Action and variety have been the trend for the past few weeks, with numerous species of predatory fish targeting the many “bait balls” scattered throughout the bays and along the beaches.
Starting way up in the bay, trout and redfish have been pounding schools of finger mullet and menhaden. We have been doing very well with topwater plugs early, especially near the shore line where the majority of the mullet have been concentrated. Suspending plugs have also been very productive when fishing in slightly deeper water around the menhaden schools. In addition to the trout and redfish, there have also been schools of very large jack crevalles chasing baitfish schools. They are generally very reactive to fast moving baits such as plugs, jigs and spoons. The jacks are very fast swimming fish even when they’re just cruising so to catch them you must have a rod ready when the opportunity presents itself or it will be too late.
As you move from the bay closer to the pass, bait schools begin to change from menhaden to pilchards and they also go from being in deeper water to over the top of shallow grass. The fish you will catch will still be predominately trout and redfish; however, you will start to see other species – ladyfish, mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and others – showing up. Pilchards are probably my favorite live bait because you can load the live well up in just a couple of cast net throws and they live much longer than threadfin or menhaden. Pilchards are fantastic chum baits and their highly reflective appearance will draw fish in from long distance.
Near the pass, there have been massive schools of red minnows getting absolutely crushed by a wide variety of fish. These bait schools often get packed so tightly together that they look like one giant red mass floating on top of the water. Lately, the Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jacks, redfish, sharks and tarpon have been annihilating them. You can locate them by looking for fish working the surface in the middle of the bay or by locating birds hovering over the top of the bait pod. Target the fish feeding on them by tossing small spoons, jigs, plugs or other small artificial lures into the pod and allowing the bait to sink just below the school before you begin your retrieve. I recommend a 40 pound leader for this kind of fishing due to the numerous toothy critters you may encounter on any given cast.
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.