Cruising the bay while keeping an eye out for birds feeding on red minnow bait balls is one of my favorite ways to fish the early fall season.
Birds hammering baitfish on the surface is a good indication that predatory fish are also feeding from below; otherwise, the minnows would go deeper to avoid airborne attacks. The most common species you’ll find feeding on red minnows are Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, small- to medium-sized jacks, bluefish, redfish and the occasional tarpon. The most aggressive fish will be near the surface and can be caught easily with small jigs, spoons, plugs or topwater lures. While the bigger fish (redfish and tarpon) will sometimes come up and wreck the bait ball, they usually prefer to feed on injured baitfish or those that get down below the rest of the school and become easy prey. I like using a slightly larger, heavier jig to get below the bait ball where the big fish lurk. A slow “lift and fall” retrieve has led to most of my catches.
Flats fishing has been getting much better, now that the water is slowly starting to come clean after the recent heavy rainfall. Topwater baits usually do very well early in the morning and jigs or spoons are best for mid-morning fishing. If you get a late start, then throw your cast net on some pilchards and use them to chum up a decent bite.
Although most of the trout have been low- to mid-slot fish, bigger fish have been mixed in around points with good tidal flow. Redfishing in the shallows has been pretty good as well, with lots of fish hanging out on grass flats near drop offs. I like to set up a short distance away from the fish and catch them as they transition back and forth from the grass to the deep sand. The deeper water makes them much more inclined to eat and less likely to be spooked when jigs are landing close to them.
I’ve also heard several reports and seen pictures of flounder being caught in 10-15 feet of water around structure. Before long, they’ll start stacking up and making their way toward the pass. In the meantime, try tying on a Carolina rig and live bull minnow and checking docks, seawalls, bridges and other structure. If the water is shallow, soft plastics on 1/4-ounce jig heads work great as well.
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.