides and top water plugs equal trophy spotted sea trout

Topwater plugs fished over oyster bars and shallow flats on the high tide stage will draw strikes from some large spotted sea trout. This is particularly true early and late in the day or on days where there is cloud cover present. As mentioned earlier, larger speckled trout target larger bait fish. A large top water plug realistically mimics a wounded mullet. This is one of the spotted sea trout’s favorite prey.

Top saltwater species in Florida

12)  Tides are important when spotted trout fishing

Like most aspects of saltwater fishing, tides are very important when it comes to targeting spotted sea trout. Many anglers fishing the flats prefer two hours before and after the high tide. Outgoing tides are generally more productive when fishing tidal creeks as well as passes and inlets. Extreme low tides and winter will concentrate trout in holes. However, as long as the water is moving, fish can be located and caught someplace.

Spotted sea trout fishing tips

13)  Plugs are effective baits for spotted sea trout

Plugs are not only effective, they are a lot of fun to fish. They tend to entice larger fish than do jigs and other lures. Top water plugs are great early and late in the day. Shallow diving plugs have an erratic action and are excellent for casting to oyster bars and shorelines. Suspending twitch plugs are deadly when fished over the deeper grass flats. Anglers do need to be mindful of the treble hooks.

chumming with live bait

14)  Live bait fish are terrific for catching spotted sea trout

Live bait fish catch both numbers and quality spotted sea trout. Scaled sardines are very effective in the warmer months. Both grunts, also known as pig fish, and croaker are extremely effective baits for spotted sea trout. They will also generally catch larger than average fish. Both of these fish put out distress sounds when hooked. This is the sound of the dinner bell ringing for spotted sea trout! In shallow water these baits are fished under a float. In deeper water in channels a little weight can be added to get them to the bottom.

Sarasota anglers

15)  Locate spotted sea trout by trolling

Spotted sea trout will often times scatter out over a large grass flat. It can take a lot of time for anglers to eliminate unproductive water. This is especially true on days without some wind. Trolling is an excellent technique that can be used to minimize the prospecting time. Spoons, shallow diving plugs, and jigs with a bait fish tail can all be used. Anglers should troll slowly, just above idle speed, over various steps until fish are located.

Sarasota fishing

16)  Spotted sea trout will be found in larger numbers over deeper grass flats

Grass flats in water between 4 feet deep and 8 feet deep will hold school sized spotted sea trout. These fish will average between 14 inches and 18 inches long. They will school up by size in fairly large numbers over these deeper flats. The deeper water gives them a sense of security. Anglers seeking numbers of fish and good action will do well casting artificial lures and live bait over these areas.

fishing for spotted sea trout

17)  Wading is a productive technique when spotted sea trout fishing

Wading is a very productive shallow water trout fishing technique. Spotted sea trout can be quite spooky in shallow water. Boats make noise, no matter how quiet anglers try to be. Wading allows anglers to quietly and thoroughly work a stretch of water.

Fly Fishing for spotted sea trout

This article is about our ladies fly fishing Florida. Anglers have the opportunity to catch many different species in Sarasota Bay in the inshore Gulf of Mexico.

Fly fishing is enjoyed by many anglers visiting Florida. Any fish species that can be caught on and artificial lure will take a well presented fly. Most anglers can learn to cast well enough to catch a fish with just a few hours of practice. The following information is geared to the novice angler that is interested in getting into the sport of fly fishing.

spotted sea trout fishing

The primary difference between fly fishing and spin fishing is that and fly fishing the line provides the wait for casting. With spin fishing, it is the other way around. Realizing this will help take some of the mystery out of fly fishing. It really is not that difficult to learn. However, as in all fishing, proper equipment is important.

Fly fishing tackle

The three major components of a fly fishing outfit are the rod, line, and reel. Believe it or not, the real is the least important of the three. It basically holds the line and provides drag on a larger fish. The vast majority of time, the line will be manipulated with the anglers hand.

Fly tackle is designated by “weight”, shown as”Wt” on rods. A 6wt rod is then matched to a 6wt line along with a corresponding reel. Not to over complicate, but rods also come in various actions and lines come in several different forms. The easiest rod for most anglers starting out fly fishing is a “mid flex” rod. This is the most forgiving action and the easiest to learn how to cast.

Fly fishing Sarasota

Fly lines come in floating, sink tip, and full sinking varieties. Floating lines are the easiest to use while full sinking lines are the most difficult. In between is the sink tip line, which is the most versatile all round fly line for most anglers fly fishing Florida.

7 wt outfits are a great choice for fly anglers

So, the best all around fly fishing outfit for someone new to the sport would be a 7wt rod with a medium or mid flex action, a 7wt intermediate sink tip line, and a matching reel. Fly lines are usually around 100 feet long. On the real underneath the fly line is a couple hundred yards of “backing”. This adds volume to the spool and also gives the angler extra for line if a large fish makes a long run.

A leader is used between the end of the fly line in the fly. These leaders are generally tapered. This means they are thicker at the fly line and then they are at the fly and. This allows for easier casting and better presentation as the fly rolls out smoother. Most anglers use a short “bite tippet”. This is the same as the shock leader that almost all spin fisherman use. Leaders can be hand-tied, but most anglers purchase commercially prepared leaders.

Effective spotted sea trout fly patterns

Just as with artificial lures, there are countless fly patterns, colors, and sizes. However, anglers only need a couple different patterns in several colors to consistently catch fish in Florida. As with all fishing, the idea is to match the fly to the size and type of forage that the fish are feeding on. However, large bulky flies are difficult to cast, especially for the beginner.

spotted sea trout fishing

The Clouser Minnow is arguably the most popular saltwater fly, and for good reason. It consists of dumbbell eyes which provide weight and give the fly action along with some buck tail or synthetic care dressing. The weight of the eyes gives it a jigging action in the water. The hairdressing can mimic most bait fish and crustaceans.

The Crystal Shrimp is another very effective fly. It is deadly for snook both out on the beach and went fishing the lighted docks and bridges at night. It also works very well on the beaches for false albacore as well as over the deeper grass flats for speckled trout and other species.

The D.T Special is the third of the “must-have”flies that the ladies fly fishing Florida use. It is unweighted and is a terrific bait fish imitator. This fly works very well for anglers fly fishing off the beach and is deadly in the inshore Gulf of Mexico for Spanish mackerel and false albacore. It also works very well anytime breaking fish are seen feeding on the surface, such as bluefish and ladyfish.

Fly casting for spotted sea trout

Fly casting is a skill, and some even call it an art. It really is not that difficult, once the basics are mastered. Wind is an issue when trying to fly fish. Even the most experienced fly anglers have trouble on breezy days. It is probably best for novice fly anglers to give it a try on days when the wind is calm.

spotted sea trout fishing

There are many good resources that anglers can access to learn how to fly cast. So, I will not try to duplicate them here. YouTube videos are a great source. Anglers who choose to invest a few dollars in a fly casting and fly fishing course will find that a great investment. Do not wait to get out on the boat before trying to learn to cast! This will only lead to frustration and disappointment. Orvis offers classes throughout Florida.

Finally, it is time to go fishing! We have our seven weight rod, intermediate sink tip line, 9 foot tapered leader, and a #1 white and chartreuse Clouser tied on the end. We have practiced casting and can throw 40 feet to 50 feet of line. The best place to to catch fish on the fly for the novice angler are the deep grass flats.

Fly fishing the deep grass flats

Florida has many many acres of submerge grass beds and 3 feet of water to 10 feet of water. These flats hold just about every inshore saltwater species. This is where I fish on my Sarasota fishing charters for clients that are looking for action and variety. It is fairly easy fishing and does not require great fly casting skill.  Speckled trout, bluefish, ladyfish and more provide great action.

The technique is quite simple. Anglers set up a drift where the wind and current will push the boat over the area to be finished. Fly anglers will do well to target water depth of 4 feet deep to 8 feet deep. It can be difficult to get a fly much deeper than that on a drifting boat.

Anglers want the wind to be over their casting shoulder. The vast majority of people are right-handed. Therefore, placing the angler on the bow the boat with the breeze over his or her right shoulder works the best. Obviously, the situation is reversed for a left handed caster.

As the boat drifts across, the fly line is cast out. The fly and line are then allowed to settle for several seconds. With the rod tip low to the water, the angler retrieves the fly back with the off hand. Again, a right-handed angler will have the rod in his or her right hand and will strip the line back in with the left hand. Once most of the fly line is retrieved, it will be cast out again in the process repeated.

Hooking fish on the fly

It is easy to tell when a fish takes the fly. The fly line really transmits the bite. When an angler gets bit, he or she pulls sharply with the stripping hand removing all the slack then the rod tip is raised up. This is called the “strip set”and is used in most saltwater fishing and even in freshwater fishing when using streamers.

Smaller fish are then brought in by hand stripping the line in. Larger fish may make a run taking up all the slack and getting on the reel. Once this occurs, the fish is then fought using the reel. Keep in mind that fly fishing reels are “single action”. This means that the real handle will go forward and backward, so keep your knuckles clear when a big fish makes it run.

In conclusion, this article on spotted sea trout fishing should help anglers catch more of these desirable and popular inshore saltwater fish!


smallmouth bass fishing for beginners

Smallmouth Bass Fishing for Beginners, a Complete Guide

Smallmouth bass fishing for beginners is a comprehensive article. “Bronzebacks” are a very popular game fish in the cooler sections of North America. This guide will help anglers new to smallmouth bass fishing understand the tackle, baits, locations, and tactics that will help them catch more of these terrific game fish.

smallmouth bass fishing

While smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are often lumped together, they are actually quite different in habits. That said, they both species are found in many different waters. Smallmouth bass are actually a bit more like trout. They prefer cool, clear, and where possible flowing water. Smallmouth bass are found in creeks, rivers, and lakes throughout most of the United States and into Canada. They are a terrific game fish that puts up a great fight and leap often. Most smallmouth bass anglers practice catch and release.

The smallmouth bass is native to the upper and middle Mississippi River basin, the St Lawrence and Great Lakes system, and up into the Hudson Bay basin. However, they have been stocked successfully throughout all but the warmer portions of the United States and up into Canada.

Special thanks to Abby Heistad for the great pics!

Smallmouth bass habits

Smallmouth bass spawn in a similar manner to their cousins the largemouth bass. The male will build a nest, preferably in a shallow area with gravel or rocky bottom and a little bit of current. The female will then deposit the eggs and the male will fertilize them. The male then guards the nest until the fish are hatched. Like most fish species, only a tiny percentage of fry will grow to be mature fish.

Smallmouth bass fishing for beginners

Special thanks to Abby Heistad for the great pics!

Smallmouth Bass have an affinity for rocks. They are often times found along rip-rap, sloping points with gravel and rock, submerged humps with rocky bottoms, and rocky shorelines. In other words, anglers targeting smallmouth bass will do well to start lung any type of structure that has a gravel or rocky bottom.

The reason for this is quite simple; crayfish. Crayfish, or crawdads, are a dietary staple of the smallmouth bass. This is true whether they are in rivers or lakes. Crawfish are high in protein and are relatively easy to catch, making them a very efficient meal. Smallmouth bass are well-suited to forage on these freshwater delicacies.

However, smallmouth bass are opportunistic feeders. They will feed heavily on small bait fish when they are present. Most river systems have a good population of some type of chub or flat head minnow. Lakes will have shad and other bait fish. Smallmouth bass will feed on these. Also, insects and larvae such as earthworms, helgramites, and small amphibians including tadpoles and small frogs will also fall prey to smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass tackle

The vast majority of anglers targeting smallmouth bass use light spinning tackle. It is the most versatile and practical outfit. Smallmouth bass feed on smaller sized bait than do largemouth bass. Therefore, the offerings used to entice them are smaller as well. Most lures and live baits are fairly light. Light spinning tackle is the best choice to present these baits in most situations.

fishing for smallmouth bass

A 6 foot long light spinning rod matched to a 2000 series reel and 6 pound monofilament line or 10 pound braided line is a great all around combination. It will cast small lures and live baits easily. The angler will enjoy the fight of smaller bass on this light tackle while still having a decent chance to land a larger fish. In many instances, smallmouth bass are found in open water, resulting in light spinning tackle being a viable option.

Anglers can certainly use light conventional tackle as well. This is best suited when casting heavier hard body plugs and larger spinner baits in search of trophy smallmouth bass. It can just be too difficult to try to cast light lures on this type of tackle. Of course, anglers using larger live baits will do well with conventional tackle as well.

Smallmouth bass baits

Both live bait in artificial lures are extremely effective on smallmouth bass. Top live baits include nightcrawlers, minnows, leeches, and helgramites. Anglers preferring to cast artificial lures do well with jigs, soft plastic baits, plugs, spinner baits, and in-line spinners. All can be effective, it really is just a matter of angler choice.

Live bait for smallmouth bass

Anglers choosing to fish with live bait do well by keeping it simple. A #4 or #6 live bait hook is tied onto the end of the line. Depending on the situation, a split shot or two can be used to get the bait down in the water column. Conversely, a float can be used to suspend the bait up off the bottom.

Nightcrawlers are best hooked in the head. This allows them to wiggle enticingly in the water. Most anglers hook live minnows through both lips up from the bottom. Again, this allows the bait to swim naturally in the water. Leeches are also hooked in the head. Crawfish are usually hooked in the tail. Helgramites are hooked under the collar just behind the head.

Anglers using live baits are subject to availability. Just about every freshwater tackle shop in North America stocks nightcrawlers. These are universal and effective baits for just about every freshwater species. Many shops will have live minnows as well. This changes a bit with the more exotic live baits such as leeches, crayfish, and helgramites. Serious anglers must often catch these on their own.

Smallmouth bass fishing with artificial lures

Many anglers opt to use artificial lures when targeting smallmouth bass. Lures can be extremely effective and they are much more convenient. They also allow anglers to cover more water then does live bait. The list of effective artificial lures when smallmouth bass fishing is long, but we will try to narrow the focus here.

Soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits are extremely effective on smallmouth bass, as they are on just about every other species. They come in a myriad of shapes, colors, sizes, and styles and can be fished on a jig head, on specially designed hooks, and on drop shot rigs. Most effective smallmouth bass soft plastic lures are generally 2 inches to 4 inches in size and imitate crawfish or bait fish.

While color combinations are endless, there are a few standard colors that have proven to be effective over time. A 1/8 ounce black jig head with an orange and black or olive and black 2” grub is a proven smallmouth bass lure. It is especially effective in rivers. Anglers can choose from a twister tail, shad tail, paddle tail, or crawfish tail. All of them can be effective. A 4″ Senko in green is another terrific smallmouth bass bait.

Soft plastic baits are versatile

Lighter colors such as white and pearl can be effective when smallmouth are known to be feeding on shad and other bait fish. The great thing about these baits is their versatility. With a small selection of jig heads and grub bodies, and angler can mimic just about any freshwater forage available to smallmouth bass and other species.

Soft plastic baits can also be fished on special hooks. These can be very effective as they present the bait and more of a horizontal manner. Hooks come in various sizes and weights and can in most instances be rigged weedless. There are very effective when using larger 4 inch to 5 inch soft plastic baits.

Drop shot rigs have become very popular of late. It is a vertical presentation. A special hook is tied in line a short distance above a weight. The bait is drop to the bottom and jig seductively. This is extremely effective when smallmouth bass are schooled up in deeper water. It is also an effective way to target suspended bass.


Small spinner baits are another effective smallmouth bass lure. They are often times used in conjunction with the above-mentioned jig and grub combination. A spinner bait is basically a safety pin type spinner with a blade at the top and a small lure on the bottom. The combination of the flash of the spinner blade and the action of the lure is very effective. It is also an easy bait to use as it is generally just cast in and then retrieved back steadily.

In-line spinners have been around a long time and are very effective as well. Most freshwater anglers have used a Mepps or Roostertail spinner at one point or another in their angling adventures. For the most part, they imitate bait fish. The blade rotates around the lure, putting out flash and vibration. Like the spinner bait, it is very easy to use as it is just cast out and reel back and slowly. An added benefit is that hey also catch a wide variety of fish species.


Hard body plugs, known to some as jerk baits, are another extremely effective smallmouth bass lure. They come in many different sizes and shapes and can be used to imitate both crawfish and bait fish. Long, slender plugs tend to be the favorite of smallmouth bass anglers.

The lip on the bait along with the size will determine the depth that the lure will run. Plugs can be purchased that will imitate just about every type of forage as well as covering the entire water column. Wide-bodied plugs with a large slip will dive down deep and bounce off the bottom structure, imitating crawfish. Slender plugs with a smaller lip suspend in the mid-depths, wobbling erratically and imitating a wounded bait fish.

Some plugs float on the surface. These are called top water plugs. It is great fun to see a smallmouth bass explode on a surface lure. There are several different designs including poppers, walk the dog baits, and prop lures. All are designed to create a commotion on the water which will draw a smallmouth bass to the surface. Many anglers consider this the most exciting form of fishing. Two top hard baits for smallmouth bass are the #8 Rapala X-Rap in olive or white and the Rebel Wee Crawfish.

Fly fishing tackle

Anglers who enjoy fly fishing are certainly not to be left out! Smallmouth bass are an excellent fish to target on fly. A simple outfit consisting of a 6wt rod and reel with a matching floating line and 9 foot tapered leader will work well in most applications. Anglers can certainly go up or down a size or two, depending on conditions. Breezy conditions with a heavy weighted fly may dictate the use of a 7wt outfit. Conversely, anglers fishing small creeks may opt for a 5wt fly rod and reel.

Fly selection is pretty basic. Bob Clouser designed the Clouser Deep Minnow specifically for smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River. It remains a great fly to this day. Wooly Buggers in brown or black are also effective and universally productive flies. Both patterns work very well when cast across streams and worked back in the current. Poppers will produce on the surface.

Ice fishing for smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass can be caught by anglers ice fishing as well. Smallmouth bass feed in cold water, so they naturally can be caught through the ice. The same spots that hold bass in the cooler months will produce fish through the ice. Points, bars, channel edges, and other spots in 10′ to 30′ of water will be good spots to try. Jigging spoons and plugs work well, but a live minnow on a jig head is tough to beat.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers

Smallmouth bass love rivers. Clear, cool streams and small rivers are excellent spots to target smallmouth bass. One advantage that anglers have when fishing in these rivers is that fish are much easier to locate. There simply is less water in which to look. Furthermore, smallmouth bass will tend to be found in the same types of spots in most rivers. This makes it easier to achieve success smallmouth bass fishing in unfamiliar waters.

Current is the main factor which will dictate where smallmouth bass will be found in rivers. They will place themselves in positions where the current will bring food to them while expending as little energy as possible. Anything that breaks the current can hold fish. Boulders in the middle of the river or stream will create a pocket of calm water behind it. This is a prime spot for smallmouth bass to ambush its prey.

Depth changes and holes in the river bottom will also create a bit of slack water. Smallmouth bass will also stage in the spots and dart out into the current to feed. Many rivers that hold smallmouth bass have limestone and other types of rock ledges. These are terrific spots to catch a a fish or two. They will hold in the deeper water right on the ledge in most cases.

River fishing spots

The heads and tails of riffles will also hold fish. These are natural feeding stations as water velocity increases. Generally, the head of a riffle coincides with the tail end of a pool. As the deeper water transitions to shallower water, it speeds up. This results in a good situation for fish to feed.

As in all river fishing, outside bends can be terrific spots to catch fish. These outside bends will generally be the deepest spots in the river. Most will have undercut banks. Also, debris from storms or during high water conditions will collect in these areas. The combination of depth and cover make them natural fish holding spots.

Anglers have two options when it comes to fishing rivers; by boat or by foot. While fish locations do not change, angling tactics and techniques are just a bit different depending on whether an angler is in a boat or wading. Of course, the size of the river will play a factor in this.

River fishing techniques

Anglers wade fishing in rivers generally cast upstream and then work the lure or bait with the current. As it passes parallel to them, it will then swing back towards them in the current. Fish will often hit at this point. This is very efficient and effective as the bait or lure is moving naturally with the water flow. Also, anglers can thoroughly work high percentage areas slowly and methodically.

As the angler enters the river, he or she “reads” the water, searching for likely fish holding spots. Once those are determined, the angler can then envision the best approach for the lure or bait to be presented to the fish. Again, an upstream quartering cast is generally the best approach. The offering drifts naturally with the current while allowing the angler to keep a fairly tight line and feel any strike.

Anglers drift fishing smallmouth bass rivers and streams in small boats, kayaks, and canoes generally present their baits horizontally. Then, as the craft eases downriver, they work the lure or bait back to the boat. It really just is not practical to try and cast upstream from a boat that is drifting downstream. Otherwise, the same basic principles apply.

Many anglers use small boats to drift the river and then get out and wade the prime spots. This is the best of both worlds, as anglers can cover a lot of water fairly easily. Then, when approaching high percentage spots such as ripples and small rapids, they can get out of the boat and thoroughly wade fish the area. Also, this gives anglers the chance to access some more remote portions of a river that are not easily accessible by road.

Best baits for river fishing smallmouth bass

The best live baits to use when smallmouth bass fishing and rivers are crawfish, helgramites, and nightcrawlers. These all are found naturally in rivers. Live minnows can also be used, but it is a bit more difficult to present them naturally.

In most cases, the best rig is a simple #4 or #6 short shank live bait hook. Anglers can choose to add a split shot or two to get the bait down in deeper water. Also, a bobber or floats can be used to suspend the bait up off the bottom. Bobbers also serve as casting weight along with giving anglers a visual reference when a fish takes the bait. Finally, using a bobber can reduce snags.

There is probably no better bait for a trophy river smallmouth bass then a large live crayfish. While they can be difficult to obtain, they are usually worth the trouble. Anglers will not get as many bites, but they will almost always be larger fish. The same goes for large helgramites. Nightcrawlers are great live baits as well. They are an excellent choice for anglers seeking action, as it will catch fish of all sizes.

Catching river bass with lures

Anglers choosing to cast artificial lures catch a lot of fish as well. Lures have several advantages over live bait. They allow anglers to cover more water than do live baits. Also, lures can trigger strikes from fish that are not in a mood to feed. Lures can elicit a reflex strike as well as anger and irritate smallmouth bass into attacking the lure.

Small jigs are terrific lures to use when targeting smallmouth bass. There are many different colors and styles to choose from. However, any small jig in the 2 inch range that imitates a crawfish will work well. A 1/8 ounce black jig head with a 2 inch orange and black or olive and black grub tail is a great choice in just about any smallmouth River.

The jig is cast 45° up current and allowed to sink a couple of seconds. It is then worked subtly off the bottom using short hops as it drifts with the current. This action, as the jig head kicks up a small puff of dirt or sand, mimics a crawfish fleeing. It is deadly on smallmouth bass. Anglers will lose some baits to the rocks. However, when purchased in bulk, these are relatively inexpensive lures to use.

Plug fishing in rivers

Small plugs can be very effective in rivers and streams as well. They will often times catch larger fish than some other baits. This is particularly true if the angler chooses a larger bait, in the 4 inch range. Productive colors vary, with white, olive, and firetiger being top patterns. Basically, any plug that resembles the bait fish that inhabit that river should produce fish.

Plugs are the one bait that most anglers do not cast up current. The most effective presentation in most cases is to cast the lure directly across and then work it back with short, sharp twitches as it drifts with the current. Smallmouth bass will dart out from their hiding spot to inhale the lure. One advantage it these plugs have is that they tend to snag less as they float on the surface at rest and dive down when being retrieved.

In-line spinners are another very effective smallmouth bass lure, particularly in rivers. They are very easy to use. The lure is once again cast at 45° upstream and then simply worked back in using a steady retrieve. Many suggest reeling the spinner at the slowest possible speed at which the blades will turn.

Once again, spinners are available in many different sizes and colors. However, color is less of a factor with spinners than it is with other lures. Blades come in bronze and silver finishes. Silver is best in clear water while bronze works well in stained water. Anglers should match the size of the spinner to the size of the bait available. Size #1 and #2 spinners will cover most fishing situations.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in lakes

Smallmouth bass flourish in lakes. Lakes that have good populations of smallmouth bass tend to be deeper, cooler, and clearer than those preferred by largemouth bass. However, there are certainly countless lakes in the United States and Canada that have good populations of both species. Smallmouth bass are less tolerant of polluted waters, therefore there are a good indication of a healthy environment.

Like most fishing situations, anglers targeting smallmouth bass in lakes will find advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage in fishing lakes is that there is so much more area in which to search for fish. However, smallmouth bass found in lakes tend to be larger as there is more food and they do not have to fight the current.

While fishing lakes for smallmouth bass can be overwhelming, there are certain areas that will consistently hold fish. The top spots in lakes are sloping points, underwater humps, steep bluffs, flats, river channels, and rip-rap. Anglers targeting these types of areas should achieve success, even in unfamiliar waters.

Locating smallmouth bass in lakes

Sloping points are natural spots to find the fish of all species. The perfect point would be narrow with several distinct brakes at around 10 feet and then at 20 feet. The best approach is often to cast a lure up shallow than work it back into deeper water. Soft plastic baits and jigs that can be worked right on the bottom can be very effective.

Anglers should thoroughly work all sides of the point as well. Plugs are great option as they allow anglers to cover multiple depths and thoroughly work the area in a relatively short amount of time. They will also elicit reflex bites. Deep diving crank baits that dig into the bottom when retrieved will imitate crawfish and draw strikes as well.

Anglers choosing to fish a point with live bait will do best by free lining it with just a split shot or two. This will allow the bait to slowly sink and have a natural appearance. All live baits can be effective in this situation. A minnow hooked through the lips with a light jig head is another excellent combination.

Submerged islands and humps

Underwater humps or islands are smallmouth bass magnets. An underwater hump that rises to 15 or 20 feet from the surface and is surrounded by water that is significantly deeper will almost certainly hold smallmouth bass at one time or another. If rocks or boulders are present, a smallmouth bass hot spot exists!

Depending on the size of this underwater hump, anglers have several approaches that can be effective. Smaller humps are best fish using a vertical presentation. A drop shot rig is deadly in this situation. The bait is lowered to the bottom and then danced seductively in a small area, enticing fish to bite. Similarly, a live bait drop to the bottom will produce as well.

Larger islands and humps are best fish using artificial lures. A crank bait that dives down to the depth of the hump is an efficient way to thoroughly cover the structure. Soft plastic baits worked on a jig head or on a rigging hook work well also. One approach that some anglers choose is to use the plugs to locate the school and then the soft plastic bait or drop shot to catch as many fish as possible.

River channel edges are fished very similarly as are underwater islands or humps. Flats in 10 feet of water to 20 feet of water that drop off sharply into the river channel can be excellent spots to find a school of smallmouth bass. Curves in the channel as well as any structure such as boulders or fallen timber certainly increase the chances of success.

Steep bluffs

Many productive smallmouth bass lakes exist in hilly areas. This results in areas of the lakes having steep, almost vertical banks. These are terrific spots to locate schools of fish, particularly in fall and winter. Rocky ledges and outcroppings will hold crayfish and bait fish. Fish can also move up and down n the water column until they find a comfortable zone.

In most instances, the best approach when fishing bluffs is to put the boat right up against the shore and fish parallel to the bank. Crankbaits are a great lure that will cover the water column effectively. Soft plastic bait that fall slowly and seductively will draw strikes as well. They do cover less water.

Rip Rap

Rip rap holds smallmouth bass! These are great spots to target all species of game fish. However, with smallmouth bass having such an affinity for rocks, it is a natural spot to try. Rip rap almost always exists around bridges. Bridges are usually built in narrow spots. This results in increased current flow, which only enhances rip rap as a good fishing spot.

All lures and baits can produce around rip rap. The rocks will hold crayfish, of course. However, shad and other bait fish will gravitate to the rocks. As the sun shines, rocks will absorb the heat and thus warm up the water. This will attract both bait fish and game fish, especially on cool, sunny days. Again, the best approach is usually to work the structure close to shore and in a parallel manner.

In conclusion, this article on smallmouth bass fishing will help anglers catch more of these fantastic freshwater game fish! What is your favorite smallmouth bass bait?



Florida King Mackerel Fishing, Tips and Techniques

Florida King Mackerel Fishing Tips

This article covers Florida king mackerel fishing. King mackerel are a very popular game fish. They are found in the coastal waters all along the entire Gulf of Mexico coast and up the East Coast of the United States to the mid Atlantic. They are also plentiful in the Caribbean.

King mackerel are a pelagic species. This means that they spend the majority of their time in the upper portion of the water column. They are constantly on the move, though they do relate to structure. King mackerel are one of the most popular offshore game fish in Florida. Their migration patterns mirror those of the bait fish that they feed on. The world record king mackerel is 93 pounds and was caught in Puerto Rico. Kings are very good to eat when prepared fresh, though they do not freeze well.

Florida king mackerel fishing

1) Finding bait is critical to catching king mackerel

King mackerel will never be very far from the groceries. They feed and schools in open water, foraging on bait fish. The type of fish they feed on will depend on location and time of year. Scaled sardines, threadfin herring, blue runners, cigar minnows, pogies, and mullet are just a few of the more popular bait fish species that king mackerel feed on. Bait schools can either be seen dimpling on the surface or located using a bottom machine.

The two basic methods for catching bait are cast nets and Sabiki rigs. Anglers using cast nets can catch a LOT of bait in short order. Special nets sink quickly in deeper water. Anglers who prefer to chum with live bait do need a large quantity of it. Bait fish can be chummed up behind the boat. They are also spotted “dimpling” on the surface. Large scaled sardines can be caught on the grass flats and along the beaches.

king mackerel fishing in Florida


Sibiki or gold hook rigs catch bait individually. Most rigs have a half dozen gold hooks or tiny flies on them. The rig is lowered down through the bait fish or around structure. Then, it is jigged gently until fish are hooked. Experienced anglers wait until several bait fish are hooked. Care is needed to keep the rig from tangling. This method works great for anglers looking for several dozen baits for trolling or free lining. It tends to catch larger baits as well.

2) King mackerel love structure

While king mackerel are an open water fish, they will often times relate to some sort of structure. Part of the reason for this is that structure tends to attract the bait fish that they feed upon. Areas of hard bottom, ledges, reefs, wrecks, and oil rigs will all attract and hold kings. Generally speaking, structure and water depths between 30 feet deep and 75 feet deep are the best spots. However, they can be found right along the beach as well is very far offshore.

king mackerel fishing


Wrecks and artificial reefs are plentiful off of both Florida coastlines. The most effective spots are generally in water that is between 40 feet and a hundred feet deep. The good news is that most of these spots are public knowledge. Anglers can easily find the GPS numbers online or at local government websites. When the kings are thick, it is easy to spot the cluster of boats around productive reefs.

Natural ledges should not be overlooked by anglers Florida king mackerel fishing! While these spots won’t usually hold the larger schools of kings, they also get less fishing pressure. An added bonus is that anglers can bottom fish for grouper and snapper while waiting for a king to show up in the chum.

Florida king mackerel fishing

3) King mackerel fishing rods and reels

King mackerel are one of the fastest fish species in the sea. Large kings are called “smokers” because of their blistering initial runs that can literally “smoke” the drag. Reels, whether conventional or spinning, need to have a high capacity of line as well is a very smooth drag. Fast retrieve ratios are also helpful in retrieving the line back on the spool.

Fishing in Florida

Both spinning tackle and conventional tackle work fine for anglers Florida king mackerel fishing. Very seldom will casting be required. Most kings are caught by anglers trolling or free lining baits. Long, limber rods work best, especially when using live bait fish. Limber tips will help keep the small treble hooks that are used with stinger rigs in the fish. Stouter conventional rods are best for trolling #2 and #3 planer rigs. Below are a couple of Penn combos that work well at an affordable price. Clink on the image to shop.

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4) Planers are an effective tool for trolling

Most king mackerel are caught by anglers trolling. Planers are a clever device which allows anglers to get the lure down into the water column to the desired depth while still maintaining the 5 mph to 7 mph speed that is most productive. Planers come in several sizes. A #1 planer will dive down 5 to 7 feet, a #2 planer will dive down to 12 feet, and a #3 planer will go down as deep as 25 feet. Planers work great when looking for numbers of fish as opposed to big fish. They also allow anglers to cover a LOT of water.

Spoons are most often used in conjunction with planers. A long leader is used between the planer and the spoon, with 20 feet being a good all-around length. Fluorocarbon leaders a 50 pound test 280 pound test work well. Snap swivels on both ends will help reduce line twist. The spoon should be massed in size to the type of bait fish that are local to the area. Large spoons are most often used. Plugs can also be used, as long as they have a small lip which will not trip the planer.

trolling with planers

5) The correct leader is important when fishing for king mackerel

Like all mackerel, king mackerel have a mouth full of very sharp teeth. However, this does not mean that wire leaders always need to be used. Anglers trolling spoons do well with a 20 foot section of 50 to 80 pound fluorocarbon. Very few cutoffs occur when trolling with these larger spoons.

Anglers trolling plugs usually use a small trace of wire leader combines with a shock leader. The best rig has 5 feet of doubled line using a Bimini Twist or spider hitch. A 5′ piece of 80 lb flourocarbon leader is added. Finally, a short piece of wire completes the rig. This works well whun using a hook to free line live bait or chunks of cut bait.

6) Use stinger rigs with live bait when targeting kings

Anglers slow trolling with live bait fish often use a stinger rig. They can also be used while drifting or fishing from an anchored boat This rig consists of two hooks on a 2 foot to 3 foot piece of wire leader. The front hook is either a treble or single hook. It is used to secure the bait fish through the nose. The rear hook is almost always a treble hook. It either swings free or is lightly hooked into the back of the bait fish. King mackerel often attack the rear half of the bait. Stinger rigs drastically increase the hookup ratio.

7) Troll plugs for king mackerel

Plugs work very well when trolling for king mackerel. Plugs come in a myriad of sizes and colors, making it very easy for anglers to mimic the locally available forage. In addition, plugs have lips which will determine the depth that which they dive. This allows anglers to cover the water column thoroughly when trolling with plugs.

Anglers Florida king mackerel fishing with plugs will experience a high hookup rate. Most plugs sport a pair of treble hooks which should hook the king securely. Plugs allow anglers to thoroughly cover the water column. Several plugs that work different depths can be used at the same time to determine where the fish are. As with all trolling, anglers can cover a lot of water efficiently and quickly.

9) Trophy king mackerel love live bait

Live bait fish work extremely well when fishing for king mackerel. Blue runners, sardines, herring, cigar minnows, and mullet are the top live bait fish. These bait fish are difficult to keep alive. Therefore, most anglers catch their bait fish the morning of the fishing trip using either a cast net or a Sibiki rig. Large recirculating live wells are standard on kingfish boats.

Sarasota offshore fishing


Anglers using live bait for king fish can troll, drift, or anchor. All three techniques can be effective. Slow trolling with a large live bait on a stinger rig accounts for some of the largest king mackerel taken by anglers. Drifting works well when the current and wind will move the bait along at the desired pace. Anchoring is usually done in shallower water when king mackerel are located over a small piece of structure.

9) Trolling feathers and skirts will produce fish

Skirts and feathers are lures that are used to troll for king mackerel and other species. They are troll right at the surface and put up a commotion which attracts game fish up to them. They are most often brightly colored. Often times they are used in conjunction with some type of natural bait, especially ribbon fish and ballyhoo. These lures are used more commonly in South Florida and the Keys.

10) King mackerel are seasonal fish

As mentioned earlier, king mackerel are a migratory species. In the wintertime, they will be found in the warmer climates such as the Florida Keys and Mexico. As the water warms up, this triggers the migration of both bait fish and mackerel. Spring and fall are prime times in Florida. However, fish can be taken all year long, especially in the Florida Keys.

11) Local information is the best information

King mackerel are notorious for being here one day and gone the next. Successful anglers use a networking system to keep abreast of the current king mackerel hot spots. Local bait and tackle shops are great resources. They will generally speaking be up-to-date on the most productive lures and locations. Online fishing forums and social media reports can also be excellent sources of quality information.

Sarasota offshore fishing


Fortunately, king mackerel migrate parallel to the coast lines. Anglers who trailer their boats can follow the migrating fish north in the spring and south in the fall. In most cases, fish can be found within ten miles from shore.

12) Handle king mackerel with care

King mackerel have a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Anglers need to be very careful when handling them. Fish that are going to be kept to eat are normally gaffed. Special release tools work very well on small king mackerel. They allow anglers to pop the fish off without even touching them. Larger fish are generally grabbed by the tail and laid along the gunnel of the boat while the hooks are removed.

13) Chumming is a very productive technique

Chumming is one of the most effective angling techniques used and saltwater fishing. It is the act of putting bait in the water in hopes of attracting fish. Anglers can chum from an anchored or drifting boat and use either live, fresh cut, or frozen chum. Chumming with live bait fish is incredibly effective though requires a lot of bait. King mackerel respond very well to live and frozen chum.

Most anglers opt for commercially available bags of frozen chum. These are blocks of ground up fish and often times come in their own mesh bag. This bag of chum is tied off to the stern. As it thaws, the chum is dispersed into the water column. This will at first attract bait fish and then hopefully the larger game fish.

chumming with live bait

Serious king mackerel anglers will use live chum as well. This does require a lot of bait. Scaled sardines, also known as pilchards, are a popular bait for this. They can be caught in large numbers on the shallow flats and just off of the beaches. Pilchards are also very hardy and will remain alive all day.

14) King mackerel pier fishing

There are times when king mackerel can be taken by anglers without a boat. Anglers fishing from piers on the east coast, the Sunshine Skyway Pier in Tampa Bay, and in the Panhandle near Destin will catch them from the piers at times. Anlers often times use a rod with just a sinker and make a long cast. Then, they use an outrigger clip and slide a live bait down the line on another outfit. When a king strikes, it pulls the line free of the sinker line. It is a bit complicated, but effective.

15) King mackerel are terrific eating

Kings have a bad reputation in some areas when it comes to table fare. However, when handled correctly and prepared properly they are fantastic eating. King mackerel are oily and do not freeze well. Their flesh can also be a bit soft. Therefore, the best approach is to immediately ice down any fish that are destined for the table. They can be cut into steaks or fillets. King mackerel are fantastic baked, broiled, grilled, or smoked.

In conclusion, this article on Florida king mackerel fishing will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish!

Top 21 Florida Saltwater Game fish

Top 21 Florida Saltwater Game Fish, tips to catch

This post lists the top 21 Florida saltwater game fish, featuring some terrific female anglers! Locations, seasons, tips, and techniques that will help anglers catch them are also included. Florida is blessed with a wide variety of species. There are many different lures, baits, and techniques that are used successfully.

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.

Top Florida pelagic game fish

Several of the top 21 Florida game fish are found in open water. Bill fish, dolphin, tuna, and mackerel are examples of these types of fish. They roam the open ocean, following bait fish and drifting with the Gulf Stream currents. While this sounds random, and is, there are features which will hold fish. Current rips, temperature changes, color changes, and drastic changes in bottom contour are all features which can concentrate these fish.

1) Sailfish

Florida game fish

No other fish represents South Florida fishing better than the sailfish. Many tournaments center around this fantastic game fish! They average fifty pounds, but fish to a hundred pounds are encountered. Anglers troll with lures and baits and cast or free line live baits. The kite fishing technique was invented here for catching sailfish. The deep, clear water of the Gulf Stream is a prime factor. Winter is the prime time. Many anglers like to fish when the seas are up on a strong north east wind.

2) Swordfish

top 25 Florida game fish

There has been a huge increase in the success of anglers targeting swordfish in the last few years. Previously, the only time these fish were caught was at night. However, daytime techniques have developed. Anglers fish very deep during the day. This has dramatically increased the popularity of this type of fishing. It is still difficult, but the success rate has dramatically improved. As with sailfish, winter is the best time to target them.

South Florida is really the only spot in the United States where anglers can target swordfish with any degree of reliability. However, it is far from a sure thing. Anglers put in a lot of hours to catch a fish of a lifetime. It is also expensive; large baits and specialized gear are required.

3) Dolphin

top Florida game fish

Dolphin fish, also known as mahi-mahi, are one of the most popular offshore Florida game fish. They are beautiful, fast, grow to fifty pounds, and are terrific eating. Most anglers troll for them with feathers, lures, and rigged ballyhoo. However, once a school is located, they can be lured to the boat with chum and cast to with lighter tackle. Dolphin are caught year round. However, April, May, and June are generally the best times. Fall can be good as well.

Dolphin are most often caught off of the east coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. They prefer the deep blue water there. The Gulf of Mexico does hold some fish, though not as large or as numerous. Also, anglers generally have to travel farther to find them. Most anglers troll with feathers or spoons in search of dolphin. Running while looking for weed lines or floating debris is another proven tactic.

4) Wahoo

Florida offshore fishing tips

Wahoo are the largest member of the mackerel family and are one of the fastest fish in the sea. They are VERY fast! Most wahoo are caught by anglers trolling with lures. They often exceed ten knots when doing so. The occasionally take live baits meant for king mackerel and other species. Wahoo will relate to current breaks, water temperature breaks, and bottom contour changes. Full moons in summer are the prime times to target wahoo, though they can be caught all year long.

Once again, South Florida is the prime area for anglers targeting wahoo. However, they are found in open waters throughout the entire state. Deeper water is found closer to shore in the panhandle area, making that an option for Gulf anglers seeking a wahoo.

5) Blackfin tuna

Top 25 Florida game fish

Black fin tuna are a very hard-fighting and popular game fish in Florida. These smaller cousins to the yellowfin tuna are caught year-round, though spring and early summer are the best times to target them. Blackfin tuna often relate to structure such as reefs, wrecks, and hard bottom ledges. Ten pounds is a decent fish. They are caught trolling and by chunking with cut fish.

Blackfin tuna are available to most Florida offshore anglers. Reefs and offshore structure in water over 100′ deep will attract them. The “humps” in the Florida Keys are famed blackfin tuna spots. Another very productive technique to to fish near commercial shrimp boats. These boats dump they by-catch, effectively chumming the area. This attracts blackfin tuna along with false albacore, sharks, and other species.

6) Yellowfin tuna

Top saltwater fish in Florida

Yellowfin Tuna are a terrific pelagic game fish! They are caught in good numbers in South Florida from April through August. They are similar in habits to blackfin tuna. However, they grow much larger, to several hundred pounds. Most yellowfin tuna are caught by anglers trolling. They can be chummed into range and fooled with cut bait. There are few things on the planed that are better eating that a fresh yellowfin tuna steak!

Yellowfin tuna are not as common in the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida as are blackfin tuna. They just prefer the deeper, cooler water of the Atlantic Ocean. Yellowfins migrate north from the Keys and anglers can follow the migration up the coast. They do move north up the mid Atlantic, pleasing anglers all along the east coast.

7) False albacore

Sarasota false albacore fishing

False albacore, also known as “bonita” and “fat alberts”, are a very fun, hard-fighting fish. They resemble tuna, however they are not considered good to eat. False albacore are often found quite close to shore. They are a terrific game fish on light tackle. False albacore also are favored by experienced anglers for bait. They are a year-round species, with spring and fall being best.

These diminutive tuna provide fantastic sport for light tackle anglers! Fly fishing for them is great fun as well. False albacore are often found close to shore, making them a favorite of anglers with smaller boats and skiffs. Much of the fishing is visual as they are seen feeding ferociously on the surface. Spanish mackerel and sharks are often mixed in with them. This combination of sight fishing along with the terrific fight make for the popularity of these fish.

8) King mackerel

Sarasota offshore fishing

King mackerel are a very popular pelagic species in Florida. They do take a bit of a back seat in South Florida, as they are so many other species available. They are good to eat, but most anglers have them behind dolphin, tuna, and other fish. However, they are great fun to catch on medium tackle. Kings make a long, blistering initial run. Large specimens are called ‘smokers” for this reason. King mackerel tournaments are plentiful throughout the state. This  increases their popularity. Spring and fall are best, and they are found deeper in the summer and winter.

King mackerel are very popular all along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are found over structure and hard bottom, often times within ten miles from shore. In many cases, they are the largest game fish available. Spring and fall are prime times as the migrate alongside the hordes of threadfin herring and sardines. Trolling, either with lures or live bait, produces the vast majority of king mackerel. However, anglers do catch them anchored up on the reefs and free lining live baits or chunks.

9) Spanish mackerel

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

These smaller cousins to the other mackerels are excellent game fish in their own right. They put up a great battle on light tackle. Spanish mackerel average around 3 pounds and grow to over 10 pounds. Fast moving shiny lures such as spoons will entice them. Small live bait fish are productive as well. Chumming over the inshore reefs will draw them to the boat. Schools can be seen feeding on the surface close to shore. Inlets will hold fish as well. They are very good to eat when put on ice immediately and prepared that day.

One great thing about Spanish mackerel is that anglers may encounter them anywhere. While mackerel school up thick in the inshore Gulf and Atlantic waters, they are also found inshore. Passes and inlets will attract Spanish mackerel. Grass flats in deeper water, 8′ to 10′ deep, will also hold fish. Anglers catch them by casting flash lures such as spoons and plugs as well as by free lining live baits.

Fishing for Spanish mackerel with artificial lures

Artificial lures work quite well for Spanish mackerel. They are quite aggressive and will often hit a lure that is moving very fast. For this reason, trolling is an outstanding way to locate and catch Spanish mackerel. Small spoons and plugs are the top baits to use when trolling. Those baits, along with jigs are a good choice for anglers who like to cast. Spanish mackerel will certainly take live bait, including any small bait fish and a live shrimp.

best Sarasota fishing charter

The most exciting way to catch Spanish mackerel is when they are foraging on the surface. This is known as “breaking fish”and just like with the jacks, I hookup is almost a certainty. Spanish mackerel will often times feed on the surface, staying in one location for long enough for an angler to get in position and make a good cast. Mackerel are toothy critters and anglers will loosen tackle when fishing for them.

South Florida bottom fish species

Bottom fishing is very productive for South Florida anglers. Grouper and snapper are the primary targets, though amberjack and other species will also be taken. While these fish are great fun to catch, many anglers do it for their fantastic food value. Grouper and snapper are terrific eating! Bottom fishing is very basic, as anglers drop a baited hook with some weight down to bottom structure. However, it is not nearly that simple. Presentation, anchoring, baits, and tackle all need to be spot-on.

Grouper and snapper are available to South Florida anglers all year long. However, they do migrate in and out from shore, depending on conditions. Generally speaking, when it is hot, they will move offshore. As it cools off, these species will move to the reefs and ledges closer to shore. Water clarity and forage availability are also factors.

10) Groupers

Grouper are a very popular bottom fish in South Florida. They are found on all types of bottom structure. Grouper are caught on natural ledges, wrecks, and reefs. They feed on bait fish and crustaceans. There are over a dozen different grouper species.  Black grouper, red grouper, and gag grouper are the three most abundant and popular South Florida grouper species. Grouper are fantastic table fare!

Gag and red grouper are caught in relatively shallow water. Many of the other grouper species are found in much deeper water. Anglers can anchor in shallow water. That is not practical in deeper water, so most anglers drift over likely spots. Live bait fish and cut bait work well. Heavy tackle is used to winch the fish up out of the heavy cover.

Bottom fishing rules and regulations change constantly. Anglers can check the current Florida Fishing regulations on the FWC website. Grouper are taken all year long. They tend to move shallow in cooler weather and offshore in the warmer months.

11) Snappers

bottom fishing techniques

South Florida is blessed with outstanding snapper fishing. Like grouper, there are quite a few different snapper species. The top snapper species include yellowtail snapper, gray (or mangrove) snapper, lane snapper, hogfish, mutton snapper, and red snapper. Mangrove snapper can be found both inshore and offshore. Yellowtail, hogfish, and mutton snapper can be caught in fairly shallow water. Red snapper are caught in fairly deep water. All snapper species are terrific on the table!

Snapper are caught by anglers using live or cut bait. Most are caught on bottom structure, though some snapper, yellowtail and mangrove in particular, can be chummed up to the surface. The same bottom structures that hold grouper will attract snapper as well. They can be a bit fussy and at times lighter tackle is required to fool them.

Offshore bottom fishing in Sarasota

Hogfish, also known as hog snapper, are an unusual looking fish. They are also incredibly good eating. For years, anglers thought they would not eat and were only taken by anglers spearfishing. However, techniques evolved and anglers not catch them on rods and reels. Slowly lowering a shrimp on a light jig head will fool them.

12) Amberjack

Sarasota bottom fishing

Amberjack, known by locals as “reef donkeys” and “AJs”, are one of the hardest fighting Florida game fish. They are mostly associated with larger wrecks, but can be found over ledges as well. Live and cut bait lowered to the bottom will catch them. Some anglers use butterfly jigs to catch them as well. They are very good eating. They are available year round.

Reefs and wrecks in both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico will hold amberjack. Unlike snapper and grouper, larger structure tends to be better when targeting amberjack. They are at times unwelcome guests when bottom fishing. They are aggressive and it can be difficult getting a bait past them. However, there are worse problems that an angler can face! Heavy tackle is generally required to keep them out of the structure.

13) Cobia

fishing charters in Sarasota

Cobia are a kind of nomadic game fish. They are found all along both coasts in the southeast. Cobia are normally found over wrecks and reefs, but can be anywhere, even inshore on the flats. They are terrific eating with firm, white meat. These fish grow to over 100 pounds. Cobia are often targets of opportunity as they have a habit of just showing up on the surface. They are also seen on the surface around navigational markers.

Cobia are found in the cooler months in the southern portion of the state. As the water temperature rises, they move north and can be caught all season long. The Destin area is famous for having excellent sight fishing for trophy cobia, often quite close to shore. Anglers need to make sure a fish is of legal size (33″ to the fork at present) before gaffing one. A large landing net might be a better option.

14) Sharks

top 25 Florida species

Sharks provide anglers with some excellent fishing action! They can often be targeted using relatively light tackle. Many different species of sharks are available in Florida. They are found in water from 2′ deep to hundreds of feet deep. Most are taken by anglers fishing with fresh cut or live bait, though they will fall for a lure on occasion. Sharks will even take a fly. They grow large and are fantastic sport.

Top Florida inshore game fish

The state of Florida offers visitors a wide variety of angling opportunities. One of the most enjoyable aspects of fishing in Florida is the number of species that are available year-round. This article will list the top 8 Florida inshore game fish.

15) Tarpon

top 25 Florida game fish

Tarpon did not get their nickname “the Silver King”, without merit. They are found along the entire coast of Florida on both sides of the state as they migrate north from the Keys. Tarpon are most often targeted by anglers sight casting, whether it be in the Florida Keys, or to milling fish in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

Tarpon grow very large, averaging 75 pounds and growing to well over 200 pounds. They are caught by anglers in the Florida Keys starting in March. The further north in the state one goes, the later the fishing season. Most anglers consider June and July to be prime times throughout the state.

As mentioned above, most tarpon are caught by anglers sight fishing. This results in an incredibly exciting fishing opportunity! It is rare to be able to cast to fish that weigh over 100 pounds using spinning tackle or fly tackle. Most spin anglers use live baits such as mullet, bait fish, large shrimps, and crabs. Many anglers consider tarpon fishing the ultimate challenge! It is hard to disagree with that assessment.

16) Snook

fishing for snook

Snook are number two on the list of the top 8 Florida inshore game fish. They grow very large, take artificial lures and live bait, fight hard, and leap high out of the water. Snook are very similar in habits to freshwater largemouth bass. They are structure oriented and are normally caught around docks, seawalls, mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, bridges and other structures. Snook are found in the southern two thirds of the state.

Snook have a distinct seasonal migration. This is true on both coasts of Florida. They spend their winters in the creeks, rivers, and residential canals. They can tolerate absolute freshwater. As it warms up, they migrate into the bays to feed. By summer, snook are schooled up in the passes and inlets as well as out on the beaches. This is part of their spawning ritual. After summer, the process reverses itself.

Snook will readily take artificial lures such as plugs and jigs. It is very exciting watching a large snook blowup on a top water plug! Subsurface plugs are very effective as well. Soft plastic baits whether fished on a jig head or on a special hook take plenty of fish, too. Weedless spoons will fool snook on the shallow grass flats.

Many snook are taken by anglers using live bait, and in many cases the trophy fish. Top live baits include mullet, pogies, pilchards, pin fish, grunts, threadfin herring, and live shrimp. Chumming with live pilchards is a deadly technique. Anglers catch many many baits and then toss live unhooked baits out to attract the snook.

Top Florida saltwater game fish

17) Redfish

fishing for bull redfish

Redfish are an extremely popular inshore game fish. I have them number three on my list of the top 8 Florida inshore game fish. Redfish are found throughout the state. Most of the state of Florida has excellent redfish habitat. Reds prefer large shallow bodies of water with a mixture of grass and sand bottom with oyster bars and mangrove shorelines.

Anglers in the Northeast part of Florida do well catching reds in the title creeks. Moving south, mosquito Lagoon and Banana River offer anglers the chance for trophy redfish. The Everglades, Charlotte Harbor, and Tampa Bay are huge estuaries with countless acres of prime redfish habitat. The entire coastline of Florida from north of Tampa to Alabama offers excellent fishing for redfish.

Redfish are often found in shallow water

Sarasota fishing calendar

Redfish are found most often on shallow grass flats. They have an inferior mouth, which means it is on the underside of the fish behind the nose. This makes them perfect for routing in the grass, sand, and mud for crustaceans. While shrimp and crabs are their primary diet, reds will most certainly feed on bait fish as well.

Redfish are often times found in large schools, particularly in the fall. The water can actually turn red when a school of large redfish moves through in clear water. These fish can be fussy on the shallow flats in a stealthy approach is required. Weedless spoons, soft plastics on a light jig head, and live bait are all productive.

18) Speckled trout

Sarasota fishing charters
Sarasota speckled trout

Speckled trout are again found throughout the entire state. They might be the most popular fish in Florida and in the South. The only reason I have them number four on my list of the top 8 Florida inshore game fish is that they are not known for their terrific fight when hooked. Speckled trout are beautiful fish, aggressive, plentiful, and fantastic eating.

Live shrimp are a top bait for anglers targeting speckled trout. Many a speckled trout has fallen prey to a live shrimp dangled beneath a noisy popping cork. This is an old method that continues to produce to this day. Shrimp can also be free lined in deeper water. Trout are found most often on the open grass flats, but will drop down into deeper holes and channels if the water dips below 60°. Live pin fish, grunts, pilchards, and finger mullet are also productive live baits.

Top Florida saltwater game fish

The number one artificial lure for anglers targeting speckled trout is the jig and grub combo. This is a very effective lore that is versatile and cost-effective. One quarter ounce jig heads are the most popular as most of the trout are caught in waters between 3 feet deep and 10 feet deep. A soft plastic body of some sort, be it a shrimp, paddle tail, shad tail, or jerk worm is then adorned onto the jig.

Other artificial lures will certainly produce speckled trout as well. Top water plugs fished on a high tide first thing in the morning or in the evening will catch some trophy trout. Suspending plugs are deadly on trout as they hang seemingly helpless in the middle of the water column. Gold spoons can also work well for trout in open water.

Top saltwater species in Florida

19) Jack crevalle

Jack crevalle are number five on my list of the top 8 Florida inshore game fish. The only downside to jacks as far as the fight is concerned is that they seldom jump. Otherwise, they are right up there with the top game fish in the world. Jacks have broadsides and deeply forked tales and pull incredibly hard. They school up in large numbers which often times as to their competitiveness and aggressiveness.

Sarasota fishing report

Often times, jacks will be seen foraging on the surface. This is great fun and very exciting! As long as the bait or lure remotely resembles the forage that the jacks are feeding on, a bite is almost a guarantee. Plugs, jigs, spoons, and soft plastic baits are all productive lures when targeting jack crevalle.

Live bait will produce jacks as well. However, it is so much fun catching them on artificial lures that most anglers targeting jacks do so using lures or even a fly rod. Jacks are found along the coastlines and in the passes, inlets, and bays in the warmer months. In the cooler months, they often times move into the same canals in creeks as snook. Anglers can catch them blind casting while trolling plugs is a great way to locate fish.

20) Pompano

Top Florida saltwater game fish

Pompano do not grow very large, but put up a terrific fight for their size. They are also considered one of the finest eating fish on the planet. Due to the fact that they don’t grow very large, I have them ranked as number seven on my list of the top 8 Florida inshore game fish.

Pompano are found in the surf, passes and inlets, and inshore bays throughout the state. Many are caught by anglers fishing off of Florida beaches using shrimp or sand fleas as bait. Anglers and boats catch them on shrimp as well. However, most anglers and boats targeting pompano use small jigs. Pompano have small mouse and feet on the bottom. A jig bouncing along closely mimics the crustaceans that they feed on.

21) Bluefish

fishing Siesta Key

Bluefish are no stranger to northern anglers. Here in Florida, we get a smaller version as a average between one and 5 pounds. However, they have the same tenacity and aggressive tendencies as their northern cousins. Bluefish are usually found in schools. They are also quite aggressive, and will often times displace other fish in the area. It is not uncommon to experience multiple hookups when encountering a school of bluefish.

Most bluefish are caught by anglers using artificial lures. The motion, speed, and flash of a lure will excite and attract bluefish. Plugs, jigs, and spoons are all very effective. Live bait such as shrimp and small bait fish will produce on the flats. Anglers surf fishing and fishing from peers and bridges do well using fresh fish as cut bait. Bluefish have very sharp teeth and anglers fishing for them will experience lost lures and hooks. Bluefish are #8 on my list of top 8 Florida inshore game fish.

In conclusion, this article on the top 21 Florida Game Fish will help anglers have success when fishing in Florida. All current Florida fishing regulations can be found on the FWC website.

A Guide to Kayak fishing for beginners

A Guide to Kayak fishing for beginners

This article, “A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners. It is about getting anglers on the water in a kayak. There are several considerations including water being fished, size, weight, and propulsion type. Kayak fishing is gaining in popularity. There are several factors for this increase. Kayaks are relatively inexpensive to buy and operate. They are lees work than larger boats. Finally, kayaks are quiet, giving anglers a more serene experience.

kayak fishing for beginners

“My name is Kelly, a West Texas gal that has fished since she could walk. I began as a bank cat fisherman with my family and was hooked on bass when I snagged my first one off my Ranger boat in college. I moved to Austin TX in 2014 and was suddenly surrounded by abundant fishing opportunities. It didn’t take long to jump into a kayak and begin learning the ropes. Since then, it’s been my biggest passion beyond my kids and I get on the water as much as possible.

“What is the hardest thing about kayak fishing? Finding other ladies to fish with! One of my goals is to encourage other women to enter the sport and hit the water with confidence. Kayak fishing can help bring busy moms and other women much needed stress relief, physical activity and cardio, as well as a whole lot of fun and camaraderie.

kayak fishing for beginners

Kayak fishing for beginners, what to look for in a kayak

“A kayak will open up a whole new world of fishing opportunities for you. For me, bank stomping is almost a thing of the past, but I do still on occasion. Once you have a kayak for fishing, you’ll never look back. But first – it’s important you get the right one for you! For women, the right kayak may be slightly different than for men. Here are some things to consider, from my female perspective.

Kayak weight is an important factor

“Will you be loading it yourself most of the time? How much weight can you lift? For me – I prefer to stay under 70 pounds and not over 80. Some kayaks can weigh much more! I paddle a Diablo Amigo which weighs 75 lbs, is 12’8” long, and 37.5” wide. 75 lbs is pushing it for loading on top of a roof rack (for me). Keep in mind that after a long day on the water, even 70 lbs will feel more like 100+. Keep it light enough that you can easily lift one end up from the floor to your shoulders.

a guide to kayak fishing

“When looking at kayaks, ask a sales associate to lay one down flat for you on the sales floor if it’s not already. Then actually try lifting one end. You’ll be surprised how heavy some of them can seem. If you struggle to get it more than a foot off the ground, look for a lighter one.

Sit-in kayak or sit-on-top kayak?

“For fishing, I recommend a sit-on-top, not sit-in. I started out with a small 10’ Pelican sit-in. It was great for small lakes and I caught many bass in it. However, I quickly learned that one bad wave can sink you quickly. This happened when I was playing around on the beach going beyond the breakers. As I came back in, a huge wave came and rolled me. As you can imagine, it quickly filled with water and was stuck in the surf under water.

“Luckily for me, a very strong guy that looked like he could’ve been a sumo wrestler happened to be chilling on the beach nearby. Miraculously, he came to my rescue and pulled the kayak out of the water. It was tough lifting for even him!

beginners kayak fishing

“For fishing, always go with a sit-on-top kayak so that you don’t have to worry about a large wave overtaking you. Yes – learn from my mistakes! This is especially critical if you plan to ever venture beyond the breakers on the coast with your kayak. Even big lakes on windy days can pose a threat.

Kayak stability factors

“The older you are, the more stable kayak I recommend. More narrow kayaks will be less stable and wider kayaks will be more stable. However, you will always trade off some speed for stability. I’m 41 and I like to be able to stand and stretch and fish as opposed to sitting all day, which is why I went with one that is over 3’ wide.

fishing in a kayak

“However, if you have a need for speed and don’t mind sitting all day, go for something skinnier that will cut through the water easier. There are quite a few great and stable kayaks on the market these days. Look for one that features a pull-up leash. Those are there specifically for being able to stand and fish. Find your balance!

Kayak rod holders

“When investing in a fishing kayak, be sure it has, at minimum, a spot for two rods to be securely placed. Most fishing kayaks will come with two rod holders behind the seats. However, some will not as they have room for a fishing crate behind the seat. People typically will have fishing rod holders installed on the crate. But keep this in mind – either your kayak needs to be stable enough for you to stand, turn and grab the rod, or you need to be flexible enough to twist in your seat to access the rods.

“Some kayaks now offer swivel seats – so that is another option for being sure you can access your rods. I do highly recommend having gear track installed on your kayak with an extra rod holder that rests near your seat. That rod holder should be reserved for placing your rod in after landing a fish, which keeps you from dropping your rod in the water when removing, measuring, and releasing a fish. (Personal experience)

 Seating on kayaks

“Test the seat out before you buy! I cannot say this enough. Being in the kayak fishing world, I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve heard about people’s backs hurting after fishing all day due to the seat not being comfortable. When looking at and testing the seat, keep in mind that typically you want the seat to sit lower for paddling, as that helps you go faster. Paddling from up higher can be more challenging.

kayak fishing for beginners

“Some kayaks come with seats that adjust from a higher to lower position, and vice versa. Some even swivel! But I also have at least one friend that literally got a small lawn party chair for his kayak and it works fine too. Just make sure the seat is comfortable enough to sit in for hours.

Pedal or paddle the kayak?

“That is the question of the century. Basically, you’ll pay more money for a pedal drive. A pedal drive can serve you well if you’re a serious fisherman because it allows you to hold your position in varying conditions while working your bait. With only paddles, it’s a lot more challenging to hold your position and work your bait, unless you’re able to anchor.

“However, bass fishermen and women are constantly moving and working the water looking for the fish – so pedal drives have a huge advantage when it comes to tournament fishing. Plus, a pedal drive will get you to your honey hole a lot quicker. I’ve been to some places where a pedal drive won’t get you anywhere because it’s either too shallow or there’s too much hydrilla that the pedals get hung in.

bass fishing in a kayak

“Paddle only kayaks definitely have their place! Bay fishing in low tide is one of those times I wouldn’t use a pedal drive, as the water can be super shallow. I’m talking inches.

Just consider where you’ll be doing most of your fishing and if you prefer your hands free all the time or not. Just be ready to pay more for a pedal drive if you go that route.

Kayak fishing for beginners, transporting and storing

“You can’t talk about getting a fishing kayak without talking about how you will transport your kayak. You can buy a roof rack for just about any small car or SUV. I personally have Thule bars installed on mine and they work great for loading a basic kayak on. Most sporting goods stores sell kayak racks as well as cradles that you can add to “cradle” your kayak(s).

“A trailer is another great option. My father bought me a small utility trailer from Lowes, and I had it custom welded with crossbars to load two Diablo Amigos on with lots of storage space underneath. This option can run up to $1,000 unless you can find a good used trailer for cheap. A utility trailer can cost anywhere from $400-$900 depending on size, quality, and location.

“You can expect custom welding to run you $200 – $400 more. But I have to say, it is well worth the money as I can’t imagine being without this trailer now. Plus, there is no way I would be able to load two Diablo Amigos on top of my car. The fact that storage and camping boxes slide right underneath the kayaks is icing on the cake!

Kayak carts

“Another great investment I made was a C-Tug cart, which helps me get my kayak to the water without dragging it and scraping the bottom. Of course, you don’t need a cart if you are backing right up to the water. But mine has paid off in many instances, especially if you’re fishing alone and don’t have help getting your kayak to the water.

trailer for fishing kayaks

“There are many different kayak carts available and you may want to check prices. If you go with a heavier kayak, a cart is pretty much a must have to get your kayak transported around without damaging the bottom. But if your kayak is lighter, you just might can do without one – especially if you mostly back right up to the water.

Kayak fishing for beginners, safety equipment

“Otherwise known as your personal floatation device, this is an absolute must or you simply do not need to be on the water. You can buy a traditional PFD/lifejacket which can come with all kinds of cool pockets and clips, or an auto-inflate. Auto-inflate will automatically inflate when immersed in water. They work, I’ve accidentally tested mine.

“For lakes and still water, I recommend the auto-inflate as it is smaller, less bulky, and more comfortable honestly. But for moving water like river fishing or going beyond the breakers, I’d always wear a traditional PFD. They are more heavy duty and not subject to puncture holes like an auto-inflate. Additionally, when the auto-inflate life vest deploys, it will cost you $20 to re-arm it every time. On a river or going beyond the breakers, you’re likely to take a spill eventually. Kayaks must have a whistle, and a 360 light for night time kayak fishing, and for late evening and super early morning.

Kayak storage

“Storage , that is a good consideration. Where will that huge thing go?! I keep mine on the trailer in the garage. And when I travel I lock them up to the trailer with a cable lock, a few of them. Some people get chains and also run through a scupper and wrap around the trailer. The more locked down the better. Sometimes when staying in hotel rooms, I just drag them into the room with me.

Time to go kayak fishing!

“Hopefully you’re ready to jump on a kayak and chase some fins! I hope this article on kayak fishing for beginners will help you get started! Texas is a great place to do just that, with year-round fishing opportunities and so many species to choose from.

Bottom fishing from a kayak in northern California

The subject of this article is bottom fishing northern California. The rugged coast line of California from San Francisco north offers anglers the opportunity to catch a wide variety of bottom fish. Know locally as “groundfish”, these are species such as rockfish and lingcod. They live and feed in the bottom structure.

kayak fishing

The water in the Pacific Ocean gets deep fairly quickly off of the northern California coast. There is also quite a bit of rocky structure that holds fish. The best spots are underwater “humps” that rise up from deeper water to around 75 feet deep. The best area along the coast is from Bodega Bay to Crescent City. The most popular launches for kayakers are Fort Ross, Albion River and Shelter Cove.

Many anglers access this great fishing from shore using kayaks. Amanda Brannon is our Fishing Ladies correspondent who is familiar with this type of fishing. She is relatively new to this type of fishing, but quickly became enamored with it.

Bottom fishing northern California, tackle and baits

Most anglers opt for light to medium conventional tackle for this type of fishing. There are a couple of reasons for this. Casting is seldom required, most fishing is done vertically. Conventional tackle is also better for winching large, strong fish up off the bottom. Shimano Trevala 7 foot jigging rod, Shimano Calcutta 400B reel, and 25 pound P-Line Original co-polymer line.

kayak fishing for rockfish

Some anglers use braid to shock leader when bottom fishing northern California. Rockfish and lingcod have sharp teeth and the jagged bottom requires this. Most anglers use 50 pound braid to a 20 pound flourocarbon leader. Anglers can then fish with lures or bait. Jigs are the top artificial lure while squid and anchovies are the best natural baits.

A jig and a swim bait is a great combination for this style of fishing. Amanda’s “go to” combo is a 4 oz Pitbull Tackle Shad Jig Head with a 6.5” Senorita Big Hammer Swimbait slathered in Pro-Cure Squid Super-Gel. She has caught a bunch of fishing using these and there is less mess and hassle with these versus live or cut bait when fishing from a kayak.

California bottom fish identification

Fish identification and current fishing regulations need to be taken into consideration. Many of these species are similar in shape, size, and sometimes color. Here are a couple of links that will help anglers identify the species caught and obey the current laws. RESOURCES and California Department of fish and wildlife.

kayak fishing for beginners

Amanda was introduced to bottom fishing northern California just a few years ago. She found both the kayaking and fishing to be very exciting. She shares her story with other anglers here on the Fishing Ladies site.

Amanda’s introduction to bottom fishing northern California

“July 8 2016, it was before sunrise and the first time I had ever driven the famous tourist Highway 1 route. As we began our trek north along the Sonoma coastline, I felt my stomach begin to flutter with excitement in anticipation for what I could not see to the west of me just beyond the cliffs. As the sun began to rise and cast shadows on the heavy fog bank that was still lingering from the night before, I begin to start questioning my commitment to go rock fishing for the first time.

“My sights were fixed on waves crashing onto boulders just offshore from the beach, the ocean disappearing into the fog into no man’s land and then there was the thought of whales, sea lions, seals and the horror stories of the Great White sharks. If I was fishing from a boat, I knew I would have a chance to get back to shore safely. But, I wasn’t going to be in a boat, I was going to be in a 14-foot kayak!

Safety concerns when bottom fishing northern California

“After making it to our launch destination, Matthew, now my husband but at the time boyfriend, went over all safety precautions with me. The water temperatures in Northern California are cold year-round. A dry suit or wet suit is recommended for safety when fishing out of a kayak. On my first trip out I rented a wet suit from a local dive shop.

“A PFD (personal floatation device) is worn at all times. A whistle, light and flag for the kayak, marine radio and a first aid kit are all in our kayaks and more importantly we know how to use them. Don’t get yourself into an emergency situation and then not know how to use something.

lingcod in a kayak

“Matthew went over the launch technique with me several times; wait for the wave to come in, hop in the boat and then go. If you don’t, the waves will roll the kayak over. Once you are in you immediately start paddling to get out over the rolling beach waves. My first launch wasn’t perfect and to be honest, to this day I still feel more comfortable with him helping me launch.

“Once the paddle out began my stomach flutters started to settle and I was excited to get to our fishing spot. After paddling about half a mile off the shoreline we started using our depth finders to look for rocky bottoms in 75-100 feet of water. Once we found the structure we were looking for, we would drop our line, let it sink all the way to the bottom, reel it up a turn or two and wait.

Bottom fishing northern California for rockfish and lingcod

“Oh boy, when the first fish hit my line I squealed like a little kid in excitement! I had no clue what I was going to be reeling up, which turned out to be a decent lingcod. We caught a decent number of fish but the 7-foot swells ended up forcing us off the water.

“On each trip we took out I became more and more independent on the water and not

afraid to handle fishing. There are over 90 different species of rockfish that inhabit the Pacific coast of California. Of course, I only caught a handful or two of those species. My favorite species to catch are lingcod and vermillion rockfish.

“My first trip out led to my obsession for rockfishing along the coast of Northern California. I caught some amazing fish out there and captured even more amazing memories on the water with my husband. Our journey has taken us back to the east coast for now, where we are chasing redfish and continuing to fish for bass! Until we get back out there, I will have to reminisce and live vicariously through our west coast friends the Baumbach’s who now share the same obsession.”

In closing, this article, “A Guide to Kayak Fishing for Beginners” will help anglers catch some of these delicious fish species.

Top 15 sheepshead fishing tips

Top 15 Sheepshead Fishing Tips for Anglers

This article lists the top 15 sheepshead fishing tips. Sheepshead are a very popular and tasty bottom fish. They are members of the porgy family. In the United States, they are found all along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico as well as the eastern seaboard up to the mid Atlantic. Sheepshead school up in large numbers. Once located, anglers can put a lot of fish in the boat in a short amount of time. Sheepshead are very good to eat, though they have a large rib cage and are difficult to clean.

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.

Best 15 sheepshead fishing tips

Sheepshead are a structure oriented fish. They are found around bridges, jetties, docks, oyster bars, seawalls, and submerged ledges and rocks. They feed almost exclusively on crustaceans. Very few sheepshead are caught by anglers using artificial lures. Fishing with live, fresh dead, or frozen baits on the bottom near structure produces the most fish. They are a staple of captains running fishing charters throughout the southeast United States.

Sheepshead range all along the Gulf Coast and east coast as far north as Canada. However, the greatest concentration is found from North Carolina south and around to Texas. Cooler months are generally best as this is when they spawn. In the northern parts of their range, sheepshead will school up and spawn in the summer.

1) Live bait is best

As mentioned before, very few sheepshead are caught by anglers using artificial lures. It does occur, but rarely. Some fish just prefer the “real thing”, and sheepshead are one of those species. Live, freshly dead, and frozen baits account for the vast majority of sheepshead that are landed by anglers. Live and frozen shrimp are the most readily available and thus popular sheepshead baits.

Sarasota fishing excursions

In most angling situations, live bait is the best choice. Preferred baits vary by region. Shrimp, mole crabs (commonly known as sand fleas), and fiddler crabs are the top baits. Live shrimp are the most universally used bait for sheepshead. They are available at just about every coastal bait shop. Some serious sheepshead anglers prefer fiddler crabs and sand fleas over shrimp. However, in most instances these baits must be procured by the angler. Oyster crabs and worms are caught by anglers looking around rocks on a low tide.

2) Sheepshead fishing tackle

Fortunately, no special tackle is required when targeting sheepshead. The same inshore fishing tackle used for speckled trout and redfish will work fine when bottom fishing for sheepshead. A 7 foot medium action spinning rod match with a 3000 series reel is perfect. Many anglers prefer braided line and its increased sensitivity as sheepshead will often times bite very lightly. Anglers targeting very large sheepshead around heavy structure may need to bump up the tackle and use light conventional gear.

Sarasota family fishing charters

In many instances, vertical presentations work best. This means that no casting is required. This makes sheepshead fishing a greeat option for anglers with less experience. Slightly heavier tackle can be used in these instances.

3) Terminal tackle for sheepshead

Basic bottom fishing tackle is all that is required for anglers sheepshead fishing. A selection of egg sinkers and bank sinkers from one quarter ounce to 2 ounces, split shot, live bait hooks in several sizes, swivels, and several spools of leader material between 20 pound and 40 pound test are all that is required.

Every angler has his or her favorite hooks for bottom fishing. Circle hooks work well for patient anglers who can resist the urge to set the hook. Live bait hooks work well, too. Whichever hook style used, anglers should make sure that the hook is stout. They are required to turn a nice fish in cover as well as being easier to remove from the sheepshead’s mouth.

4) Hide the hook

Sheepshead can be very fussy at times. For most fishing applications, a #1 or #1/0 short shank live bait hook works best. Some anglers prefer circle hooks as well; a #3/0 circle hook is a good all round size. In either case, anglers should try to hide the hook in the bait as much is possible. This is easy with shrimp as it can be threaded onto the shank. Anglers using sand fleas and fiddlers should hide as much of the hook in the bait as possible.

5) Fishing sinker weight is important

top 15 sheepshead fishing tips

As in most fishing situations, the rule of thumb when bottom fishing is to use the least amount of weight needed to get the bait to the bottom. This results in a more natural presentation as the bait slowly sink through the water column that settles on the bottom. Anglers fishing shallow water with little current will do fine with just a split shot or two. Anglers fishing in passes and inlets with a lot of current will need several ounces.

Sliding egg sinkers are the most popular sinker used by anglers sheepshead fishing. They allow line to slide through as the fish moves off with the bait, feeling no resistance. They can also be used in the chicken rig or “high-low” rigs. Babk sinkers do work well for anglers that drift and fish in heavier currents.

6) Sheepshead are structure oriented

Sheephead will rarely be found very far from some type of structure or cover. Seldom are they encountered in open water or grass flats. Bridges are well-known to produce plenty of fish. Docks can also be extremely productive. Other productive structure would include oyster bars, submerged rocks and ledges, jetties, and artificial reefs.

top 15 sheepshead fishing tips

Current also plays a role in fish position on the structure. Generally speaking, fish will face into the current as they feed. This is true whether stationary or moving around. Often times, sheepshead will form schools and move about as a bunch in search of food. Anglers should not stay at a spot too long if no action is found. This is especially true when fishing docks. Ten docks may provide very little then the eleventh one will be loaded with fish!

7) Leader diameter can make a difference

Though not really thought of as leader shy, there are times were anglers will need to go to a lighter leader. This is particularly true in clear water which often occurs in the cooler months. 30 pound test fluorocarbon leader’s work well in most instances. However, if the bite is slow, dropping down to 20 pound test may result in more action. Conversely, if the wind blows and churns up the water, anglers fishing heavy structure can bump it up to 40 lb or 50 lb leader.

Florida saltwater fishing in winter

8) Sheepshead bottom fishing rigs

There are several bottom rigs that work well when sheepshead fishing. The sliding sinker rig, also known as a Carolina rig, is probably the most popular. It consists of an egg sinker with a hole in it which the running line goes through. A swivel is then tied on, followed by a 2 foot piece of leader and the hook. This rig allows the sheepshead to pick up the bait and move off with it without feeling any resistance.

A knocker rig is a variation of the sliding sinker rig. The difference is that the leader goes through the sinker below the swivel. This allows the way to sit right on the eye of the hook. There are two advantages to this rig. One, it results in the bait being right on the bottom with the weight. Secondly, the weight at the eye often results in anglers freeing the hook from underwater snags more easily.

bottom fishing rigs

Another popular ineffective sheepshead fishing rig is the high low rig or chicken rig. Many anglers are familiar with this setup. The sinker, usually a bank sinker, is tied to the bottom of the leader. A hook or multiple hooks is tied at various levels above the sinker. This allows anglers to fish multiple baits at various points in the water column. It is an excellent presentation went fishing vertically. This is also a great choice when drifting a likely sheepshead fishing spot.

9) Frozen baits will produce when sheepshead fishing

Fortunately for anglers, there are times when sheepshead are not all that fussy. Also, there will be times when shrimp boats can’t get out and live bait become scarce. While live bait is often preferred, frozen shrimp, sand fleas, and fiddler crabs will produce sheepshead. It is important to thaw a little bait at a time as anglers fish. Bait that is completely frozen will often break. Conversely, bait that is thawed out too long can get soft and fall off the hook easily.

10) Other sheepshead baits

While fiddlers, shrimp, and sand fleas are the three most popular sheepshead fishing baits, there are other baits that will produce. Some areas have oyster crabs. These are found around rocks and jetties on a low tide. They resemble stone crabs to a degree. However, they do have a different color. Mollusks such as oysters and clam strips can also be used.

Sarasota fishing report

11) Sheepshead hooking techniques

It is often said by veteran sheepshead anglers to “set the hook just before they bite”! Of course, this is an exaggeration. However, Sheepshead are notorious for being very light biters. They will often remove the bait from the hook while the angler feels nothing at all. That said, there are some techniques which will help anglers improve their percentage converting bites to fish. Just keep in mind that this will be lower when targeting sheepshead that it will be when targeting other species.

The best approach is to cast the bait out or lower to the bottom and allow it to settle. The angler should then remove all slack from the line and keep the bait motionless with the rod tip low. The bite often begins with a few subtle “taps”. It is very important not to move the bait at all while this occurs.

Siesta Key fishing charters

At some point, the sheepshead will move off with it and the angler will watch the rod bend. At this point the angler should real quickly while slowly raising the rod. It is important to not try to set the hook. As a charter boat captain in Florida, I have found that this is the best technique for hooking and landing sheepshead.

12) Tide considerations when sheepshead fishing

As in most saltwater fishing applications, tide is a crucial element. Current flow will often times position fish on structure. The best approach is to anchor up tide from the structure that is to be fished. The angler can then present the bait back with the current. This results in a natural presentation. It also lets the sent continue down current, hopefully pulling other fish off of the structure.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Passes and inlets are great spots to catch sheepshead. Here on the West Coast of Florida, they school up in huge numbers and structure in the passes to spawn. However, it can be very difficult to fish the passes and inlets when there is a strong current flow. Anchoring is difficult and a lot of weight will be required to get the bait to the bottom. Finally, there is the safety factor as these can be busy boating spots, particularly on the weekends. The best times to fish the passes are on the changes of the tide, as this is when the current eases up enough to fish and anchor more easily.

13) Fishing for sheepshead offshore

While Sheepshead are plentiful in the inshore waters, angler should not neglect ledges, wrecks, and artificial reefs. Most coastal areas have this type of structure, often close to shore. These can be sheepshead hot spots in the late winter and spring.

Sarasota sheepshead fishing

Many anglers overlook natural ledges when targeting sheepshead. This is a mistake! While larger artificial reefs attract many sheepshead as well as anglers, ledges will hold some very nice fish. They also get less fishing pressure due to the fact that they are smaller and more difficult to locate. Another benfit is that other desirable species such as snapper, sea bass, and flounder are commonly caught on these smaller ledges.

14) Sheepshead cleaning tips

While sheepshead are fantastic eating, they are difficult to clean. They have very sharp dorsal fins and large, thick rib cages. I have found that the best fish to keep for dinner are the nice fat, chunky fish between 14 inches long and 18 inches long. It is just my preference, but I generally release the larger specimens. Most of these are females that are full of eggs at the time of year that we target sheepshead.

best Sarasota fishing charter

The best way to clean sheepshead is to insert the tip of the fillet knife between the dorsal fin in the back of the fish. Anglers will find a little “flap” here that facilitates this process. Then, the knife is worked down the backbone in both directions. The tip of the knife can be pushed all the way through emerging from the bottom of the fish. In order to save the blade of the knife, the fillet can be ripped off of the rib cage by hand once at that point.

15) Cooking sheepshead

Sheepshead are a very versatile fish. Once cooked, the meat is firm and white. It is a great fish for chowder! It also does very well fried, grilled, baked, and broiled. Blackened sheepshead is delicious and very easy to prepare. There really is no wrong way to prepare these tasty bottom dwellers, as long as they are not overcooked. Florida anglers can find current sheepshead regulations on the FWC website. They do change occasionally.

In conclusion, this article listing the top 15 sheepshead fishing tips will help anglers catch more of these tasty and hard fighting bottom fish. What is your favorite sheepshead bait?

Fishing for Florida Panfish and Crappie

Fishing for Florida panfish and crappie

This article focuses on fishing for Florida panfish and crappie. They offer anglers both great sport on ultralight tackle and fine eating! Freshwater panfish are very popular throughout the entire United States. There are quite a few different species of panfish. Bluegill, redear sunfish, war mouth, spotted sunfish, and red breast sunfish are just some of the different species. Crappie are the largest of the panfish and arguably the most popular. Just about every species of panfish is delicious! In Florida and the South, they are also known as “bream”.

fishing for Florida crappie and panfish

Florida anglers are never very far from the closest spot to catch panfish. There is water everywhere here. Some species of panfish or another live and just about every body of water that is fresh. Most Florida waters are shallow and weedy which is prime habitat for catching panfish.

Fishing for Florida panfish

For many Florida anglers fishing for panfish is a very simple affair. They grab a 12 foot cane pole with a piece of string and a hook. Some type of live bait such as worms or crickets is acquired and they had down to the local fishing hole. This type of fishing is very relaxing and is still productive to this day.

fishing for Florida panfish and crappie

While cane poles work fine, spinning tackle is much more versatile. Spinning rods allow anglers to cast very light baits and lures a fair distance. And ultralight spinning outfit is relatively inexpensive. A decent rod, real, and line can be purchased for around $40.

Catching Florida panfish using bait

Live bait is very effective for targeting panfish. Most panfish eat insects, crustaceans, and small bait fish. Live worms are tough to beat for catching a wide variety of species. Crickets are very popular and are available at many freshwater bait shops. They are particularly good when targeting bluegill. Freshwater grass shrimp are a deadly bait for panfish! Few bait shops sell them however and anglers must catch their own with the net in the weedy vegetation.

fishing for Florida panfish and crappie

Most anglers fishing with live bait use a float of some sort. This allows the bait to be suspended over the weeds at the desired depth. It also gives anglers a visual indication of a strike. If the float disappears, a fish has taken the bait! This is a very practical rig since many Florida lakes and ponds are quite shallow. On deeper lakes and rivers anglers remove the float in at a small split shot a foot above the hook to get the bait down deeper.

While live bait probably accounts for most of the panfish that are caught, I actually prefer using artificial lures. I enjoy casting out a lure and reeling it back in, anticipating a strike. Lures also allow anglers to cover water much more quickly than live bait does. As an added bonus, largemouth bass often hit these tiny lures meant for panfish. A 1 1/2 pound bass will put up a tremendous fight on ultralight tackle!

Catching Florida panfish using lures

My go-to lure for Florida panfish is a 1/16 ounce black Beetlespin. It is basically a tiny spinner bait with a small grub body. Every angler has his or her favorite color. I have found the darker colors such as black and green to be the most effective in the tannin stained waters of Florida. In reality, just about any tiny in-line spinner or spinner bait will catch most species of Florida panfish.

Sarasota trolling techniques

Jigs are another very popular ineffective panfish bait. Ultralight jig heads can be purchased as light as one 64th ounce. However 1/32 ounce and 1/16 ounce baits are the most commonly used. Crappy anglers may bump it up to 1/8 ounce when fishing and trolling in deeper water.

One great thing about the jig and grub combo is that the grub body is easily replaced. The jig head is tied on to the line in some type of body adorns the jig hook. These little grubs come in countless colors in several shapes. Twister tale and Shad tail baits have great built in action and are probably the most popular. If I had to pick one jig and grub combo, it would be a 1/16 ounce jig with a chartreuse twister tail.

Fly anglers are certainly not to be left out when it comes to Florida panfish. Since much of a panfish’s diet includes insects, fly fishing is a natural. A 3wt to 4wt outfit with a floating line is perfect. Any small buggy looking fly or tiny baitfish imitations will produce panfish. My favorite fly is a #10 black Wooly Bugger. That fly will catch just about every freshwater fish on the planet.

Fishing for Florida panfish; techniques

The fishing technique for panfish is basically the same whether you are using lures, flies, or live bait. Panfish prefer some type of cover, with vegetation being their primary hiding spots. Bluegill and other panfish love wood, so any fallen tree should be given extra attention.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

Panfish tend to group up in an area. The best approach is for an angler to move around while fishing likely looking spots. If the action is slow, keep it moving. Once a productive area is located, it is time to slow down and fish that area thoroughly. This is especially true when panfish are on the spawning beds.

Florida panfish like cover such as weeds and fallen timber

Anglers fishing with live bait in shallow water will generally have the float a couple feet above the float. They cast the rig out towards the edge of a weed line, over submerged vegetation, or near some submerged timber. The bait is allowed to sit for a little bit, giving the fish plenty of time to find it. When the float disappears the slack line is real top and the hook is set.

fishing for panfish in Florida

Artificial lures and flies are cast out to the same spots. They are allowed to sink for a moment in the retrieved back in. The most productive retrieve when pan fishing will be a slow steady retrieve. Anglers using spinners or spinner baits want to real just fast enough to turn the blade and keep the bait out of the bottom. Anglers jig fish in can give the rod tip a slight twitch to make the jig top and fall.

Florida panfish locations

Bottom composition can be a huge factor when targeting Florida panfish. Hard, shell bottom will be very productive areas it found. This is especially true for redear sunfish, AKA shellcrackers. They get their name because of their affinity for eating mollusks and crustaceans. But all fish prefer a firmer bottom over mucky bottom, especially when it’s time to spawn.

Florida bluegill fishing

I really enjoy fishing Florida rivers for panfish. They are often overlooked by anglers. Here in Sarasota, Florida, we have the Manatee River system and the Myakka River system. The river inside Myakka State Park is beautiful with fantastic scenery and wildlife. It offers great pan fishing for anglers with small boats, canoes, and kayaks.

One advantage to panfish in rivers is at there is limited water. This makes finding panfish easier. This is especially true during periods of low-water. Outside bends in the river almost always have deeper water and fallen trees. These types of spots are magnets for panfish and other game fish.

Trolling is another extremely effective technique for panfish. It is especially efficient on larger open bodies of water. Trolling a small Beetlespin or jig along a weed line is a great way to locate a school of panfish. Trolling is very popular among crappie anglers. It is a terrific way to locate a school of fish in deeper water.

Florida panfish species


Sarasota freshwater fishing

Crappie are the largest member of the panfish clan and grow to several pounds. Anything over 12” is a decent fish. Crappie school up in fall and winter. Many anglers troll in deeper water for them. As it warms up in spring, they move to the shallow banks. Crappie prefer small bait fish, so live minnows and artificial lures that mimic bait fish work best.


fishing for bluegill in Florida

Bluegill are probably the most abundant and prolific species of fish in the bluegill family. Many southern anglers call them “bream”. It is pronounced “brim”. No matter what name you give them, they are great fun to catch and put up a good fight for their size. The running joke is that if bluegill got to be 5 pounds, you would never be able to land it!

Bluegill are fairly aggressive and can be caught on just about any live or artificial bait and while fly fishing. They prefer shallow weedy areas with Sandy bottom and are very much attracted to wood. This would include trees and docks. Florida bluegill spawn around the full moons and summer.

Redear sunfish (shellcrackers)

fishing for Florida shellcracker

Redear sunfish (AKA shellcrackers) are the largest members of the bream family. They prefer slightly deeper water than most other panfish. While they will hit artificial lures, anglers targeting redear sunfish will have more success using live worms.

Spotted sunfish (stumpknocker)

Fishing for stumpknocker in Florida

Spotted sunfish or “stumpknockers” are another popular Florida panfish. They get their name from their affinity for woody structure. Spotted sunfish mostly feed on vegetation, but due to their aggressive nature are easily caught using lures. They do not grow quite as large as bluegill, but have a firm, white meat.


fishing for Florida warmouth

Warmouth are very aggressive and more solitary than other panfish. They are broad and put up a very good fight. They tend to prefer smaller bodies of water such as streams and swampy areas.

Fishing for Florida crappie

This section will focus on our fishing ladies catching Florida crappie. Crappie are an extremely popular freshwater fish, right up there with largemouth bass bluegill. They are a bit larger than most freshwater panfish and are available throughout much of the United States.

Fishing for Florida crappie

Florida fishing gets a lot of attention, though not as much is directed towards crappie and other panfish. However, Florida offers anglers excellent crappie fishing! Crappie are locally known as “speckled perch”or “specks”. They are most often targeted in medium-sized to larger lakes.

Here in Sarasota, Florida where I guide in fish, saltwater species are the focus of most anglers. However, Sarasota has some underutilized freshwater angling opportunities. There are several lakes within a short drive of Sarasota that offer excellent crappie fishing. Upper Myakka Lake, Lake Manatee, Evers Lake, and Benderson Lake are the top spots in Sarasota.

Best times to fish for Florida crappie

While crappie can be caught year-round, the prime times are from middle of October till the middle of March. Crappie will start to school up in slightly deeper water along the edges of channels and and other deeper holes. As the weekly cold fronts begin to descend on Florida, these fish will move up to the banks to spawn. By April, most fish will have spawned out and migrated to the deeper water for the summer.

The two most productive techniques for crappie fishing are trolling and casting. Many successful anglers use a combination of the two. Early in the season when the schools are staged out in deeper water, trolling can be very effective. This allows anglers to cover a fair amount of water in search of fish. Once located, anglers will often slowly and thoroughly fish that area.

Most anglers choose to troll with artificial lures. However, live minnows can be trolled very slowly as well. Jigs are the preferred lure when trolling for crappie. A jig is a hook with a weight at the front near the eye. Jig heads come in many different weights and anglers can use the proper weight to get down to the desired depth.

Jigs produce crappie

The jig is then adorned with some type of plastic body or hairdressing. Marabou jigs have been popular ineffective for crappie fishing for a long time. Many anglers choose for soft plastic bodies for several reasons. They are inexpensive, effective, and it is very easy to change the colors and styles of the tails. Grubs come in many different styles and colors, and all of them will produce fish at one time or another.

top freshwater species

The Blakemore Rd., Runner is a very productive lure for trolling in deeper water. It is basically a jig like described above except that it has a little spinner coming off the head. Many of Florida’s lakes are dark and tannin stained. The extra flash of the spinner can prove to be the difference between success and failure when trolling for crappie.

As it cools off in the fish move up to the bank, many anglers switch over to casting lures and live baits. The same jigs used for trolling work fine when cast and retrieved towards the bank and other likely fish holding structure. Crappie love submerged trees and downed timber. Tiny spinner baits such as the beetle spent work very well on crappie and other panfish. Tiny plugs will produce as well, and will normally catch larger fish.

Crappie fishing with live bait

Live bait is often used in the circumstances well. The number one live bait by far is a live minnow. Most tackle shops that service freshwater anglers keep these on hand. The Missouri minnow is commercially raised and is very hardy. A couple dozen will live just fine in a small bucket of water. Most anglers fish the minnow several feet under a bobber. Red worms and nightcrawlers will also produce crappie.

Florida crappie fishing

Anglers can still troll when crappie move into the banks. In fact, this is a terrific way to locate a school of fish. Since the water will be shallower, very light jigs, small spinner baits, and tiny plugs are the best choice. As with the deep water trolling, once a school of fish is located anglers should turn back around and fish that area thoroughly.

Crappie are a very mild flavored fish with white flesh. They are fantastic eating! During these periods when crappie school up, it is easy to catch a bunch in a few hours of fishing. While they do freeze well, I encourage anglers to be judicious in the size and number of fish that they keep. I personally let the very big ones go and of course the smaller ones as well, keeping the chunky fish and the tenants to 12 inch range to eat.

Best Florida crappie fishing lakes

Lake Okeechobee

Lake Okeechobee is world-renowned for its bass fishing, but offers anglers excellent crappie fishing as well. Winter and early spring are the prime times to target crappie in Lake Okeechobee. While any part of the lake can be productive, many anglers focus on the north end where the Kissimmee River comes in. Vegetation is the primary cover and anglers will do well to move around until fish are located.

Lake Arbuckle

Lake Arbuckle is a 3800 acre lake in Polk County. It is a very productive lake for crappie year-round. There are three deeper basins in the lake which tend to concentrate crappie. As in most Florida lakes, trolling is productive in the cooler months while anglers target fish in the shallower grass in the spring. There is a park, but ramp and campground there. The area is gated, so anglers fishing early and late would do best to call ahead. The phone number is 863-534-4340.

Lake Istapoga

Lake Istapoga is another lake known more for bass fishing, but offers excellent crappie fishing as well. This is a 28,000 acre lake in the south-central part of Florida. Traditionally, the best crappie fishing spots are in the deeper areas east and north of Big Island along with the west side of Long Island. Vegetation is fairly thick and Lake Istapoga. Anglers tend to concentrate on the deeper areas in the winter as opposed to fighting the heavy vegetation they encounter by mid spring. There are several boat ramps offering crappie anglers access to this lake.

Lake Talquin

Lake Talquin holds the Florida state record crappie at nearly 4 pounds. It is an 8800 acre lake near Tallahassee, Florida. Anglers troll the channel area in fall and winter, then concentrate on the shallow water vegetation and spring. The lake is full of submerged stumps, trees and other structure and obstructions. Lake Talquin is also a very good lake for bluegill.


Lake walk-in water is an 8000 acre lake in Polk County. This lake has less vegetation than many of the other Florida lakes do. This lake has plenty of deep water for anglers who prefer to troll. Also, seven fish attractors were placed in the lake to help concentrate the crappie in the deeper water. These are well marked with orange and white buoys. There is one boat ramp on the western side of the lake off of Walk-in-Water Road.

Lake Monroe

Lake Monroe is part of the St. Johns River chain of lakes. It is close to 10,000 acres and lies between Orlando and Daytona Beach. Lake Monroe is known to give up good-sized fish in the cooler months. Anglers will do well to troll as it allows them to cover a lot of water. Lake Monroe is large and the crappie can be difficult to locate. However, once they are located, anglers can expect larger than average catches.

Lochloosa Lake

Lockloosa Lake in Alachua County is best known for numbers of crappie. Many anglers limit out on fish in the 10 inch range. Again, as with most Florida lakes, anglers fish the deeper open water in the cooler months than concentrate on shoreline vegetation as it warms up. This lake is also known for some very large bluegill. There is a county ramp located near the post office as well is a couple of fish camps. There are tagged crappy in this lake, anglers to catch one can call the number on the tag to claim their prize.


Walk-in Water is an 8000 acre lake in Polk County. This lake has less vegetation than many of the other Florida lakes do. This lake has plenty of deep water for anglers who prefer to troll. Also, seven fish attractors were placed in the lake to help concentrate the crappie in the deeper water. These are well marked with orange and white buoys. There is one boat ramp on the western side of the lake off of Walk-in-Water Road.

Lake Monroe

Lake Monroe is part of the St. Johns River chain of lakes. It is close to 10,000 acres and lies between Orlando and Daytona Beach. Lake Monroe is known to give up good-sized fish in the cooler months. Anglers will do well to troll as it allows them to cover a lot of water. Lake Monroe is large and the crappie can be difficult to locate. However, once they are located, anglers can expect larger than average catches.

Lochloosa Lake

Lockloosa Lake in Alachua County is best known for numbers of crappie. Many anglers limit out on fish in the 10 inch range. Again, as with most Florida lakes, anglers fish the deeper open water in the cooler months than concentrate on shoreline vegetation as it warms up. This lake is also known for some very large bluegill. There is a county ramp located near the post office as well is a couple of fish camps. There are tagged crappy in this lake, anglers to catch one can call the number on the tag to claim their prize.

Lake Griffin

Lake Griffin is a 10,000 acre lake in Lake County near Leesburg, Florida. It is part of the Harris Chain of Lakes. There are several marked fish attractors in the center and southern parts of the lake. There is a 10 inch minimum size for crappie on Lake Griffin. This has resulted and good numbers of ten inch plus fish. There are ramps at Herlong Park and out Lake Griffin State Park.

Mosaic fish management area

There are 12 lakes in the Mosaic Fish management area, ranging from 10 to 200 acres. The Mosaic Fish management area is 1000 acres and is located in Polk County near Fort Meade, Florida. These are reclaimed strip pits and are deep for Florida lakes. These lakes very and offer crappie anglers a wide variety of structure. They have a mix of brushy weedy shorelines and deeper water. SP 12 N SP 12 S and Hall Road are perhaps the best crappie lakes. These mosaic lakes have special regulations. There is a 10 inch minimum and a 10 fish per person fish limit. These lakes are only open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 6 AM until 2 PM. These restrictions result in some excellent fishing for crappie.

Newnans Lake

Newnans Lake in Alachua County was very low in 2017. However, heavy summer rains and Hurricane Irma brought the water level up quite high. There is an excellent population of crappie with a high percentage of quality fish as well. 16 inch fish are not uncommon. The same pattern of fishing deeper open water in cooler months and shoreline vegetation and cover and spring and summer holds true to this lake as well. There are tagged crappy in this lake. There are a couple boat ramps allowing anglers to access Newnans Lake.

Top Florida panfish spots

Florida panfish fishing

Florida is blessed with countless ponds, creeks, rivers, and lakes that have excellent panfish populations. Most Florida residents live withing a couple miles of panfish that are just waiting to be caught. Some of the top panfish lakes in Florida are Lake Kissimmee, Lake Toho, Lake Talquin, Lake Istopoga, Lake Panasoffkee, Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, Lake Weohyakapka (Walk-inWater), Lake Pierce, Lake Seminole, Lochloosa Lake, Lake Okeechobee, and Everglades Conservation Areas #2 and #3.

In closing, this article on Fishing for Florida panfish and crappie will help anglers catch more fish. Anglers can find Florida fishing regulations on the FWC site.

Best 6 Saltwater fishing lures

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures, Tips and techniques to succeed anywhere

Many anglers go saltwater fishing with artificial lures instead of live or cut bait. This is a list of the best 6 saltwater fishing lures. Artificial lures have been used by anglers to catch fish for a very long time. Lures are designed to mimic the forage that fish feed on. In saltwater, that is primarily bait fish and crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp.

Anglers are often surprised to find that lures commonly out fish live bait. While live bait is effective when fish are hungry, lures have other advantages. They will trigger reaction strikes from fish that are perhaps not feeding but can’t resist the chance for an easy meal. Artificial lures also allow anglers to cover a lot more water than those fishing with live bait. Finally, there is a convenience factor of not having to purchase, catch, and keep bait alive.

Best 6 Saltwater Fishing Lures

There are many artificial lures on the market that will catch fish. These are Capt Jim’s top 6 saltwater fishing lures that he uses on his Sarasota fishing charters.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

1)  Saltwater fishing with the jig and grub combo

The jig and grub combination is arguably the most popular saltwater fishing lure. It is #1 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures. It is economical, versatile, and will produce anywhere on the planet. This lure basically consists of a hook with a lead head molded into it near the eye. This weight at the front causes the lure to hop and fall in a jigging fashion. That is how the lure got its name. Jig heads come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they all work the same.

inshore saltwater fishing

The jig head is chosen based on the conditions the angler is facing. Depth of the water, speed of the current, and size of the forage are the primary considerations. Anglers fishing and water shallower than 10 feet deep will find a quarter ounce jig to be a good all-around size. Anglers fishing deeper water and in current will need to bump up the jig head size accordingly.

Some type of soft plastic grub body is added to the jig head. These tales come in a myriad of styles, sizes, and colors. The goal is for the grub body to match the forage. The most popular tail shapes are shrimp tales, shad tails, and curly tails. All three designs are effective, however the latter two have more built in action. A 1/4 ounce jig head with a 4 inch Shad tail body is a great all round saltwater fishing lure. However, it is not uncommon for anglers seeking large fish such as striped bass to go much larger.

Jigs are economical and versatile

Versatility is one of the key components to the popularity of the jig and grub combo. They can be retrieved in a variety of ways throughout the entire water column. A jig with a shrimp tail can be bounced off the bottom, imitating a shrimp or crab. Jigs with a bait style tail can be retrieve steadily through the water. They can be cast to fish that are breaking on the surface and worked quickly. Trolling with these lures can be quite productive.

Spanish mackerel fishing tips

The most common and productive retrieve for most anglers is the “jig and fall”retrieve. The lure is cast out and allowed to sink several seconds. The rod tip is then jerked sharply upwards, causing the lore to shoot up through the water column. The rod tip is then lowered, allowing the lure to flutter helplessly through the water. Most strikes occur on the fall as the jig resembles a helpless or wounded bait fish.

The jig and grub combo is a fantastic lure for anglers targeting breaking fish. These are fish that are actively feeding on the surface such as bluefish, striped bass, and Spanish mackerel. As long as the grub remotely resembles the size of the forage, they will usually draw a strike. The jig and grub is also very effective when trolled. Striped bass in particular fall prey to a shad tail jig trolled along a channel edge. Anglers can scroll down to read more about fishing with jigs.

2)  Bucktail jigs

Bucktail jigs are extremely productive for anglers fishing saltwater. In fact, they are one of the first saltwater fishing lures. White is a most popular color. They are very effective and are fished in the same manner as the jig and grub combo. As with the jig and grub, sizes determined by the water being fished and the available forage. Anglers can combine the two and add a soft plastic tail to add even more action. This is deadly on striped bass. There are a couple of factors that put them slightly behind these lures.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Bucktail jigs are a bit more expensive and less versatile than the jig and grub combo. Anglers catching toothy species such as mackerel and bluefish can spend a lot of money quickly as these fish will tear up a buck tail jig. Plastic grub tails are inexpensive and easily replaced. Also, bucktail jigs are less versatile. While it is very easy to change the color or shape of a plastic tailed lure, this is not the case with bucktail. However, bucktail and synthetic care jigs have great action and the water and you catch a lot of fish. They are #2 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures

3)  Gulp! Baits

While they may seem to just be another soft plastic bait, that is not the case. The gulp line of baits are extremely productive. They have a built-in sent that makes fishing them almost like using live bait. In Florida, the 3 inch gulp shrimp is a deadly bait on the shallow grass flats. Anglers all over the country use them with success. As with all lures, the key is to match the color and size of the bait to the available forage.

Sarasota fishing report

Anglers fishing shallow water can fish the gulp shrimp under a cork. This is an extremely productive technique for speckled trout and redfish on the grass flats between 2 feet deep and 6 feet deep. The cork makes a pop or rattle which attracts game fish. When they come to investigate, they see the shrimp below the cork and eat it. Gulp! baits are #3 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

4)  Shallow diving plugs are effective saltwater fishing lures

These lures are extremely effective for anglers saltwater fishing. They imitate bait fish. Plugs vibrate and wobble, mimicking a wounded or injured bait. This triggers the natural instinct and fish to attack. Rapala X-Raps and Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnows are examples of popular shallow diving plugs. Some anglers refer to these as twitch baits or jerk baits due to their action and the water. They are #4 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

Shallow diving plugs can be cast or trolled effectively. Anglers working shoreline cover or casting open flats catch a variety of species. The best retrieve is generally an erratic one. The lure will float on the surface at rest, then dive down when retrieved. Several cranks of the real handle followed by a twitch and a pause is a very effective retrieve. At other times a steady retrieve, either slow or quite fast, will produce. Once again, it is important to match the size and color of the lure to the bait fish that are prevalent in the area. Local tackle shops will have a good selection of baits that work well in their area.

Sarasota trolling techniques

These plugs really come into their own when fish are working on the surface. Spanish mackerel, bluefish, stripers, false albacore, and other species will devour them.  Plugs come in many sizes and colors, making it easy to “match the hatch”.

5)  Spoons are effective saltwater fishing lures

Spoons are a very simple looking artificial lure, yet one of the most productive. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in it. It resembles a wounded bait fish. Metallic finishes such as silver, copper, brass, and gold are popular. Spoons can also be painted or have reflective material on them. Casting and trolling both produce a lot a fish. They are #5 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

Saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Spoons cast a long way. They are relatively heavy and aerodynamic. 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce spoons are very popular as they mimic small shiny fish such as sardines. The spoon is cast out, allowed to sink, then worked back using either a steady or erratic retrieve. As with all lure fishing, it is best to experiment with retrieves until a productive pattern emerges.

Anglers fishing very shallow water do well with a weedless spoon. The Johnson Silver Minnow is an example of this. It is an established lure that has been around for decades, starting out in freshwater for anglers targeting largemouth bass. The weedless spoon is a staple of flats anglers in the south targeting redfish on shallow grass flats. It has a single hook that rides up, resulting in less snags on the bottom.

Swivels required when fishing with spoons

Anglers using spoons will need to use some type of swivel. Spoon will spin in the water, causing line twist. There are two options when choosing a swivel. Anglers can tie a barrel swivel onto the end of the running line, then use a short section of leader between the spoon and the other end of the swivel. Another option is the snap swivel right at the lure. This allows for easy changing of the spoon. Either method will work fine in eliminate line twist.

Spoons can also be used for vertical jigging. The Hopkins Jigging Spoon is an example of this lure. This is an extremely effective technique when fish are schooled up in deep water over structure such as a wreck or a channel edge. Just about any game fish can be caught on these lures.

Trolling spoons

There is a special type of spoon designed specifically for trolling. These are long and slender and have a very tight wobble, allowing anglers to troll at speeds approaching 10 knots. They are extremely productive for striped bass, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, false albacore, bluefish, and other species.

trolling with planers

Trolling spoons generally need some type of device to get them down in the water column. The three methods used most often are downriggers, trolling weights, and planers. All three methods work and have their advantages and disadvantages.

Trolling sinkers are the easiest method to get a spoon down in the water column. The specially designed sinker is tied to the running line and then a leader is used between the sinker and the spoon. Leader lengths vary, but are generally fairly long, around 20 feet. As the angler real sufficient, they must stop when the sinker hits the rod tip and the fishes in hand lined in the rest of the way.

Trolling with planers

Planers are a clever device that will take the spoon down to a specific depth. A #1 planer will go down 5 to 7 feet, a #2 planer down to 12 to 15 feet, and a #3 planer will go down to 25 feet. The larger the planer, the more stout the tackle is required as the planer puts quite a strain on the rod. When a fish hits, the planer “trips”allowing the angler to fight the fish without the drag. As with the sinker, the fish must be hand lined in the last 20 feet or so.

fishing report for Sarasota

Downrigger’s are expensive, complicated devices that will take the lure down to the desired depth. However, fast trolling speeds will result in the ball swinging up, reducing the depth. Downriggers are expensive and complicated and are generally only used by fairly serious anglers.

6)  Saltwater fishing with artificial lures; topwater plugs

Topwater plugs are lures that float on the surface and stay there when being retrieved. Most are made of plastic though a few are manufactured out of balsa wood. There are several different styles; poppers, prop baits, and walk-the-dog baits. Top water plugs can be very effective at times and will draw some explosive strikes. Many anglers prefer using top water plugs just for the sheer fun of it. they are # 6 on the list of top 6 saltwater fishing lures.

guide to inshore saltwater fishing

Poppers have been around a long time and are very effective. They also have the most built in action. They have a concave face which results in a loud “pop” when the lure is twitched sharply. Many fish find this action irresistible. Surf casters targeting striped bass and bluefish on the East Coast beaches will use very large versions of these. They are effective and saltwater all over the world.

Prop baits have propellers on them, either for, after, or both. They put out a lot of commotion when twitched sharply. Prop eight seem to work best when fished along shorelines and other structure. They have been catching largemouth bass in freshwater for many years.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures

Walk-the-dog baits are cylindrical with a tapered nose. They do not have a lot of built in action. The angler must impart the action in order to draw strike. The retrieve is a bit more difficult to master than other top water baits. The rod tip is held low and twitched gently as the reel handle is turned. This results in the lure moving a few inches and darting side-to-side. This action is deadly, particularly over shallow flats.

Jig fishing tips and techniques

This article shares jig fishing tips and techniques. Jigs are a simple but very effective lure that will catch just about every freshwater and saltwater species.

Sarasota anglers

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 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 buck tail 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.

Jig and grub fishing techniques

The jig and grub is very versatile. With this system, anglers purchase the jig head in the plastic body 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 popular 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.

Sarasota jig 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.

Fishing with hair jigs

Hair jigs are also very popular. Buck tail jigs were the original types used and were made from dear 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. Synthetic care 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.

saltwater fishing with artificial lures


Ladies jig fishing catch just about every species on the planet. A jig can be used to mimic just about any type of forged 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.

Vertically fishing with jigs is effective

Ladies jig fishing using a vertical presentation catch 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 excellent presentation. I do this often on my fishing charters in the passes. Clients 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.

fishing Sarasota Florida

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.

Casting jigs for success

Most fish caught on jigs are done so by anglers casting jigs. This is the most effective technique when fishing water ten feet deep or less. 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 retrieve will produce well. When fish are working on the surface, a fast, erratic retrieve will usually work the best.

guide to inshore fishing

The jig and grub combo is by far the most popular lure along the southeast coastal United States. Anglers from Virginia 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.

Speckled trout are arguable the most popular inshore Gulf species. The jig and grub is well suited to target trout. Most specks are found over submerged grass beds in 4′ to 10′ of water. Jigs cast and retrieved over these grass flats produce trout, reds, and other species. I find them especially productive I cooler water.

Live bait fishing with jigs

Jigs can also e 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 freshwater anglers for a long time. A marabou jig with a small minnow hooked through the lips is a terrific combination. The lure bait combo is deadly when slowly bounced along bottom structure. It can be cast out or vertically fished.

Trolling with jigs is a productive technique

Anglers jig fishing also do well when trolling. I grew up in fishing the Chesapeake Bay. Anglers trolling white buck tail jigs for striped bass 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.

Freshwater anglers recognize the value of trolling jigs as well. Crappie fisherman have mastered this technique. A small jig trolled over submerged structure is deadly on these largest members of the panfish family. Anglers use long, specially designed rods to present multiple baits out in a spread.

Sarasota chumming techniques

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 jigs are very effective fishing lures

Scented soft plastic baits have become very popular, and with good reason. These baits produce for ladies 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. Freshwater anglers experience similar results. They do cost a little bit more money, but on days when the bite is tough, they can make all of the difference.

My favorite freshwater jig is the Blakemore Road Runner. This unique little bait not only is a jig, but also has a spinner blade offset on the head. The extra flash can be deadly in the dark, tannin stained Florida water. It is a great bait when cast out but is a deadly trolling lure, especially for crappie and walleye.

top freshwater species

In conclusion, this article on the top 6 saltwater fishing lures will help anglers become more versatile and more importantly, catch more fish!