Fishing Mullet Schools throughout Spring


With springtime patterns emerging along the west coast , many inshore species will use the shallowest water to hunt down a meal. As the water warms up, pinfish, sardines and other bait become a reliable food source for the big three – snook, redfish and trout. There are two key factors that anglers can look for when finding fish.
One – Look for birds picking around shallow flats on low water. Egrets and spoonbills will root around the most productive areas that have bloodworms and small crabs. Often times this area is the very shallowest section of the grassflat. These crustaceans are favorites of redfish and the bottom feeders will work that zone once the tide begins to flood. Two- work around mullet schools on high water. In the early spring, these schools will flush up the bottom as they work up towards the mangroves. The result becomes a massive buffet line for predators searching for an easy meal. Gold spoons and scented plastic shrimp are the best artificial offerings, as anglers can work the lures near the bottom. For live bait – shrimp and silver-dollar sized pinfish rigged with a small split-shot just above the hook will keep the bait down – where gamefish will be targeting.
Tackle- Long casts will help to disguise a presentation in cleaner water and place needed distance to weary fish. Ten to 15 pound braid is optimum for extending casts with spinning gear. Always try to set up to the schools with the wind behind the angler to get the most distance. Rigging the bait with weight forward will also cover more water

Redfish Schools Have Hit the Flats


As the water starts to warm up this month, schools of redfish and the largest trout of the season will move into the shallows and feed among the mullet. Incoming tide has these gamefish chasing bait in the skinniest of water. As the redfish will often tail to feed on crabs and grass shrimp, they will push around wakes when attacking small silver-dollar pinfish. Late February will find redfish schools hunting along the oyster bars on the higher tides. With high pressure and minimal clouds after a front, anglers will have more luck with cut bait along the bars when the fish are timid. On windy days (pre-front) throwing gold spoons among the mullet schools has been very productive. Work all levels of the water column to locate where the reds want to hold.
Big gator trout have finally started to hold on the grassflats that have less boating pressure. Though these yellowmouth predators can be spooked easier in shallow water, long casts with darker colored jerkbaits has rewarded anglers with quality fish. Drift fishing will cover more water and allows great sightcasting opportunities. Work the sandy potholes, as these key ambush zones will attract good numbers of trout. Once a fish is hooked, be sure to anchor for a short time as there may be more nearby.
Tackle tips- With the extra clear waters off St. Joseph Sound, 15 pound fluorocarbon leader has worked best to help disguise the presentation offered. Long casts and patience will catch the larger redfish roaming around right now.

February Full Moon Fishing

As the water starts to warm up this month, schools of redfish and the largest trout of the season will move into the shallows and feed among the mullet. Incoming tide has these gamefish chasing bait in the skinniest of water. As the redfish will often tail to feed on crabs and grass shrimp, they will push around wakes when attacking small silver-dollar pinfish. Late February will find redfish schools hunting along the oyster bars on the higher tides. With high pressure and minimal clouds after a front, anglers will have more luck with cut bait along the bars when the fish are timid. On windy days (pre-front) throwing gold spoons among the mullet schools has been very productive. Work all levels of the water column to locate where the reds want to hold.
Big gator trout have finally started to hold on the grassflats that have less boating pressure. Though these yellowmouth predators can be spooked easier in shallow water, long casts with darker colored jerkbaits has rewarded anglers with quality fish. Drift fishing will cover more water and allows great sightcasting opportunities. Work the sandy potholes, as these key ambush zones will attract good numbers of trout. Once a fish is hooked, be sure to anchor for a short time as there may be more nearby.
Tackle tips- With the extra clear waters off St. Joseph Sound, 15 pound fluorocarbon leader has worked best to help disguise the presentation offered. Long casts and patience will catch the larger redfish roaming around right now.

Winter Fishing Tips

 With cooler water temperatures settling in along the coastline, larger speckled trout have started to hold in the shallow grassflats. Depths of 1 to 3 feet has been the primary target for anglers wishing to sight cast these hard fighting fish. As the tide floods, trout will move into the skinniest water seeking refuge and warmer water. The lower water column will also funnel baitfish, crabs and other crustaceans into edges and easier ambush spots. Stealth is key to convince these predators to feed on the offerings tossed their way. Use a push pole or trolling motor to work into the flat.

Artificial offerings- The fish that are holding shallow in the early part of the tide are weary of excess noise.Pumpkin Jig Slammr jerkbaits in motor oil or turtlegrass green rigged weedless are working well in low tide conditions, where a lighter entry to the water is needed. On higher water (2-3 feet), soft suspending lures – Mirrolure Paul Browns and Mirrodines -  are working well. The key to working these newer plugs is slowing down the retrieve, to allow the sliding action that brings the strike. By throwing artificials, anglers can cover more water as they methodically work across a flat. The use of lighter braided line, 10 pound test, will add more distance on each cast.

Low Water Redfish- On extreme low tides around the stronger moon phases, many shallow flats become exposed and reveal potholes and edges that are prime ambush zones for redfish. The sandy depressions are easier to spot and allow for great sightcasting from a distance. Live shrimp or scented plastics will consistently get bites. The best method is to deadstick the offering in the hole.

November Fishing Report

What’s hot- With passing cold fronts over the next few months, many shallow areas will become havens for fish seeking warmer waters. South facing shorelines will warm quicker in frosty mornings, as the sun travels over the southern skyline. These flats are also protected from north winds and will sustain heat longer. Speckled trout and redfish will lay up in sandy potholes and become opportunistic feeders- meaning that easy meals that cross through these feed zones will get eaten. Soft plastics work great for this time of year as they can often times be worked at all depths of waters and are eratic in action. Darkers colors in rootbeer and turtlegrass green have a tendency to blend in with the terrain and help disguise the offering. Downsizing tackle is key during the winter months as the water is extremely clear. Ten pound braided line combined with 15-20 pound fluorocarbon leader works best as it allows long casts and a stealth presentation. When live baiting, try to get select shrimp from tackle shops , when available, to fish with. Tail-hooking the shrimp will allow the weight forward and make extra long casts to weary gamefish.

Finding Fish- Two of the most important tools in wintertime sightfishing for inshore gamefish are polarized glasses and a quiet mode of transportation. Use of a trolling motor or a push pole will allow anglers to quietly work a flat or edge where fish will lay up. Be sure to always have the sun at your back when possible, as this makes it much easier to spot the desired species. On low tides work the dropoffs of flats , as many fish will hold there to ambush prey in condensed zones.

Fall Fishing Tactics

  

As the Fall fishing season progresses, more anglers are back on the flats with the slight coolness that has filled the air. Often times finding a personal little fishing hole off the beaten path can be rewarding. This time of year is great for finding such spots as the fish are moving into transitional areas and can be found in a variety of different places. Artificials will cover more ground and allow anglers to seek snook, redfish and other inshore species that will be layed up in potholes and depressions along the grassflats. Moving water and some type of structure is the key to producing a good fishing spot that will hold gamefish throughout these next two months.

When searching for new fishing holes, it is best to have the boat prepared so that each situation can be thoroughly fished. Having an anchor tied off a stern cleat and ready to deploy once fish are spotted allows unnecessary chaos if a school of fish is found ahead during a drift. The Power Pole is a shallow water hydraulic anchor that works by remote and serves the same purpose as it is deployed silently. By stopping the boat, anglers are able to fan cast an area and cover all possible depths and potholes that will hold fish. Another great tool is a trolling motor that allows a silent approach into shallow areas without pushing the fish out with engine noise. By running the electric motor on low, most trout and redfish will not race off, but merely move a cast away and still give anglers another shot at them. These two accessories are the most important tools on the boat that will be used in finding new fishing grounds.

The use of artificials in finding inshore gamefish works well in the Fall as most fish will start to change their diets towards crustaceans and other cold water baits. A great search tool in finding redfish and snook is a single-hook, weedless spoon with a bucktail trailer. Copper with a brown trailer works best where there are mangroves and tea-stained water and silver with a white trailer works well in clear water situations where there is a lot of small sardines. The action of a weedless spoon gives anglers the advantage of working through grass and other debris and still fish all levels of the water column.

Soft jerkbaits in turtlgrass or motor-oil color are also working well when rigged with an 1/8 ounce weedless jighead. The erratic motion of these baits will often draw a reaction strike from nearby predators as it swims back to the boat. The darker colors work best this time of year, as it blends in with the bottom and helps to disguise the presentation.

Most snook have moved away from the beaches and are beginning the track towards their winter homes. When this first happens, the bite for these linesiders can slow dramatically compared to the summer bite that anglers are used to. Some extra time must be spent looking for them this time of year. Once located, the best thing to do is take note of where and how they are staged up with the structure that is being used. This becomes a great indicator of where other snook will be found over the next month. With the gin clear waters off St. Joseph Sound, downsizing leader is a must in order to get most snook to eat. Twenty-five fluorocarbon leader with 2/0 hooks have worked best, as long as the reel’s drag is not too tight to create excess friction and break the line. Freelining greenbacks has worked well and lets the baits swim naturally through a given strike zone without the restriction of a cork. Medium baits have outproduced the larger ones, as it is an easier meal to chase down.

With a steady increase of schools of redfish from Clearwater all the way up to the Hudson area, incoming tides will push these fish upon to a shallow flat and feed aggressively on crabs and small pinfish. A tail-hooked shrimp will allow anglers to cast way ahead of a school without scaring them. This low profile bait works well because it will crawl along the bottom where the reds are searching. These bronze bruisers will get into such as bottom-feeding mode that often times a live bait swimming towards the top of the water column will go untouched.

Summer Fishing Tactics

What’s Hot- With the heat of summer upon us, angling during the peak movement of tides will stimulate the fish. The incoming tide will present cooler water and find the largest gamefish aggressively eating as bait flushes through the desired zones. These ambush spots will most likely have deeper troughs and eddies that snook, redfish and trout desire. As the tides flood upon the flats, these predators will roam the skinny water where bait and small crabs will also be moving up into. Sightcasting is at a premium with cleaner water flushing the shallows. Lighter leaders , such as 20 pound fluorocarbon, may be needed in the highly visible waters that flow through St. Joseph Sound. Wadefishing is another great method that will disguise an angler’s presentation around weary fish.

The biggest snook of the year are being caught around the stronger lunar tides that happen every summer. As the tide rushes into the passes, these heavy linesiders will patrol the edges and hang around the points and rocky terrains where an easy meal can be found. By placing a 2 ounce lead on the leader, anglers will be able to keep the bait down on the bottom in the swift moving water of the pass. Working the deeper troughs that run parallel to the beach will hold schools of snook in mere inches of water. Pinfish, small finger mullet, sardines and mud minnows are top choices for snook along the shoreline. Larger speckled trout, flounder and redfish will use this same highway to hunt down baits.

April Madness

Early Springtime Patterns

What’s Hot- With springtime upon us, many inshore tournaments will be on the hunt for an inshore slam consisting of a trout, a redfish and a snook. This triple crown of inshore fishing will have anglers working different patterns to catch all three species in the same day. The speckled trout bite has been great while the tide floods around the spoil islands off the intracoastal waterway. Work the deeper edges with sardines or imitation crankbaits. Be sure that the bait placement stays near the bottom, where these predators are feeding. As the tides rise, redfish will work into the shallows and feed among the mullet schools that are easily found among the flats of St. Joseph Sound. Pinfish, shrimp and cutbait are top offerings for reds which feed primarily off scent. The schools of redfish are averaging 22 to 30 inches and will give away their location by muds mixed in with the mullet. On higher water, work the mangrove roots to dig out the bigger bruisers that use the structure as ambush zones.

The most difficult fish of the slam will be the snook, as water temperatures keep changing by the week. Most of these linesiders are making the transition from the backcountry toward the beaches. If the water can warm up a little and keep the mercury climbing up towards the upper-seventies, the snook bite should get good in the deeper holes leading out of the bayous and rivers. “Whitebait” or sardines are the most valuable tool to catch springtime snook. This candy will make even the most finicky “robalo” eat when presented properly to them.

March Fishing Report

 

March Madness

      With a warming trend finally in place, the shallows throughout St. Joseph Sound have come to life. As bait schools emerge inside passes and the water clarity is at a premium, both trout and redfish schools are working the flats on flooding tides. Some of the biggest trout of the season will be caught over the next couple of weeks as the full moon will have these females staging up along the spoil islands and oyster bars along the mainshore. Anglers working the swift current along points and dropoffs will have the best luck as these yellowmouths will wait to ambush an easy meal.

     The redfish schools are holding among the mullet and can easily be sightcasted to as the darker muds will give away their location. Select-sized shrimp have worked best when “bobby-rigged” under a cork. This method keeps the crustacean down in the strike zone longer and draws vicious strikes. On quarter moon tides when the water level is not at a premium, be sure to fish the potholes leading into the flats, as these staging spots are easily seen with a high sun. Working gold spoons is a great artificial this time of year for redfish as it covers a lot of ground and different depths of the water column.  

     With “whitebait” as a weapon, anglers are able to catch snook making the exit from the backcountry. Deeper holes leading into bayous and rivers are the best places to try for the linesiders on falling tides. The outgoing tide will have warmer water and stimulate the bite for the prized gamefish.

St. Joseph Sound Fishing

 

With changing weather over the last week, wind has played a key factor in determining where anglers will fish. When a good cold front approaches, the wind pattern always brings in a strong south wind and low pressure which stimulates the fish to feed well. The south wind will also bring in extra water on high tides and flood into St. Joseph Sound. Many oyster bars will have deep water covering them and allow redfish to find bait and crabs among the shells. Working the bars on mangrove points will have increased tidal flow and hold more fish. By using the wind to aid in long casts, many of my anglers this week had larger reds crashing free-lined sardines. Twenty pound fluorocarbon leader is needed as the fish will break off against the structure. Big schools of these bronze bruisers should start working the shallows inside the passes around the upcoming full moon on the 26th.

     As the speckled trout run gets into full swing in the sound, stronger currents along the dropoffs of islands and flats are holding the big females in search of an easy meal. Increased winds will push bait against the islands and present an ambush spot to feed. Good numbers of fish are being caught at daybreak before the boating pressure slows the bite down. Sightfishing to five pound trout is reaching it’s peak as the fish will lay up in skinny water. Boat positioning is key to presenting bait or lures to these trophy gamefish.