If there ever was a time to visit our little slice of paradise, now is that time. A lack of significant rainfall over the past several months has the bays and beaches as beautiful and pristine as any place on the planet. Crystal clear water dominates the landscape from the Gulf of Mexico all the way back into the furthest reaches of our backwaters.

While the scenery is spectacular, it makes it more challenging to get some of the finicky fish to bite, especially on artificial lures. Using low light periods and adverse conditions to your advantage will be key to getting good bites. The few hours around sunrise and sunset, or under heavy cloud cover, are going to be your best bet for throwing topwaters and plugs. Fish will have a hard time getting a good look at the lure and often strike in reaction to the movement. Jigs, live baits and other natural offerings will be far more productive during daylight hours.

This is a great time of the year to target big bull reds around the bridges. These fish are eating a variety of baits and can be successfully targeted with walking and popping plugs, jigs or natural baits like a crabs, pinfish and mullet. I typically wait for the fish to come to the surface and blow up on a crab before presenting to them but, if they are feeding heavily, you can just blind cast with a high level of success. Timing is the most important factor (this bite is completely tide driven) and the bottom half of the tide seems to be far more productive. This is strictly a catch-and-release fishery because these fish range in size from 15-35 pounds and are over the maximum legal size limit. Keep that in mind when removing the fish from the water for photos and make sure it’s fully revived before releasing.

If flats fishing is more your speed, then I suggest targeting flooded reedlines and marsh sloughs just before high tide and as the tide starts to fall. This is a great time to throw topwater plugs, weedless spoons and flatlined soft plastics. During low water periods, look for deeper potholes, channel edges and drop offs where large numbers of fish tend to congregate. Jigs and live baits with a small split shot work best when fish are stacked up in the deep holes. You’ll find a mix of speckled trout, redfish, ladyfish, bluefish, flounder and even some pompano.

Nearshore along the beaches, it’s common to encounter schools of redfish, pompano, jack crevalle, Spanish mackerel, bonita, bluefish and the highly- prized tarpon. You may also find kingfish, cobia or barracuda cruising just off the beaches outside the sandbars, although these will typically be single fish. Cruising the beach offers great sightfishing opportunities since the water is extremely clear and you can see the fish coming from a long way off. To maximize your chances for success, rig a topwater bait, jig/swimbait and a live bait pitch rod.

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.  Good luck!

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