Here you’ll find articles related to saltwater fishing. We cover everything from inshore to offshore species and locations. Hear from expert guides and captains about their most productive ways to put fish in the boat.

Flounder Fishing: Tips for Finding and Catching Flounder

The flounder’s odd habit of laying sideways on the bottom of the ocean floor disguised as the rest of the sand, rocks, and flotsam is surprisingly misleading.

This fish is not lazy, but highly ingenious. It takes no prisoners as it snatches up any innocent little fish or shrimp… which is what makes Flounder fishing so much fun!

Flounder Fishing: Where to Find and Catch Flounder

You can find these masters of disguise in the coastal waters of the Atlantic from Maine all the way down to Texas and over in the Pacific, as well.

They can be spotted from shallow reefs to the deepest trenches.

These doormats are flat, with both eyes on the same side of their head. That lets them watch above for prey as they lie flat on the ocean floor. They especially like to hang out on the bottom of river coastal areas. They like to stay near drop-offs where they can ambush their prey. Look for them under ledges or other structures in areas where the depth changes.

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If you’re fishing over crystal clear water and sandy bottoms, you’ll be able to see flounder tracks in the sand below. As they move to ambush their prey, they leave tracks because of the speed at which they take off. They also like to move to more productive ledges as the tide is shifting so they can ambush the bait fish as they move overhead.

You can also find flounder tracks by wading in the shallow mud and sand flats at low tide. There’ll usually be the most tracks in the bays which hold the most bait when the tide drops. As the tide recedes, flounder laying buried in the bottom pull out, leaving their body imprints. Find those tracks during low tide, and you’ll know right where to look once the tide comes back in.

When it’s running too fast, it can become turbid. Flounder feed more by sight than smell, and they can see better when the water is clear.

You’ll have more luck when they can see your bait, so concentrate on areas where the bottom isn’t super silted.

You can fish for them year round, but your catches will typically be smaller in the winter or spring and may not be large enough to keep. They’re easiest to catch in the fall when they’re moving farther out into the ocean.

Tackle for Flounder Fishing

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Medium action, bass-size tackle works great when flounder fishing. Most people prefer spinning tackle, but if you can learn to use a baitcasting reel, you’ll be doing yourself a favor, since you can maximize your precision with just a touch of your thumb so you can hit the points and ledges spot-on.

It’s helpful to use a dropper rig with a rounded weight and a hook tied to the leader above it to avoid break-offs around structure.

A wide variety of lures and set-ups can be used, but many experts agree the soft plastics of Berkley Gulp! is one of the best when used with spinnerbaits. They’ll take most lures, but really home in on live bait. They’ll rarely pass up live croakers, finger mullet, pinfish or menhaden. They’ll take shrimp sometimes, but not as well. Hook larger baits for bigger flounder through the lips, and smaller baits through the eyes.

Landing a Flounder

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Bounce your lure or jig head along the bottom to catch their attention. Strikes will usually occur as the lure falls.

Flounder don’t always take bait or lures right away, but they’ll follow it during the retrieve. They’ll settle on the bottom right underneath your boat, so don’t forget to periodically work a jig directly underneath.

Flounder typically travel in groups, so usually once you catch one, you’ll find more. Stay put, making a note of how far into a rising or lowering tide you were.

Flippin’ is a technique that most bass anglers are used to, but you can use it to target flounder in hard-to-reach spots inshore, too. The technique is the same. Ray Thomas, a dedicated flounder fisherman explains:

“I prefer a seven-foot spinning outfit for this work, and use it almost like a fly rod at close range. I pull through the rod guides with my left hand as I’m raising the lure and line from the water with the rod. I’ll flip the lure out, then jig it around the boat, because I anchor near good flounder structure such as pilings, bulkheads, and jetties. These places are full of barnacles, and it’s easy to get cut off. But if you keep your casts short by flippin’ you can work these hot spots quickly without getting hung up.”

Most states have pretty strict guidelines on the number and size of the fish you can keep, so make sure to check with your local fish and game office before heading out, but there’s definitely fun to be had all year long, in a variety of different locations and depths!

Mahi Mahi Fishing: How to Find and Catch the Dolphinfish

One of the more unique fish swimming around the oceans depths is the dolphinfish. With the bulbous forehead reminiscent of a dolphin or porpoise, it’s no surprise the name fits. Mahi Mahi Fishing can be one of the most exciting ways to spend a day on the water!

What’s not to like about them? Also known as Dorado or Mahi-mahi, these almost-cartoony characters are some of the world’s most popular gamefish.

Introducing the Dolphinfish

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The Dolphinfish, or Coryphaena hippurus, are decent-sized fish that are brilliantly-colored and fun to catch, as they fight hard and love to put on some aerial acrobatics when hooked. They also taste absolutely delicious – especially blackened.

Sadly enough, pictures just don’t do them justice, as they fade almost immediately once brought up. By the time you make it into the dock, they’re almost certainly already a dull gray color. In the water, they have the ability to change the intensity of their colors depending on their mood and are considered to be one of the most strikingly-colored fish in the ocean with bright hues ranging from yellows, greens, to blues. Their underbellies are generally lighter in color, while their backs vary from darker green to hues of deep blue. They may be splattered with dots of blue and green, and have been spotted in bright turquoise and even purple.

The males are called bulls, and the females cows, with the, well, bullhead of the males being more enlarged and pronounced. Their lifespan is only a matter of five or six years, so what they lack in longevity, they make up for with vim and vigor. They can grow to three to five pounds within the first six months of their life. Within a year, they can reach three feet and weigh in at 20 pounds.

They can grow to over 80 pounds, in part because they always seem to be hungry and eat aggressively right from birth.

Good breeders, they reproduce often to maintain their numbers, and mating can begin when the fish are as small as eight inches. Small fish will school together around floating debris or sargassum beds, but larger fish are loners, and are sometimes found swimming in male-female pairs.

Dorado are strong and fast swimmers, covering wide ranges in search for food. They can reach speeds of 50 mph in short bursts.

Where to Look When Mahi Mahi Fishing

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These guys roam the open tropic and temperate ocean waters all over the planet. Seas that range from high 60’s to mid 80’s are preferred. You can find them anywhere you find Marlin and Wahoo. Since small baitfish gather in large weed patches and flotsam, Dolphinfish are often closeby. The smaller ones will school under the weed beds and ambush the bait, but the larger fish will usually stay on the outskirts of the beds, since they can quickly strike from a distance with a great burst of speed.

Mahi Mahi Fishing… A Pound for Pound Fight

The name Mahi-mahi comes from Hawaii, meaning “strong-strong.” They employ a variety of fighting techniques. Short, blistering runs can end with a deep dive, then the fish stubbornly turning on its side and refusing to come up. They’ve been known to scream a reel in one direction, only to turn around and make a beeline in the complete opposite direction.

They can dazzle you with aerial displays and tailwalking.

They’ll even jump right on into the boat with you in some scenarios. But the fun doesn’t stop once they get in the boat. Their powerful, thrashing tails can really play havoc in the boat.

Mahi Mahi Fishing: Tackle & Rigging

You’ll want to grab a rod and reel combination well-suited for 30 pound fused line. Your rod should be around 7’ long with a rapid to extra-fast action with the ability to handle lure weights up to one ounce.

Fix the line with a three-foot length of 30 to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 50 pound barrel swivel. Tie a 4/0 -7/0 circle hook to the leader, about three to four feet of 30 to 60 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon, and attach your primary line.

Most of the larger sized Dolphinfish are caught on trolling lures meant for Marlin or Sailfish like rubber skirts, or the feathers meant for Tuna. Many are also caught on trolled ballyhoo. They’ll also fall for Rapalas too. When they’re fired up, they’ll eat just about anything, though you have to watch yourself with heavier lures.

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These fish jump wildly when hooked, and there’s a good chance the lure could come flying back at you at high speed.

Though their mouths are relatively small, it’s amazing how much they can actually engulf, including large baits. They mostly eat fish, so traditional baitfish like sardines and Pacific Mackerel work well. The larger the fish, the larger the bait they’ll grab. Cut bait like shrimp and ballyhoo works well, too, but cut false albacore will drive them wild.

Here are a few other rigging ideas that work well with Dorado.

A Few Extra Mahi Mahi Fishing Tips

Throw some bait chunks into the water to get the fish into a frenzy, then bait your hook with the same bait, and drift it back with the chunks. You can also use some spinning rods rigged with bucktails or a top water plug.

Once you’ve landed one, keep the hooked fish in the water until you hook another. Similar to their feeding behavior, they’ll become frenzied with another fish nearby lit up.

One trip out, and you’ll get why these are some of the most highly sought after fish. Not only do they offer a good fight, but make for a delicious dinner at the end of the day.

Black Grouper Fishing in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico

Like most grouper species, Mycteroperca bonaci, or black grouper, really doesn’t disappoint the hard core angler. Even the small ones, at 20-30 pounds can put up a physically draining fight, being known for their short, high torque runs. That makes them an especially fun catch . . . . when you’re prepared for it!

These giants of the deep have been known to go over 120 pounds, though they’re commonly caught over 50 pounds. That’s quite substantial, considering they’re some of the hardest fighting bottomfish in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Black Grouper in Their Atlantic Home

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Many species of grouper consider the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico home, and the black grouper is no exception. These guys tend to hang out around offshore wrecks, ledges, reefs, and other structure. If you’re looking for larger ones, you’ll want to head for areas not frequented by other anglers, leaving the fish unpressured with a chance to grow.

They’re found on the bottom, but they don’t tend to be very finicky as to what depth to call home.

They can be found as deep as 300 feet, or as shallow as 30 feet. They tend to prefer the deeper waters during the warmer summer months, but they can be found pretty shallow in the winter and spring. They spawn in March and April over a reef bottom between 30-120 feet of water.

Common Bait Choices for Black Grouper

Blue runners, cigar minnows, or any small grunts make good live bait choices. If you’re drift fishing, frisky live fish like blue runners or other small jacks work best. If you’re looking to land a really big one, live speedo mackerel tend to work best.

Placing the bait on the hook is critical, as you don’t want to hook your bait too deep. Baits with tough skin should be hooked lightly. Try to have most of the gap of the hook exposed. This will allow the hook to penetrate when the black grouper decides to take the bait!

Gearing Up For Black Grouper

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These guys really pack a lot of punch, so anglers left unprepared will find themselves short a leader… or four. You’ll want to grab a shorter heavy action, stout rod rated for 50 to 80-pound test. Pair it with a high speed reel. Your best bet is to spool it with 80-pound braided line. 

Larger circle hooks work well for these guys since they’re less likely to snag bottom.

Make sure that your hooks are large and heavy, as they can often straighten out or break during the runs from these heavy fish.

Most of the black grouper fishing on the reef is done with a carolina rig and a 4’-8’ leader.

Dead bait fishing gets a little trickier, employing the use of a hi-lo dropper rig with a 230-pound barrel swivel and a four-foot section of 100-pound fluorocarbon leader, with three dropper loops tied at 16-inch intervals and a 16 to 32-ounce bank sinker looped on at the end by an overhand knot. The dropper loops should be fixed with size 8/0 to 10/0 Octopus hooks and chunk baits consisting of anything from chunks of squid, grunts, mackerel, herring, or any other chunk from fish you may catch. Obviously, there’s more than one way to rig up, but this method seems to get the job done!

Landing the Black Grouper

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Your heavier line, coupled with tight drag are instrumental in making sure you can muscle these fighters away from the structure. When you find one of these giants, you’re likely going to only get one chance at him. Unlike many other grouper, the black grouper isn’t likely to hit the bait again for some time once it’s bit.

You’ll need to pay close attention and have lightning fast reflexes. Once they strike, they make a fast, mad dash back to the nearest hole, often before you even get a chance to react.

That means your reaction time needs to be spot-on. Suspend the bait about a leader length off the bottom with your rod in a holder. Always have the drag engaged. Do not, under any circumstances, leave it in a free spool or on a clicker. Approximately every 15-20 minutes, pick up the rod and very slowly drop the bait and sinker all the way to the bottom, keeping the sinker absolutely motionless.

Once you feel that “tick,” do not hesitate at all. Give a couple of quick cranks to turn his head up and prevent him from dogging back down into the structure. Then slowly and steadily reel him up through the water column and into your boat. The hook will usually set itself.

Your job will be made easier if you’re drifting instead of at anchor. The drift of the boat adds to the power of your tackle and may give you just enough momentum to hep drag the fish far enough from his hole that he can’t get back.

If he does happen to get rocked up, you’ll never muscle him out. Just set your pole down and wait for five minutes or so. You’ll either sense that he’s left his hole, forgetting about you, or you can try to gently reel him in. Otherwise, consider your leader and the fish lost.

With so many different types of grouper out there, homing in on a certain species can be tough, so when you’re bottom fishing for these beasts, be prepared for other reef dwellers to pull back as well! These fish are a blast to catch, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to do so!

How to Catch Roosterfish from Shore

I’d like to preface this article by saying I don’t consider myself an expert when it comes to catching roosterfish. After all I grew up fishing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where the nearest roosterfish is about 2,000 miles away. My success with catching roosterfish from shore has simply been a combination of fishing amazing locations in Costa Rica, some good luck, great timing and hundreds upon hundreds of casts.

It all started in 2015 when my wife, Lauren, booked us a month at a random AirBnB jungle cabina on the beach along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. At the time we had no idea that this cabina was located directly in front of prime territory for jack Crevalle, cubera Snapper and the most prized fish of all – the roosterfish.

What occurred during that trip was so memorable that we’d go on to book a total of nine weeks over the course of two years at that cabina – with another 5 weeks planned for the winter of 2019.

Catching giant roosterfish from shore has been the apex of my surfcasting career, and I’m excited to share with you how I like to target these amazing fish.

Best Locations for Roosterfish

For me, roosterfish fishing has been similar to fishing for giant bluefin tuna, in the sense that it can take great patience and many hours to get a bite. Where I surf cast in Costa Rica the roosterfish roam miles of shoreline, following schools of baitfish such as Sardines and Mullet. My best success with roosterfish has occurred when Sardines and Mullet were plentiful in the surf.

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During my first stay along the west coast of Costa Rica in 2015, mullet appeared in the surf every day for about a week straight after the full moon.

It was during that one week that I caught three giant roosterfish with the largest being in the 70-80 pound range. The other three weeks I caught plenty of jacks and mackerel, but there were no roosterfish, and very few mullet.

In December of 2017, I learned a shortcut to roosterfish success. Targeting inlets and rocky points became more reliable than trying to hunt down roosters along the open beach. Sardines, mullet and other baitfish would congregate at inlets and around the rocks. Armed with this new knowledge, this coming January when I return to Costa Rica, you can bet I will be investing the majority of my fishing time around inlets and rocky points.

Best Lures And Baits For Roosterfish

Throughout my time spent fishing in Costa Rica, I have met several local fishermen who primarily use live sardines and mullet when targeting roosterfish.

I would have to admit that live bait seems to be the most effective.

However all my success with roosterfish has been with topwater artificial swimming lures and poppers. Oddly enough, where I fish in Costa Rica I have not encountered situations where roosterfish follow the lure without biting (which is apparently common in many spots). Conveniently the roosters have readily attacked artificial lures right in the surf.

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The two lures I like best for roosterfish are the 6.5 inch slow sinking transparent Canal Magic Swimmer, and the 2 ounce ghost white Tactical Angler Bomb Popper. The retrieve for both of these lures is very simple.

For the Magic Swimmer all you need to do is cast the swimmer out and reel it straight back in at a moderate to quick speed. For the Bomb Popper, simply cast it out and retrieve at a medium speed, while pumping the rod, which will throw a lot of white water into the air. Roosters will absolutely hammer both of these lures when retrieved in this manner.

The Best Rods, Reels and Tackle For Catching Roosterfish From Shore

I am somewhat limited with rod selection because I have to bring all my gear on flights, boats and taxis. Therefore my best rod for roosterfish has been the 8’6″ Tsunami Travel rod which breaks down into three pieces for easy travel.

When paired with a Van Staal VR175 spinning reel, this rod/reel combination can easily handle any roosterfish I have come across so far. The VR175 has a fully sealed drag, which is important because I often have to dive beneath waves and fully submerge the reel in saltwater and sand.

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The VR series of reels from Van Staal will work flawlessly even when submitted to these harsh angling conditions.

I have also caught roosterfish using the Van Staal 150 class reels. When fishing a 150 class Van Staal I pair the reel with either a 7’ 3-piece Offshore Angler Ocean Master or St. Croix Tidemaster Inshore 7’6” 3-piece travel rod. The smaller setups can absolutely handle big roosterfish, plus the lighter setups make catching smaller species like sierra mackerel and jack crevalle more fun. In addition the smaller setup can be fished from a boat.

For line, I will use 30 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound moss green Power Pro braid when fishing around rocks. For leader I will use 30 pound Seaguar blue label fluorocarbon when fishing sandy beaches, and 50 pound Seaguar blue label when fishing around rocks.

I connect the leader to the braid using a slim beauty knot, and I will use a 175 pound Tactical Angler clip to make switching lures quick and easy.

In Conclusion

Roosterfish are incredibly beautiful, strong and elusive creatures. Catching one is not easy and will most likely require a lot of time and patience. However the hunt is definitely worth it.

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Once hooked roosterfish will go on drag sizzling runs, and often launch themselves straight clear out of the water.

I tell people that the fight of a rooster is like combining the powerful tail beats of a giant striped bass, with the scorching runs of a bluefin tuna, and on occasion, the acrobatics of a tarpon.

When landing a roosterfish be extremely cautious because these fish are all muscle and it can be very easy for them to beat their tail or shake their head, resulting in a hook in your hand. Use pliers and try to keep the fish wet and in the water for a quick and successful release.

Best of luck if you decide to give catching roosterfish from shore a try. Roosters are not an easy fish to find and fool, however the time and energy is absolutely worth it.

 

Atlantic Red Snapper Fishing with Captain Josh Baker

Red Snapper aren’t always on the “allowable” list, but when they are, you should jump at the chance to be on Captain Josh Baker’s boat for a real treat.

This ANGLR Expert has been fishing for over 25 years and has been an avid tournament angler for over six. He’s a charter guide captain based out of the Cape Canaveral area in Central Florida and has plenty of experience landing these mules.

Red Snapper Controversy and Regulations!

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Red snapper is a pretty controversial thing in this area because of the fact that they are highly regulated by the government. They’re overseen by conservation laws put in place to help foster healthy fish populations, since numbers can be depleted if they’re caught faster than they can reproduce. There is no red snapper season whatsoever within the state waters of the coast of Florida. Anything further than three miles offshore is considered to be federal waters.

There’s very rarely red snapper season there, either. Fisherman have to hang on baited breath waiting to hear if they’re going to announce a season each year. We’ve gone multiple years with no season, whatsoever, and we never know for sure if there’s going to be one or not until we get to December, and they may decide it’s too late to have one.

Typically the season is only open on the weekends: three days Friday-Sunday, for just two or three weeks. This last year we got nine days. There’s also a limit on catches. You’re usually only allowed one or two (depending on the season) –  per person – per boat – per day.

Considering chartering someone like me to go offshore will cost between $100-150, that becomes a pretty expensive one or two fish trip! That’s not taking into account that charters will usually be more expensive during red snapper season, since the aggressive fighter is so sought after.

The season usually lands at the end of summer, right around when hurricane season starts and it’s a pretty sure bet we’re going to get a tropical storm the weekend red snapper season falls. A lot of guys want to go out in five or six foot rollers or eight foot seas to catch a red snapper. Being on the weekends, the boat ramps and docks and waters themselves, get pretty crazy. Some people will pull right up next to you to fish, with miles of ocean surrounding you!

I think the season should be open for two weeks. That would give us 14 days to go out when the weather permits, without risk, and the ramps and such wouldn’t be so crowded.

The Problem With Red Snapper Catch-and-Release

The numbers here off of the Ponce Inlet are so heavily populated that when we go out deep sea fishing, we’re almost guaranteed to catch a red snapper every time we drop a line in the water. We’ll sometimes catch 20-30 snappers before we get to the target species like grouper, amber jack, mutton snapper, or mangrove snapper. Anything we’re allowed to catch, keep, and eat is difficult to get to because the red snapper are sort of like the bully on the block.

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They love to eat, they’re very aggressive, and they’re always the first one to attack the bait. So we joke about catching “the elusive, endangered red snapper.

So, when my clients catch really nice, big, beautiful fish, and they want to keep them, I have to say “no.

The bigger issue is these fish have come up from maybe 80 to 100 feet in depth, and their swim bladder has inflated. That makes returning to the bottom a problem. Standard practice is to actually puncture the fish to deflate the swim bladder, a procedure called venting, so they can return back down again. As a fireman and EMT, I have a hard time with that concept. What we’re seeing is that a lot of them don’t make it back down to the bottom.

Venting isn’t the only option, but it may be the best. Recompression devices can return the fish to a specified depth, allowing it to equalize before being released. My issue with that is you’re basically hanging a piece of meat off of your boat for any shark, barracuda, or other predatory fish to snag a hold of.

I believe a lot of them are actually wasted, not really making it back down to the reefs. Where the regulations are involved, I fear we’re causing more harm than good. Instead of being able to harvest them responsibly and utilize them, we wind up returning them like we’re supposed to, and some of them wind up belly up, anyway, wasted.

Where Can You Find the “Elusive” Red Snapper?

Anywhere where you find a natural reef, shipwreck, man-made reef, or anything similar, you’re going to find red snapper hanging around. If they’re not already there, it’s only a matter of time before they find it and call it home. They love some kind of structure to hang out in.

There are a lot of man made reef systems here where organizations like the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) have gone out and dumped old bridge pilings, culverts, or crushed concrete in certain areas. Those coordinates are published, so everyone migrates to those numbers. I’ll start at one of those known areas, and then widen my search out to include the smaller, unknown areas close by.

As long as bait fish are present, red snapper will be there, too. The structures will hold the grunts, juvenile triggerfish, juvenile pinfish, and other baitfish that tend to start out small and like to live in a rocky or reef structure will be a prime meal for red snapper.

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Using the ANGLR App is a a great addition to trips. Once you’ve located red snapper, you can always drop a pin so you know right where you can locate them again when the season opens up. The Bullseye has been a real game changer for me. As captain, I don’t have the luxury of trying to log things as they’re happening. I have to stay on my game handling the boat and paying attention to the fishermen, so the Bullseye takes that pressure off of my shoulders.

They’re mostly off of the bottom, but I have seen them come up and eat chum literally right off the top of the water. If they’re doing that, I’ll start throwing bait on the top of the water and catch them that way.

Pursuing Red Snapper: Bait and Gear

I use anywhere from 80-100 pound mainline, since you could wind up with 30+ pounds of snapper, and a 60-80 pound leader. I use conventional rods most of the time. At that depth, it’s all about presentation. If he’s hungry, he’ll eat.

99% of my red snapper are caught on threadfins, cigar minnows, and grunts. They don’t tend to have a preference to live bait versus cut bait, but I prefer live bait because I can feel the little fish get really nervous when the snapper is close by.

My number one preference is live threadfin.

As much as these fish love to eat, we all had trouble getting them to take bait the first two days of the season last year because the season happened to fall right after we had two days of a full moon. The fish were full from feeding all night on shrimp and other things, so they weren’t hungry during the day.

Circle hooks guarantee a hook up, with less chance of gut-hooking the fish, making it easier to release. I have to laugh, as some of my northern clients have a hard time catching on to it, as they’re used to bass fishing and setting the hook.

Landing Red Snapper

The key is getting the fish up out of the structure, similar to grouper fishing. Where our red snapper are, there are a lot of large grouper and goliath grouper – they’re like Volkswagen Beetles swimming in the ocean, eating anything and everything, so I prefer to use heavier lines to avoid having them break off. I’ve had a 200 pound leader line broken off by some of these groupers.

They aren’t small. I normally average between 22-36 pounds. That’s where almost 85% of my fish fall. They’re monsters. I tell people, when you get a bite, you’ll know! As soon as that fish bites, you’d better start reeling him up off the bottom, otherwise, he’ll beat you. These red snappers are like little bulldogs. They want to go straight down to the bottom and hide in the rocks, fighting the entire time, making them really fun to catch. Fortunately, they don’t lodge themselves in a hole like grouper. Instead, they take you around the structure and try to break you off.

After a good sweat-breaking fight, you’ve got a great picture opportunity with a stunningly beautiful fish. And if it’s snapper season on my boat. . . .you’ve landed one hell of a good meal.

To book a trip with Captain Josh Baker, give him a call at 407-801-3474

How to Catch Gag Grouper

As the coastal water temperature drops through the fall and winter, the Florida fishing scene starts to wane a bit, but there’s still plenty of fish to be caught. You just need to alter where you’re looking.

Gag grouper can be a blast to catch, and learning how to catch gag grouper is easier than you’d think! Just because the cold weather is bearing down, there’s no need to take a break from setting the hook!.

Where Can You Find Gag Grouper?

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These large fish are typically caught in the two to 12-pound range, though they can be found up to 20-30 pounds. An occasional 50-pounder can be landed in the deeper waters, and the world record stands at over 80. You can find them along the East Coast of the Americas from Brazil through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to as far north as New England.

Juvenile fish take shelter on the inshore glass flats and shoals until they mature. During most of the year, mature gag grouper like to hide around any type of structure that can give them shelter.

They can be found in ledges and holes and love to populate offshore reefs and shipwrecks.

As winter approaches, a massive migration of gags head for the warmer protection of the inner shores, especially within the Gulf of Mexico, to spawn. Off the coast of the Carolinas, spawning takes place in February, and in the Gulf of Mexico, spawning lasts from January through March.

During the late fall and early winter, they’ll show up a few miles off the shoreline along with spanish mackerel, kingfish, speckled trout, blacktip and spinner sharks that are chasing the schools of bunker and herring close to the beaches.

They’ll still be looking for places to shelter, so searching for large man-made structures close to the coast are a good place to start. You’re looking for any piece of structure located with nearby access to deep water. You should be able to find reasonably sized gags there. Also, head for rocky ledges and patch reefs in 15-30 feet of water. A little trick is to find clusters of stone crab traps and you’re likely to find good grouper structure.

How to Catch Gag Grouper: Live Bait and Cut-Bait

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Many anglers catch lots of gags on spinning and plug tackle, but live bait tends to be the best option. They can be caught on fresh cut bait like mullet or pinfish. They’ll also go for cut bait like squid, octopus, and crabs, though live bait, by far, is the best option. You can use a live pinfish, small gray or lane snapper, or live cigar minnow to draw them in quickly. Pilchards, grunts, or sand perch are options, as well.

Attach your baitfish to the hook just above the anal fins since the supporting structure of the fins adds some security.

How to Catch Gag Grouper: Tackle and Gear

Standard grouper tackle usually works just fine. A six to seven-foot conventional rod and reel equipped with the 40-pound test is a good place to start, but you’ll probably do fine on 20- to 30-pound test. In the warmer months, offshore anglers will lean towards stouter rods with 50- and 80-pound test lines, but that’s not necessary for the shallower waters during the colder months.

Use a four ounce egg sinker on a 2 ½ foot,  80lb fluorocarbon leader.

By law, you’re required to use a circle hook when bottom fishing in much of Florida’s cost, including the Gulf of Mexico. 6/0 will work here, though some tend to opt for a 4/0.

Be Prepared For a Fight When Pursuing Gag Grouper

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Gags are very aggressive strikers and will fight hard at all depths. When hooked, these are very powerful fish that want nothing more than to run back into a hole or ledge and take you with them. You’ll need to have heavy gear with you to prevent the fish from taking your line. Most anglers crank the drag on their reel down all the way to prevent the fish from reaching a hole.

They have a tendency to become “rocked up” if allowed.

This is where the grouper will run into a hole or under a ledge and spread its gills locking itself in place. To prevent that, keep the drag tightened so it’s almost impossible to pull line off of the spool. Lower your bait to the bottom, and then reel up a crank or two so that your sinker is elevated and the bait is swimming just off the structure. Keep your rod held low so you can immediately lift it as soon as the fish strikes, turning it away from the rocks. Lift up… reel down… repeat.  

If your fish is able to get rocked up, place your rod in a rod holder and release all pressure on the fish by giving it some slack. Wait five minutes, or watch to see when the line begins to move (whichever comes first). Start to cautiously reel in all slack to the point that your rod is low to the water and tight to the fish. Then use a quick, upward stroke. If you’ve got a fish pulling back, reel down and lift again to keep your fish headed in towards the boat. Though, you can also find a few other ingenious off-the-wall tricks out there, too.

When you’re looking for something different to try, cooler weather fishing for gag grouper can liven things up a bit and provide some fun fishing that requires a bit of finesse.

How to Catch Wahoo – Offshore Fishing Tactics

If you’re like us, you’re game to throw a line after just about anything that swims. If you’re in a for a throwdown challenge, get yourself on the slate against the wahoo.

While “Wahooooo!!” may be the sound that comes out of your mouth when landing one of these beauties, Wahoo truly is the popular name for Acanthocybium Solandri. These awesome fish go by other handles too: Ono in Hawaii, Springer in Brazil, Queenfish in the Caribbean, and Peto in the Bahamas.

 

What Is a Wahoo?

While often mistaken for a King Mackerel, they’re a fish of a different color completely. Well, maybe they’re similar in color, but that’s about it. They have numerous dark vertical bands that extend to below the lateral line. Boasting a long nose about half the length of its entire head and vertical caudal fins, this fish grows upwards of 100 pounds.

They carry a very mild flavor, even after extended freezing, in their snow white meat, which lacks heavy blood lines.

You can find them in waters from Virginia to South America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, and other areas around the world. They tend to especially love the blue water zones of the Gulf of Mexico.

None of that is necessarily what makes this mackerel special. Anglers agree that they are the biggest, meanest, and fastest mackerel in American waters, reaching speeds of up to 60 mph. Their extremely sharp canine teeth can often make landing them way more difficult than finding them. They are an extremely streamlined predator with razor sharp teeth that cut up their prey in a scissor-like fashion. They’ve got a lot of fight.

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They are also fantastic jumpers. They will leap high in the air while chasing bait fish. That said, be on the lookout as you’re pulling your empty lure up.

They’ve been known to launch a last minute attack as it comes out of the water, and have been known to go sailing right into the face of a fisherman with their sharp teeth.

How to Find Wahoo

According to Captain Sean Bloomfield, the premier wahoo fisheries exist in San Salvador and Cat Island, Bahamas, the northern Gulf of Mexico, and Northeast Florida. Hit these places up through the wintertime, and you’re bound to get into some of these giant beasts.

Wahoo are primarily structure-oriented fish that like more aggressive bottom formations, pronounced ledges, wrecks, rips, and color changes. You could also find them stacked up underneath floating debris and weed lines, sometimes in waters deeper than 1,000 feet. They typically bite below the surface and can be located along drop-offs at around 120 to 350 feet of water. You’ll find them along a ledge with current coming over it, which pushes water up and compresses bait in the water column. They’ll sit on one side and feed.

The most active time to catch these monsters is right before daybreak, their prime feeding period.

They’ll usually start the reels a-screaming as soon as the sun appears on the horizon. Their major feeding takes place just prior to sunrise to early post-dawn. “Wahoo go wild during this time,” remarks Captain Charles Ebanks. “The bite might last only 30 to 45 minutes, but it’s aggressive as hell.” That makes running almost 100 miles off shore in the dark well worth it!

Don’t discount the moon or tides, either. Fishing on a full moon works pretty well, but the best times to get into these fish are the few days before and after one. Fishing prior to and into a tide change can really find them biting. Under stable weather, lack of action during an early-morning falling tide usually means a good bite during the afternoon incoming tide, and vice versa.

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In addition, pay attention to your barometer. As the pressure starts dropping, such as before a cold front of a storm, it can trigger a bite. They tend to shut down once the pressure shoots up, like when after the front arrives.

How to Catch Wahoo Trolling

Trolling at around 14 knots is where most find they tend to have success, and Ballyhood Lures actually advises you can catch bigger wahoo with faster speed. They recommend hi-speed trolling of between 14 and 20 knots. Captain Ron Schatman, winner of a dozen major Bahamas wahoo tournaments over five years agrees.

“In 1995, I went from pulling baits at 14 knots to pulling lures at 18 knots,” he shared with Sport Fishing. “From there, it all fell into place.”

You’ll do well to stagger your trolling baits at different depths and distances. They tend to cruise below the surface, attacking fish from below, so you’ll want to set out lines 20 to 35 feet below the surface. They like to chop their prey in half, eat one end, then circle back and eat the other. They’ll often bite a ballyhoo off just behind the hook. If you’re able to act fast and give it a drop-back, they’ll often turn around looking for more. When you see your rod tip take a sudden dip, then spring back up, let the reel go into freespool, allowing the bait to sink for a few seconds. Then jig the line once or twice. “Beyond question, the best part of wahoo fishing is hearing that reel scream,” claims Ryan Grotta, owner of G-Fly Lures in Boca Raton, Florida.

These guys really have tough mouths, so you won’t want to slow boat speed down once one strikes. The captain can help the angler keep things tight by bumping the boat in and out of gear, which also helps plane the fish to the surface. Once his head breaks water, step up your cranking to keep him on top which will help to tire him out quickly. Wind it steadily into gaff range until the gaffer is able to lift it over the gunwales and into the fish box.

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How to Catch Wahoo – Gear

Standard offshore trolling tackle works well for these guys, using 100 pound braided line or 400-pound cable. If you’re casting for them, medium conventional tackle with 80 pound braid will do the trick. You can use three ounce egg sinkers for extra weight with a 50-ounce trolling sinker rigged to your line to keep the lure running at the right depth. The single most important thing to take away is that you must use a wire leader! Those razor sharp teeth will cut straight through anything else. It’s also important to use cable around the sinker, since they’ll sometimes hit the sinker.

Wahoo tend to like specific color patterns, namely red/black and purple/black, though that isn’t always the case. Some anglers have good luck using a variety of color schemes, depending on the mood of the fish. Rig large ballyhoo behind colorful rubber skirts, and they’ll go on the attack, though that could get expensive pretty quickly. Try Rapalas or any other swimming plugs that can be trolled rapidly like Braid Maurader or the Yo-Zuri Bonita.

Having a two speed reel that you can crank to high gear once the fish is brought to the surface is ideal.

While they don’t travel in schools, per se, they do tend to hang out in the same areas, so once you’ve caught one wahoo, continue working the same area until you’ve covered it before moving on.

And watch your fingers and ankles!

 

Winter Surf Fishing – Tips From The Shore

If you live within easy distance of the ocean, chances are, you already enjoy the exhilarating fun of surf fishing through the warm seasons. But winter can be one of the best times to fish the surf.

Less people jamming the beaches means more elbow room for you to stretch out and lay out your cast. Fewer crowds and a lack of recreational boaters… can it get any better than that? You’ll find little to no competition during the crisp winter months, so it’s the ideal time for winter surf fishing.

Winter Surf Fishing: A Whole New World

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The topography of a beach will completely change in the winter, jettisoned by big surf and high winds. Your usual holes and troughs you frequented over the summer will be completely gone.

You’ll want to pre-scout the area to find new spots to try out. Walk the beach at low tide and make note of the new holes, and troughs. Look for the sloughs, they’ll appear as an area of dark water at low tide, and on high tide, it’s the spot where the waves don’t break over. Find where the structures will be that are covered at high tide, too. Pockets of fish may be found on the open beach, but the rocks will have higher concentrations. This time of year, fish like to find a safe haven near rocks (and so does their food), so you should have good luck fishing up against jetties, harbor entrances, and anywhere else you find piles of rocks.

While some of your old fish friends may have migrated further out to sea or south, following the warmer waters, others continue to remain. If you live in areas further south, you’ll find some seasonal visitors that are just passing through.

Weather is Important When Winter Surf Fishing

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While you can’t hit the beach when the surf is big or it’s really windy and rainy, you should pay attention to the weather for more reasons than just that. Right before a storm, low pressure compresses the atmosphere and creates calm conditions that get the fish foraging before the storm rolls in. That’s a great time to fish the beach.

When storms are brewing and the waves get really big, winter surf fish like to head inside the bays and harbors to hide.

Winter Surf Fishing: Hit-&-Run

Even on the Jersey shore, you can have plenty of luck reeling in Striped Bass. You just have to be willing to bundle up against the cold and change your approach. You’ve got to be flexible with your spot and be prepared to not dig your heels in for too long in any one place if you’re not bringing anything in. There are going to be fewer Stripers, Spanish mackerel, Speckled Trout or whatever surf species you’re chasing in your area this time of year.

Most of them have moved south with the warmer water. For the ones that remain, they’re not traveling far or quickly, so there will be lots of dead water between schools. Throw a couple of casts, and then move on a little ways if you don’t get any bites.

Slow Down Your Retrieval Speed

With the colder water temperature, the fish’s metabolism and energy level slows way down, and they can become a bit sluggish. Depending on what fish you’re after, you’ll want to retrieve your lures very slowly, moving them just enough to keep them off the bottom, barely making a minnow plug swim. Fish a teaser just in front of the plug. For stripers, salted clams and bloodworms can bring them in.

Surf fish feed along the bottom for the most part. If you’ve been at it for a while and aren’t getting any bites, try a heavier egg sinker. In bigger surf, you’ll want to use up to an ounce of weight, for smaller surf you may use as little as a quarter ounce.

Heat Things Up A Bit

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When you’re fishing with grubs, a little trick of the trade is to use hot sauce. It doesn’t matter what kind. Since the fish aren’t as aggressive in the colder waters, hot sauce tends to help them hold on long enough for you to set your hook. Dip your grub in about every 5 casts or so. Just remember to not rub your eyes!

Do Your Research Before Winter Surf Fishing

The surf can vary greatly during the winter months. Tides, water temperatures, and sea conditions can vary greatly from day-to-day, depending on the moon phase, weather, and swell direction. Collect as much information as possible before you head out. Local bait and tackle shops that provide surf and fishing conditions can go a long way towards helping to steer you towards local secrets. Winter fish varies greatly from location to location at this time of year, so get some accurate predictions from the locals before heading out.

Online resources can prove invaluable for helping you figure out geography and topography. Pull up your ANGLR app and study it before you go for your low-tide scouting walk. Websites exist that can link you to other anglers to find out what they’re having luck with at the beach. Pierandsurf.com is one such. Find one unique for your area and check them out.

 

Braving A Small Craft Advisory In Hopes Of A World Record Striped Bass

A Fisherman’s Tale Of Enduring The Elements – 18 Hours On The Water

Some who call themselves fishermen, in reality, spend in short, a handful of sunny warm weather days on the water. For others, the pursuit of large fish often puts them in life-threatening situations. While the average fisherman recognizes a bad idea right away; there are those who struggle with fishing addiction, who will say there is never a bad time to fish.

In fact, my mother always told me “there is no bad weather – just dressing badly for the weather”. I would attest to my mother’s’ words of wisdom, and pride myself in fishing the harshest conditions possible. Why? This isn’t an easy answer, but in short, because this is how I am able to measure my own character as a fisherman.

Biting Off More Than We Could Chew

My boat, the “Scurvy Sea Slug”, was named in remembrance of my deceased fishing mentor, who used these words to describe toughened fishermen. Having run the boat numerous times in severe weather, I can honestly say that my little bass boat holds up to the name. In September of 2017, two friends and I launched my 14-foot bass boat on the Atlantic Ocean, from one of the estuaries on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, in the wake of tropical storm Jose.

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“My boat, the “Scurvy Sea Slug”, was named in remembrance of my deceased fishing mentor, who used these words to describe toughened fishermen.”

We were perfectly fine until the winds abruptly changed and became directly exposed to winds from the west. By this time, it was about 1:30 am. My boat took two good sized waves to the stern, and before I knew it, I was swimming into shore with a bowline. My friends and I managed to strip the boat, carry the hull down a narrow path, and get it back on the trailer. With the boat and equipment loaded, we parted ways with a final note from my friend and his words of wisdom, “We better not tell the girls about this”.

As a side note, my wife quickly developed the skill of tuning out most fishing related dialog.

By 4:30 am, I found myself at the town wharf, using fresh water on my Mercury engine to remove the salt. Coincidentally, I ran into another friend, who happens to be a great mechanic, working the night shift at the yacht club. He was able to empty the saltwater from the cylinders, and re-prime the engine.  Not only does it run, but the chug which I had grown accustomed to, was gone! I will forever be a faithful customer of Mercury.

Foul Weather Doesn’t Determine My Fishing Schedule…

My lesson learned was not to avoid foul weather. The writer, Hunter S. Thompson, once wrote, “When you enter the ocean, you enter the food chain, and not always at the top”. In reflection, I learned that fishing is who I am, I’m not going stop, and I would die a happy man; should my fate occur in pursuit of fish… though I hope to have many years left topside! The weather seemed to have won this battle, but the war wasn’t over.

About three weeks later, my friend Corrigan, a seasoned boat captain, and I were in pursuit of a hefty Striped Bass for the 2017 Martha’s Vineyard Bass and Bluefish Derby. We had been chasing that one elusive fish – the kind that comes with a breathtaking life experience to always be remembered. The memorable fish aren’t always the biggest. Sometimes they can even be the smallest.

Memorable fish, by my standards, are often proportionate to how hard you are willing to work for them.

I can honestly say that my fishing friends have incredibly fine-tuned skills and tend to share the “cast or die trying” mindset. More so than not, we find ourselves fishing in the surf, rather than from the boat. Striped Bass are a night time hunt, and often the odds are better casting from the boulders.

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Setting Sail For The Elizabeth Islands In Pursuit Of Striped Bass

However, on this occasion, Corrigan and I agreed that the boat would be most suitable to reach the Elizabeth Island Chain (our neighboring islands) a few miles to the west. With about a dozen islands totaling 34 square miles, each island is quite small, and hosts shorelines of unforgiving boulders. The Elizabeth Islands are owned by the Forbes family (widely known for their wealth).

While making landfall is forbidden, the surrounding waters have produced several fishing world records, and the majority of state records as well. Each island is separated by navigable channels that can flow at speeds upward of twelve miles an hour. Historically, this area of the Atlantic Ocean is also a watery grave to many of the most significant shipwrecks in New England. On the bright side, these waters are also within derby limits; and that was the plan.

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As you can see, our trip across the Vineyard Sound left us out in the open for a while with the nasty weather!

As it was, Hurricane Maria had just been reduced to a tropical storm, creating a small-craft advisory – we didn’t mind. Storms tend to drive Striped Bass into a feeding frenzy. Disoriented bait fish, high oxygenation, low visibility, and thermal breaks often make fish hyperactive, hungry, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even attack topwater lures.

The Fishing Begins… The Harsh Weather Is Nowhere To Be Seen

Corrigan and I picked up our friend Peter, and the three of us departed the harbor toward the Elizabeth Islands in a twenty-foot center console. The weather was overcast, humid, but the water didn’t seem abnormally rough. By the time we reached the Elizabeth Islands, nothing seemed out of the ordinary other than the lack of other boats. Unfortunately, we had made the mistake of listening to the radio, and Billy Joel, who we considered to be bad luck to listen to (on fishing days) came on; this wasn’t good.

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As Corrigan and I pulled up to the islands, we began fishing at an area called Tarpaulin Cove.

I rigged a live eel (commonly used for striped bass fishing), which was unusually large; stating, “big bait, big fish”. I casted toward a rock pile not far from the shoreline. As soon as it hit the water, it felt as if several fish were fighting over it. I reeled up to find it had been eaten down to only two or three inches in length. This is always a definitive sign of bluefish. We continued to cast with no other signs of life, until the sun had fallen below the horizon.

Darker Weather Leads To Darker Waters

With darkness surrounding the boat, the weather became more turbulent. We decided to troll south, within 150 yards of the eastern shoreline. The three of us huddled behind the center console to form a strategy sure to gain us just one good fish. The area had yielded many world record fish, and we reminded each other of this – convinced that we too could catch an elusive giant. This type of determination is a trait shared amongst New England Fishermen.

Hold strong, keep casting, and put in the hours.

Regionally we have all convinced ourselves that long hours and salty tears guarantee an unprecedented fish. You almost have to convince yourself of this; otherwise you’d be a fool to spend so much time in unforgiving seas, amongst larger predators than yourself, in weather that often seems apocalyptic. This occasion was no different, and just warming up.

A thick fog had moved in, making visibility less than fifteen or twenty feet. Combined with the chop and howling wind, it was a little disorienting. Corrigan said, “Guys, I’m going to bring us through Robinson’s Hole. The weather is going to make it a little sketchy, so I’m going to need you guys on the bow to spot boulders.” This statement from Corrigan, a captain capable of transoceanic voyage, made me a little alarmed. I took position on the bow, which (as many of you may know) is the roughest place to ride. My headlamp only provided a few feet of visibility past the bow as we turned starboard into the channel separating the islands of Naushon and Pasque.

Corrigan steadily raised the throttle until the boat was running hard against the current, using instrumentation rather than eyes for navigation. Looking down, the waters were racing beneath the boat as if we had achieved full plane. We managed to navigate the channel.

As the boat slowed into calmer waters, Corrigan said, “I’m going to drop anchor to get the blood back in my hands”. His calm demeanor and a thick layer of fog hid the beads of sweat running down his face.

Now on the western side of the Elizabeth Islands, the Buzzard’s Bay side, we ran the boat north; periodically casting into the fog toward the island. We continued fishing the Elizabeth Islands for several hours without a sign of life. By early morning, we were ready to accept defeat, and returned to the harbor. Peter was falling asleep, and we dropped him off at the dock behind his house.

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Daylight Breaks and The Striped Bass Fishing Rages On

Daylight was upon us, and the thick fog now looked like clouds floating on the water. At eye level and above, the clouds were bright white as the sun came up. The water looked like glass. Some of my favorite days on the water start this way. About that time, the radio began to play the song, Baby I Was Born To Run, by Bruce Springsteen. While I wouldn’t call myself a fan, it seemed like a suitable song, as I’d like to think that fish are also born to run.

As we made our way back to call it quits, we spotted a disturbance on the water’s surface. We quickly cut the boat into idle and took simultaneous casts, both pulling up smaller striped bass. This was a significant moment for us, if for no other reason, because we made the association that listening to Bruce Springsteen, reversed the Billy Joel curse. After learning this, the word disseminated amongst our fishing circle and is now a ridiculous superstitious practice, which we consider absolutely necessary.

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After catching a handful of smaller sized stripers, I was content to go back empty handed.

Corrigan on the other hand, insisted that there were bigger fish feeding below the smaller ones. I put my feet up, and controlled the drift of the boat while Corrigan continued casting away. The fog began to lift, and the day was shaping up nicely, but still deemed unsuccessful. We had almost reached the channel markers to return to the docks when Corrigan sent out the infamous “one last cast”. Zing!

The Infamous Last Cast

A few seconds into the cast, his line began ripping, and he insisted the fish felt big. While it may seem frustrating to the fisherman working the line, I always find it important to talk your fishing buddies through landing a good fish. Reminders like “take your time”, “let it run”, and “don’t change the drag” are important. When total silence suddenly turns into an adrenaline filled fight, it is easy to over work your tackle. This is usually how fishermen lose the biggest fish they’ve ever hooked into. Corrigan was receptive to my coaching, and I was eagerly awaiting his approval to assist with the net.

The “net man” may seem pretty insignificant, but get in the way sometime, lose a friend’s fish, and see how long that story lasts. I digress.

Corrigan cautiously reeled, allowing the fish to run periodically. As the fish neared the boat, the line came dangerously close to the prop a few times. At the risk of having the line break on the prop, I wasn’t about to assist until I got the nod. I have heard stories of friend’s getting in the way while landing good fish. Usually the intention is good, but a bad outcome has been known to end friendships. This may seem ridiculous, but imagine watching a potential record lost!

At Corrigan’s ready, I was able to net the fish with one clean swoop. Lifting the net over the outboard engine, we could both see that this was the fish we had been looking for. Eighteen hours in the boat, enduring a small craft advisory. A night spent cold, hungry, wet, and tired, all made worthwhile in a few short minutes. While this particular fish wasn’t by any means a world record, we knew that it was worth weighing in.

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It was the only boat fish weighed in, because we had been the only boat enduring the advisory, until it cleared that morning.

I want to disclaim that this wasn’t my fish. I hadn’t done anything to catch it. None the less, it didn’t matter which one of us caught it, and Corrigan would agree. Fishing buddies keep each other on the water, endure some nasty elements, and occasionally even life or death situations. It’s fishing; you never know what is going to happen. It’s the gambling element that keeps us coming back, and on this occasion, we defied the odds, leaving the water feeling like winners.

Here’s the clip of Corrigan and I landing that fish as a team. WARNING: Graphic Language

Tailing Redfish – Fall Fly Fishing With Guide Matt Crowe

It is a fall day and the summer heat has fallen to cooler, more bearable temperatures and the Redfish are chewing. This is one of the best times of the year to stalk tailing Redfish on the flats, combining hunting and fishing into one sport. Many think the Redfish are off the flats and moving into winter feeding patterns, however they are still feeding heavily on anything they can to beef up before winter. Come winter, the baitfish become scarce and the crabs head to the deep.

There are still plenty of food sources like fiddler crabs, blue crabs, shrimp, and finger mullet on the flats in the fall available for them to eat. If you want to get out on the flats in the fall to fly fish for these hardy fish, there are a few things you must consider. What kind of gear you need, what to look for, and finally, how to deliver the perfect cast and fly pattern to get them to eat!

Tailing Redfish In The Fall: Bring The Right Gear

There are a lot of opinions on the gear you should use when you seek tailing Redfish on the flats, but the truth is, it’s just not that complicated.

You do not need the latest and greatest or the top of the line equipment to target these fish with a fly rod.

Technology has come so far, to the point where even the less expensive, entry-level rods and reels are great at what they do. I repeat you do not need to spend a fortune to get the necessary tools for the job. I recommend an 8 or 9 weight fly rod with an accompanying reel. I personally prefer Temple Fork Outfitters as they make great rods and reels at all different price levels.

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As I said, I personally prefer Temple Fork Outfitters, but Orvis is another great brand for fly fishing gear!

In terms of the business end of the rod and reel, I recommend a tapered leader that’s roughly 10 foot long. Again, this is not a must, anywhere from 8 to 10 foot of tapered leader will do. Your best bet is to have some fly patterns in a box that are appealing to you, things like crab flies, shrimp flies, and even some baitfish flies. The most important thing about fly selection is to pick one you are confident with, this will come with time as you discover your favorite colors and materials.

Don’t Break The Bank

Now, this next piece of “gear” is optional in my opinion, but a boat is certainly a nice thing to have and provides you with a lot of opportunities. That being said, if you are willing to look hard enough, you can find flats accessible by land and sometimes these can be terrific flats. Now, if you do have a boat, or you are looking to get one, you do not need one of the flats boats that are tens of thousands of dollars. They may be nice, but a jon boat or kayak will do just fine.

You can either pole along the flats or tie on some old tennis shoes and walk. I have spent countless fishing trips on the flats in an old pair of shoes tied on real tight and still had success.

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The key is, you must be stealthy in every way, whether you are walking or polling.

My first pole for my little skiff was cut out of my grandpa’s backyard. It was a long, strong and flexible piece of bamboo that held up fine for a while until I was ready to invest in the sport. The point is, you do not need to break the bank to fly fish for tailing Redfish.

What To Look For When Targeting Tailing Redfish

It is incredibly important to understand what you are looking for prior to heading out onto the flats. When you are looking for a flat, you should keep an eye out for small feeder creeks or low spots where fish may be able to swim up onto the flat. These are considered to be access points. Look for creeks with a lot of marshland, you want to find a spot with little grass. The grass that is spread relatively thin and is not too tall allows you to see the fish and travel without much restriction.

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I prefer a flat that is a mixture of sand and mud so that I can walk on it quietly, without sinking to my thighs in mud.

That is another reason to move slowly and take your time, so you can avoid getting stuck or having to make a lot of noise moving as that may spook the fish. If you don’t have time to go scout new flats, hop on the ANGLR app and search for some, this is a great way to find new spots. Use technology to your advantage because now we can view an entire area, mark waypoints and all our fishing spots from a device in our hands… it’s just up to us to find the right spots.

Now that you have geared up properly and found your spot, you must know what you are looking for on the flat. Redfish make distinct movements in the water that you will learn over time. Small disturbances are something you will need to train your eyes to ignore. You will either see a big bronze tail sticking out of the water or a U-shaped wake cruising the flats. The V-shaped wakes are small baitfish that need to be ignored. It is important to keep in mind, once you have spotted the fish, study which direction it is going position yourself to cast quietly. Be careful when getting into position because some fish are spooked easily.

Making The Perfect Cast For Tailing Redfish

When you finally get in the right spot, you are going to have to make a cast which can be quite daunting in the moment. You need to make the cast out in front of the fish by several feet and gently lay the fly where you think the fish is headed.

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I believe it is best to cast in front of and beyond the fish so that you can bring the fly back through its path.

I normally move the fly very slowly and often let it sit. When I think the fish may see it, I will twitch it a little to give it some life. This normally provides a bite from the fish, but if it doesn’t, I would change flies and try either a different pattern or color and give it another go. It is important to note that sometimes the fish just won’t eat. Be sure to keep your eyes out for more as typically when you see one, there will be more nearby.

Now you know what gear you need, what to look for, and how to get in on the action. Use the tools you have to your advantage, go to your local fly shop and talk with other fishermen to learn even more about the Redfish in your area. The more time you spend on the water, the more you will learn and in turn, the more fish you will catch.

I recommend taking note of where you went and what the conditions were as well. Keep track of what flies you used so that you can reference that when planning other fishing trips to help maximize your level of success. Lastly, if you have any questions for me or if I wasn’t clear on something please feel free to reach out.

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