With the late summer heat bearing down on us during the day, the benefits of fishing the flats early are numerous – especially if you want to catch trout and redfish on artificial lures.
For starters, it’s much cooler in the early hours of the morning and that makes fish a little more inclined to chase a lure. Because the light levels are lower, fish don’t have a chance to take a good look at what you want them to eat. Plus, there’s very little boat traffic early so the fish are far more relaxed. Surface lures are always fantastic choices for fishing early and even more so when you are fishing in shallow water. Most plugs have built-in rattles but, even if they don’t, the wake coming off of the lure will help predator fish pinpoint its location. There are a lot of good choices for surface lures but a few of my go-to baits are the Rapala Skitterwalk and Skitter V, the DOA weedless PT-7 and a weightless Texas-rigged DOA 5.5 jerkbait that I drag across the surface at medium speed.
During the middle of the day, we have been crushing the fish while wade fishing with live pilchards. As the tide falls, we set up on point flats and start live chumming. As the baits get swept up in the current, fish holding in the grass will come up and start picking them off. When that happens, simply pitch them a flat-lined pilchard on a small circle hook and hold on. Bites generally come quick and the action is fast paced. It sometimes takes a few minutes to get the fish actively searching for food but, once you get them going, it’s a ton of fun. This works great for trout, redfish, jacks, Spanish mackerel and many other species. In areas that with a good drop off and moderate amount of structure, this technique also works very well on mangrove snapper, flounder and gag grouper.
In some areas, the water is still a little dark to sight fish over grass but many of the beaches with sandy bottoms have enough visibility to allow you to creep around and pitch jigs to redfish. When conditions allow only a limited number of shots, you’ll need to take the extra steps to stack the odds in your favor. Downsizing lure and leader always helps, but you have to exercise extreme stealth on the approach and stay as far away from the fish are possible to make an accurate cast. Try not to make any sudden twitches or movements and just let the fish find your offering. Bring a few live baits as well – shrimp and small baitfish – in case the fish are finicky and refuse jigs or other artificial lures.
When casting to cruising fish, give them a decent lead so they don’t get spooked when your bait hits the water. If a fish is laid up in a pothole, then try to cast close enough to get its attention but not so close that it lands on its head. It’s a delicate balance and only doing it and seeing the fish’s reactions will tell you what you need to do to maximize opportunities for success.