Don’t let the calendar influence your thinking… this time of the year offers fantastic weather and outstanding fishing opportunities for anglers of all skill levels.
Many different species of fish are congregating in large schools, preparing to move toward their winter hangouts. Some fish will move deep into the bay, some will relocate into the passes and others will move out into the Gulf of Mexico for the winter. For the time being, though, there is still so much bait in the bays that predators are content to haunt the shallows and gorge on pinfish, pilchards and finger mullet.
Speckled trout are very plentiful right now and, much like the redfish, are distributed throughout the bays from the St. Andrews Pass all the way up to the Intracoastal Waterway. They don’t seem to care whether they’re on top of barren sand, thick grass or broken bottom as long as there’s a heavy presence of baitfish in the area. I have been targeting flats with lots of pinfish and croakers, using a combination of jigs and suspending plugs. You’ll find most of the bigger fish cruising the shallows along the shoreline while the schooling slot fish are typically going to be a little deeper in water ranging from 3-5 feet or more.
Then there are the redfish… and what can I say about them other than they are thick! The schools just keep coming and it is a welcome sight. Most of the bigger schools have been on the down current side of big shallow points but there have also been lots of them hanging out in sandy spots outside of small ditches, creeks and bayous. I have had great success deep in the bay while easing down the shallows on the trolling motor and picking off fish as they swim by. Instead of trying to stay on one school of fish, I just keep going and throw at the next school that comes. In some parts of the bay, you will encounter many single fish – especially where there is a lot of grass and spotty bottom. On the long stretches of sand, however, the fish seem to be in groups. Jigs, spoons and topwater lures have all been consistently getting bites.
Sheepshead are also getting together in big schools, especially in 5-10 feet of water where there’s sand on the edge of grass flats near the pass. If you can find a little bit of structure, that’s even better. Old crab traps, concrete rubble and the like will definitely be worth a stop and close look. Your best bet is to use live or dead shrimp or small crabs. If the water is shallow enough, you can flat line the bait or put a small split shot on it to get it down deeper. I recommend using as small of a leader as you can get away with. Remember that when the fish begin biting, let them eat and start swimming away before coming tight on them to maximize your hook-ups.
As always, if you have questions about what’s biting, how to catch them or want to book a trip, give me a call or shoot me an email.