Fishing the Ship Channel Jetties

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014


Many anglers who fish the Jetties on a regular basis catch lots of good fish. When fishing the rocks with bait one never knows what they are going to catch. Successful jetty fishing requires knowledge on where, when and how to fish around the rocks. There is more to it than most people think about before packing their gear on the boat. Water clarity, wind direction, wind speed and, what I think are most important; tide movement and direction. If a person wants to have success fishing the jetties and they typically fish more often in the bays, I suggest they hire a full-time guide that knows how to fish around the rocks. Proper tackle selection is very important; firstly, because you can hook-up with any type of fish and secondly, many of the fish you catch are very large. If you take the wrong fishing gear to the jetties you are going to be highly disappointed. You will most likely spend all your time re-rigging your tackle on damaged reels and broken rods.

When fishing the Jetties, I use a 7’ medium to heavy action fiberglass rod and a reel that will hold at least a 100 yards of 20 lb. test. If you’re not fishing with a guide, don’t forget to take lots of hooks, weights and plenty of bait; you will need them! Rule #1: If you want to catch big fish, you will need to use heavy tackle. Another sure-fire technique for catching big trout is to free-line live shrimp against the rocks.

Fishing at the end of the Jetties can be very interesting and challenging. When the bite is on, anxious anglers will make their way down the jetties on foot or by boat for an opportunity to catch big fish. It’s not uncommon to see 20 to 30 boats stacked up within spitting distance of one another casting toward the rocks as the bait bucket-perched land anglers cast out from the rocks towards the boats. The competition around the rocks can become very intense on crowded days and the variety of inshore and offshore species that hover at the end of the jetties means you never know what might be caught. Two years ago I saw a man catch a nine-foot Lemon Shark. Another time, a boat full of anglers fought for 45 minutes to land a stingray that was wider than the bow of the boat! It’s a safe bet that in the late summer you’ll see tarpon rolling on the surface at the end of most jetties on the Texas Gulf Coast. Just the mention of Tarpon sightings at the local bait stand or convenience store inspire some anglers to re-launch their boats and head back out just to make a few casts in hopes of a big catch.

My final tip about fishing the jetties is that if you are fishing one way and not getting results, mix it up and try something different. Be patient; it may take you several fishing trips to the jetties to learn to catch fish consistently. One thing is for sure… the fish are always going to be near the rocks as they travel through the jetties in and out of the bays and trial and error is what it takes to become a better “Jetty Jerker.”

Summer Fishing Tips from the Pros

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Fishing, it’s a game of figuring it out. Much like predator stalking prey, it’s the chase and honing of skills that makes fishing an interesting sport. Here are some tips from the pros to help you step up your production on the water this summer.

Bernie Schultz Shares Secrets For The Grass

Bernie Schultz, an eight-time Bassmaster Classic participant, honed his skills fishing the grass-heavy lakes in his home state of Florida.

Bernie Schultz, an eight-time Bassmaster Classic participant, honed his skills fishing the grass-heavy lakes in his home state of Florida.

When it comes to bass fishing, all the greats know location is everything. In fact, it’s often the difference between a successful day on the water and going home empty handed.

Bernie Schultz, an eight-time Bassmaster Classic participant, honed his skills fishing the grass-heavy lakes in his home state of Florida. However, he’s a firm believer that the Sunshine State isn’t the only place where anglers can find monster fish lurking in the green stuff.

“If you’re looking for the perfect spot, it doesn’t get much better than finding a thick grass bed,” said Schultz. “You can typically find fish gathered in shallow pockets with easy access to sunlight where they’ll stage in or above the vegetation.”

Schultz recommends casting lipless crankbaits like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap or Clackin’ Rap into the grass and ripping them out to trigger reactive bites.

“The key with these lures is to make irregular contact with strands of grass and then rip the bait free,” Schultz explained. “When you snag a strand for just a moment, that slight pause, combined with the lure’s loud rattle are sure to grab fish’s attention.”

How Ike Finds Finicky Fish

Mike “Ike” Iaconelli, 2006 Bass Angler of the Year and 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion, said this time of year can produce some trophy bass. But as anglers look to spend more time outdoors, the season can also bring the year’s most crowded waters.

According to Ike, anglers can set themselves apart from the crowd by targeting fish located on cover and structure that is not visible to the naked eye. It’s a pattern the man has made a living off of.

Using a depthfinder, Ike locates hard-to-find cover and subtle depth changes. He then ties on baits he can use to feel along the bottom, like quick-diving cranks from the Rapala DT Series.

Mike Iaconelli, 2006 Bass Angler of the Year and 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion

Mike Iaconelli, 2006 Bass Angler of the Year and 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion

“I also like to use more finesse presentations,” Ike said. “Sometimes baits with an in-your-face action don’t do the trick. If the fish just don’t seem to be interested, it’s time for a change. That’s when I switch to a silent, tight-crankin’ lure like the Rapala Shad Rap to offer up what looks like an easier meal for finicky fish.”

Ott DeFoe’s Go-to Shallow Pattern

For Ott DeFoe, 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, a favorite pattern this time of year is running the shallows and throwing Terminator T-1 spinnerbaits. It’s the bait that helped him catch his biggest five-bass tournament limit to date–30 pounds, 15 ounces–on Texas’ Lake Falcon in 2013.

“This time of year fish are more than likely going to be moving into the shallows near some type of cover off of points, and there’s no better tool for targeting these areas than spinnerbaits,” said DeFoe. “I almost always have a T-1 tied on. The key is to make sure you fish them at the right pace.”

Ott DeFoe, 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year

Ott DeFoe, 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year

Coming out of the colder months, a fish’s metabolism will still be slow, which means a moderate pace is best for triggering strikes, explained DeFoe.

“If you’re working spinners, take your time and don’t burn them,” advised DeFoe. “Try slowly rolling the bait around trees and rocks, making light contact. Keep it moving steady and don’t linger in one area too long. I usually make one or two casts to a piece of cover then go on to the next one to cover more water.”

He recommends a 1/2-ounce Terminator T-1 Spinnerbait with a small silver Colorado blade to add a little extra thump to the bait. Choose a skirt in a color pattern that matches the local hatch and the hawgs won’t know what hit ’em.

A Smart Choice

Monday, March 25th, 2013


If you were limited to a single lure guaranteed to catch fish in a variety of situations from bonefish to bluefish, striped bass to tarpon, and snapper to sailfish anywhere in the world, what would you choose? While you’re wrestling with your decision, you might find it helpful to know that in the early days of World War II, the U.S. Government answered the question for you. Survival kits in life rafts aboard warplanes and ships contained a package of fishing line and leadheaded bucktails.

The leadhead still ranks as the prime choice for knowledgeable anglers, but it lacks the popularity today that it once had. Still, I never go anywhere without an assortment of bucktails in various weights, sizes and head shapes and they don’t fail me. If you add soft plastics to a leadhead dressed with bucktail or just a plain leadhead, you broaden its appeal and versatility. These modern offerings have been molded into so many shapes and designs that they challenge the imagination. They come in every size up to and including big game offshore baits. Someone is even molding 15-inch ribbon fish, which raise blue marlin when attached to a dredge. Color combinations with or without glitter span the spectrum from light to dark and shiny to dull along with “glow-in-the-dark” fluorescents.

In shallow water, the most common fishing technique with a bucktail centers on casting, letting the lure drop to the bottom, and then jigging it back with a series of short, sharp, upward motions of the rod. Adjust the speed of the retrieve to conditions such as water temperature, target species, water depth, and so forth. Almost any species that relishes artificials and feeds close to the bottom should inhale it.

If you find a school of fish on the surface, make the cast, let the offering sink for a brief moment or two, and then start the retrieve. Even on the offshore grounds, it pays to keep a rod rigged with a leadhead. You gain the versatility of being able to make a presentation to anything that swims around the boat. The leadhead also gives you the advantage of letting you drop down if the fish suddenly leaves the surface and works deeper in the water column.

In deeper water, vertical jigging (straight up and down) produces better results than casting and retrieving. Drop the leadhead to the bottom and use the rod to lift it as you reel in the slack created. If you are focusing on denizens that hug the bottom turf, jig up several feet and then drop it back down. The alternative when fish can be anywhere lies in working the entire water column.

Bucktails perform more effectively when attached to the leader with a loop knot. The rule of thumb dictates that you use the lightest leadhead capable of reaching the bottom. You’ll find that some shapes outfish others. It’s a matter of preference and experience. Fishing a bucktail is becoming a lost art. You can carry a full arsenal in a small box and have the capability of fishing anywhere in the water column for every species that will respond to an artificial lure. Bucktails are unquestionably the most versatile lures ever designed. They may look simple, but in the hands of a skilled angler, they can be deadly. Learn to use them properly and you’ll be the one telling the fish stories.

Spring Fling

Friday, March 1st, 2013


Wow! Spring is finally upon us. Flowers are blooming, Spring Training bats are cracking and anglers are taking their kayaks out of storage and heading to the favorite honey holes. Life is good.
To help get you prepared for the kayak fishing spring frenzy, I have recruited several of my Hobie teammates to provide a brief overview of their springtime tactics that have made them some of the most successful kayak anglers in the country. This grouping of helpful hints is brief, so if you have a topic that you would like to see expanded on please do not hesitate to let us know.

Morgan Promnitz the Hobie Fishing Product Manager; provided this Southern California rundown:
Spring is upon us, the water is warming up, the fin bait is moving in, and so are the predators. White seabass spend a lot of time in our local kelp beds from late February through summer spawning and feeding on baitfish. They move around looking for schools of mackerel and sardines they can feast upon. The yellowtail are moving up higher in the water column making it a perfect time to dust off your jig stick and favorite surface irons. Look out in deeper water for roaming schools of fish and fire, crank, and hold on tight! Ever fished big weedless plastics over the kelp canopy for hungry calico bass? It’s a blast, and now’s the time to start trying it.

John “Chappy” Chapman, “enough said”, gives us a look in to how to make the best of your time in the Carolinas:
Our winter was fairly mild with freezes followed by quick warm ups. This means that the fish are all over the place and scattered and just as confused as we are. When the winter is mild and erratic, spring time means going back to the basics and using the tried and proven tactics of late summer. You can never go wrong working a soft plastic with a lot of action around the creek mouths when the water is rolling out. Then depending on the size of your jig head and the quickness of your retrieve will produce all three of the favorite game species. Slow roll it on the bottom and wait for that tell tale thump of a flounder or bring it through the water column and entice a trout or a spot tail. Lots of times you can find the trout in the creeks by trolling your plastics. If you’re into bait fishing then it won’t be long before a live mud minnow slowly dragged along the bottom will be lethal for both spot tail and flounder. Live shrimp under a popping cork will almost always produce a spot tail or trout this time of year.

2012 IFA Champion, Benton Parrott, fills us is on the way to succeed in Louisiana:
Watch the weather patterns for your style of fishing. With the heavy rains we have been having fish should be moving down from the rivers to their spring patterns. Throw top waters early and late in the day when the water temperature is above 60. If the water temperature is below 60 go to plastics and twitch baits and slow down your retrieve until you find what is working. Contrasting colors should work best in dirty or stained waters and natural colors for when you can find cleaner water. I like areas with deeper pockets near shallows that fish will congregate in. Finding bait is a must that is what the reds, speckled trout, and flounder will be keying in on.


Brad Kirn of Hobies Worlds Team gives a look at what it takes to land a trophy bucketmouth:
It is springtime and that means Post-Spawn largemouth bass fishing! During the post spawn, the bulk of largemouth bass, both male and female, will return to active feeding and will also be less particular in what they will eat. With that in mind, here are some tips that can make your time on the water more productive. Cover as much water as possible until you find the fish. Continue to vary the type, size, lure color, and presentation until a successful pattern is established. Match the Hatch. Most baitfish this time of year will be smaller, so try downsizing your lure.
As for lure selection, here are some that I consider must haves for shallow ponds/lakes of the South East during the post-spawn:
• Frogs (explosive action in heavy cover, try a Spro or Stanley Ribbit.)
• Poppers (a personal favorite; The Rebel Pop-R is a great choice).
• Jerk baits (both soft and hard plastic).
• Walk-the dog type top water. (Spook jr’s and skitterwalks cosistently produce).

Many other lures will catch fish this time of year including Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and a variety of plastic worm designs. But the bottom line is, use what works for you.

Your pal jd wants to let you know that spring fishing in the backwaters of Florida is all about transition. Snook, redfish and tarpon move out of the creeks and rivers ready to gorge themselves until they are ready to pop. These fish will be combing the flats consuming everything that gets in their path before heading out through the passes to spawn. The best way to target spring trophies is to locate the sizzle bait. This tiny bait will be on the surface and sizzling like bacon and we know everyone loves bacon. Game fish will lie beneath these pods of fry bait and aggressively chow down on an easy meal. My favorite way to entice these ravenous predators is to bomb long cast with a small topwater plug like the Spook jr. all around any bait you see bubbling on the surface. By walking the dog with my plug across the flats, I can quickly locate and entice my target species. If you have not used a topwater plug as search bait before give it a try, the results are explosive.

Pedal On!

The Water Haul Cast: A Useful Cast to Master

Monday, January 7th, 2013


In saltwater fly fishing a long (50-plus feet) accurate cast is often required to be successful at catching fish. This cast is called the double haul. The double haul is a wonderful cast once mastered and will make it possible for the fly angler to not only cast his or her fly to greater distances but also help when casting into the wind.

But what happens when the fly angler is casting to fish in deep water? Or casting into the shore break as the currents from the waves are dragging your line back and forth? How about casting a 550 or 650 shooting head or sinking line from a tossing and pitching boat on the open ocean? This is not the place for artful double hauling. This is rock and roll fly fishing and the name of the game here is to get the fly into the water and catch fish.

Often, when casting a heavy sinking line, water hauling is the most practical cast.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Make your forward cast at a comfortable distance.
  2. Once the cast is out in front of you, with the rod tip on the water, strip the line in until you get the sinking part of the shooting head at the tip of your rod.
  3. Slowly lift your rod tip and make a roll cast. This will lay the line out straight in front of you.
  4. Now make a slow back cast and feel the line drag up off the water.
  5. Let the sinking line fall out behind you on the water as if you were presenting a fly to a fish behind you.
  6. Once the line is laid out behind you make a forward cast and pull the line with your free hand with a down stroke towards your hip and then release the line.

The resistance of the water on both the front and back cast or the haul will create enough friction and drag to project the fly line forward acting like a double haul without any false casting.

The water haul cast is also a great way to master the double haul.

Top 10 Fishing Tips

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Catching fish encompasses a two-pronged approach. You have to locate your quarry and then convince it to eat. Here’s my list of ten essential factors that should help tilt the odds in your favor:

  1. Neither too hot or too cold
    Researchers insist that water temperature is the single most significant factor in finding fish, yet most anglers never even stick a hand in the water. Make sure the temperature is within the tolerance limits of the species you seek. Look for temperature edges and work either side of them. And remember that fish become sluggish as water temperatures drop.
  2. Go with the flow
    Saltwater species rely on the movement of water to carry food to them or they use moving water to set up search patterns for food. Make it a rule to note the phase of the tide when you do find fish and be sure to check spots out on both incoming and outgoing water.
  3. Stick to structure
    Think of structure as features that differ from their surroundings. Some structure is obvious like bridges, jetties, rocks, points, pockets, potholes, wrecks and reefs. Flotsam on the surface is structure. And be sure to look for channels and cuts that drain a larger body of water. I call them the neck of a funnel.
  4. Stay on the cutting edge
    An edge describes a transitional zone where some type of change is taking place. Animals (including fish) tend to orient to edges and follow them. Dropoffs, bottom changes (grass to sand, etc.), ocean currents, water color, water temperature, and so on are all edges.
  5. Satisfy the senses
    Fish depend on sight, sound, and smell to find food. They react to movement, low frequency sound, distress vibrations of bait fish, and the scent of a bait. That’s why chumming with live or dead bait can be very effective. The sight and sound of a lure moving through the water also rings the dinner bell.
  6. Reading the menu
    Try to use the most common bait for the area and the species you are targeting. If you can obtain more than one bait, that’s even better. Offering your quarry a choice often pays off.
  7. Pick a color… any color
    Chartreuse ranks at the top of a fish’s spectrum with reds being the first to fade with depth or distance. Blues and greens are at the other end of the scale and the last to fade other than white. I use two colors—dark and light. If one doesn’t work, I switch to the other without worrying about subtle shades.
  8. Make it look appetizing
    Bait must look natural, appealing, and appetizing. You want a fish to see, smell, or hear your offering, but you also don’t want the fish to spook from it. Whether you are casting or trolling or just drifting, make sure you work a pattern to present bait effectively.
  9. Gearing up
    Based on your own skill and the conditions where you are fishing, use the finest diameter line you deem practical and the lightest leader commensurate with the task. Minimize the size of swivels, snaps, and sinkers, and eliminate any of these you can.
  10. To hit or not to hit
    A tight line holds the key to a successful hookset. With circle hooks, hold the rod steady and let the fish hook itself. Even with J-hooks, there is no reason to rear back on the strike. And, once the fish has a bait or lure in its mouth, that’s the time to come tight. Don’t wait.
  11. And finally…
    Leading anglers are observant on the water, looking for signs of life constantly. They vary their technique if nothing is happening. They already know that perhaps only one or two minor adjustments will turn a nice try into a nice fish.

Learn to Fly Cast Farther!

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

By Rene Hesse

If you really want someone to read your article, or show up for a fly casting class, that’s what you advertise: Learn to Fly Cast Farther! This article is not about distance; it’s about accuracy, but I had to get you interested. Most folks will not take the time to read about accuracy, much less practice it. We tend to just enjoy the flow of a cast and the nice loops, and then we focus on distance next.

Fly Casting Accuracy would be the title of a fly casting class that would bring in the fly fishers that understand what’s important in catching fish. You may be able to cast a mile, but if it isn’t near a fish, it’s just casting. Hopefully, when you read the following, you will get some key points into the mindset of an accurate caster.

We have to start with equipment that lends itself to being more accurate: 1) A responsive rod—too stiff (fast), no feel; too soft (slow), no control. 2) Bright line so you can see the loops and align them. 3) Leaders that carry the energy to the target and not fade out to a wisp.

Then we have to be physically ready, from our feet to our head. Our footing should be aligned with the target, if possible, knees soft and able to flow; our body’s core like a dancer’s, able to adjust, not stiff like a boxer. Shoulders square to target and rounded, but with chest up. A cleansing breath to get oxygenated, and keep the head up, not tilted, so vision will not be distorted. Our arm casting style can aid in achieving accuracy; if you cast off to the side (on a horizontal plane), you will have a better view of your line, but the cast can go sideways past your target, compared to you going more over the top (or vertical). For short casts, stay more vertical than for a long cast of 45-80 feet, where we have to lengthen our casting stroke.

Now, my favorite part of accuracy casting: getting in your head! If nothing else, remember that accuracy is active seeing, not casual looking. You have to see the target, not the area. Too often we look at a log in the water, a root wad or a rock that will hold fish; we fail to see the four-inch by four-inch specific spot we need to land the fly, and then we have fuzzy targets. Try this: take a moment, look at your fireplace (or anything else) and pretend you want to place the fly in it. Move your eyes side to side, and then up and down to a spot; a brick, for example, that you want to land the fly on. Your eyes should almost bug out as you get zoned in on the spot, not the fireplace. That is active seeing; see your target and pretend you’re looking down a funnel into it. Now make your fly line loop travel down the tunnel to the target. Get the idea?

Now let’s put it together for the cast. You have picked out your target; let me say that again, you have picked out your target. You have the best gear for your situation, and you have positioned yourself to make the cast. Start with less line outside the rod tip than you will need to make the cast (it is difficult to take back line while casting). Focus on making your loops parallel on all planes. A slightly rounded loop is easier to see than a pointed one, so open up to a two-three foot loop, and slow down. Look at your loops, both front and back, until you like the alignment (send the loop down the funnel), and then pick up your target with your eyes again. Try a few false casts, and hover the fly a foot or two above the target (after you stop the rod, move your hand one inch forward and the fly will almost hang in the air for a second). When you get the placement of the false cast where it should be, don’t change a thing, and deliver it on the next cast. Whew! That’s a lot!
Let’s make it easy. Pick out a specific target; make good loops and line them up. Then pick up that target with your eyes again, and make everything focused on getting there. Oh, then get ready to catch a fish!

Fly fishing is about having fun, and catching fish is more fun than not. Focus on accuracy and you will have more fun fly fishing and catching fish.

Rene Hesse is a Certified Casting Instructor–Federation of Fly Fishers Atlanta Fly Fishing and Camping Meetup Organizer.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Water

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Few species can resist the natural aroma and tasty tidbits that signal a free lunch. Chumming not only attracts fish, it also stimulates their desire to feed. Competition in a chum slick makes fish more aggressive and they often race each other from one piece of chum to the next.

The whole theory of chumming centers on the ability of fish to track prey through their sense of smell. Successful chumming requires a flow of water whether it is a current, tidal movement, or a river or stream. The idea is to get the fish you want to catch to follow the source of the scent and the chum to its source.

Chum takes many forms depending on the species you seek and where along the coast you happen to be fishing. It could be a frozen block of ground up fish or simply a bucket full of fresh ground fish.

You may be able to put it in a mesh bag and hang it over the side or, if it is fresh chum, you will have to ladle it. Chum slicks can be sweetened by occasionally tossing in whole, small fish or chunks of fish. In some situations, a whole fish is partially filleted and tied to a cleat on the boat.

The key lies in maintaining an unbroken slick and smell track even if you are busy battling a fish. In a number of situations, once you stop chumming, the fish are gone within a couple of minutes.

Where you position yourself to chum is equally important. You should have a target such as a wreck, reef, drop off, or structure of some kind. It could simply be a flat where fish are prowling. I’ve fished with skippers who will re-anchor a boat a half-dozen times until they are sure the current will carry the chum to the targeted area at the right depth.

Fishing a dead bait in a chum slick requires a practiced touch. As the flow of water carries the chum, it follows an inclined plane from the surface to the bottom. The trick is to feed line at the same rate as free-floating chum is moving. If you hold back, your bait will linger above the slick. Too much line and it will probably sink faster than the chum.

In some situations, the angler merely waits and watches until he spots fish in the slick. Then, he casts to those fish. This is the preferred method with an artificial lure. If you are a fly fishermen, you need to drift the fly as if it were chum. You’ll get many more strikes that way.

And with live bait, one technique is to cast it well back in the slick. You want the bait to start swimming for the sanctuary of the boat with a predator in hot pursuit. If you are chumming sharks, you can just put a bait a distance behind the boat and a shark will find it.

Chumming produces fish almost anywhere there is a current. It’s always worth a try. The results could surprise you.

Fall Pier Snook Strategies

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By John Montagnino

Capt. John Montagnino shows off the snook he just caught on the pier.

Every fall on Florida fishing piers is different. Some years there’s plenty of bait around the pier, sometimes just a little, and sometimes no bait at all. So what’s the best thing to do? Take a walk up and down the pier and see if you can find the bait. Start from the surf and see if there are any mullet or pilchards around. Walk up to the end of the pier and check out what’s happening around the end. Look at fisherman and see who’s catching bait.

Dropping live baits on bottom is great for snook lurking under the pier. Hook small mullet and pilchards up through the nose and drop it next to a piling or right under the pier. Remember to leave your drag loose. Look around the edges of the pier and under the pier to see if the baits are condensed. If they are, the snook are under them on the bottom.

Free lining baits: Hook the bait up through the nose or a little above the anal fin. Hooking bait just right above the anal fin the bait will swim down and stay down.

On clear calm days look for pods at the end of the pier and a few pilings down from the end. On days when the water is murky the best thing to do is to fish the surf. Live shrimp with a split shot under the pier and leave it there. If there’s still bait around and no bites on live pilchards or mullet give live shrimp a shot.

John Montagnino is a fishing guide and author of “A Fisherman’s Secrets to Successfully Catching Snook On Florida Fishing Piers.” It is available for $2.99 at

Going Surf Fishing?

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

CC Image courtesy of Reellady on Flicker

By Capt. Rodney Smith

With our country’s 23 coastal states, and over 75,000 miles of coastline, it’s easy to understand America’s fascination with surf fishing. Alaska, Florida and California rank first, second and third for the most coastlines, while New Hampshire, Delaware and Maryland rank 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, with the least amount of shoreline.

It’s a fascinating thought that thousands of surf anglers are exploring the extreme far corners of our nation’s coast at any given time for a multitude of fish species. Twenty or thirty years ago there was very little written or mentioned concerning surf fishing in national publications, or on the ever popular fishing TV shows. Back then, only the wisest anglers were paying any serious attention to the many rewarding opportunities connected to surf fishing.

Today there is still a select group of anglers hunting their favorite beaches for trophy catches, be it a striped bass, flounder, shark, spotted seatrout, snook, tarpon or salmon. However, today there are a lot more not so serious anglers trying surf fishing; some to enjoy time outdoors in the fresh air and to take in the diversity of the sights, and others just looking to catch a fresh fish dinner. While the number of people living in coastal communities continues to increase dramatically, not everyone can live on or near the beach, and in fact, the vast majority of surf anglers drive to their favorite beachside locations to do their surf fishing. So the question, “What makes a great surf fishing destination?” is very important to any angler wanting to improve his surf fishing efficiency. In my opinion, one needs to consider a combination of several factors to determine the answer.

Accessibility is number one. If you can’t get to the beach, you aren’t going to be doing any surf fishing. I’ve been to a few excellent, but extremely isolated Third World surf fishing locations, and take it from me, no matter how good the fishing is there, you will need food, water and shelter to sustain your fishing!

Cooperative weather is also a must. How many days a year the weather lets you fish is number two. With surf fishing, more than most other types of fishing, the number of days you can fish will be determined by the quality of the conditions.
Also, the diversity of the catch; how many different species you can catch from a beach is an important factor in calculating what makes a solid surf fishing destination. Being a guide for twenty years, I learned the majority of anglers like mixing it up when it comes to catching different species; a wider variety of fish adds to the value of the trip.

But in the end, most anglers are going to fish certain areas because of personal preference. The foundation of this preference may be based in the angler’s rapport with a local bait and tackle shop, his desire to fish close to home or perhaps his need to catch a particular species of fish. Without a doubt, this will vary from angler to angler.

There’s a special value that comes with being able to call a local tackle shop that will share the latest surf fishing conditions with you. This can save you a load of time and effort, but also knowing how to gather the important information offered to us free in hourly NOAA weather reports, and using it to prepare for your next surf-fishing trip, is an awesome talent.

To step up your effort to become a more efficient and productive surf angler you’ll need to understand the nuances of tides, swell periods, moon phases and seasonal migrations of both bait and game fishes. You also don’t want to waste time targeting species with outdated tackle and tactics, or during the wrong season.

I’m not sure if I agree with the old adage, “The best way to catch more fish is to fish more often.” I’ve always been a believer that the quickest way to learn to catch more fish is to fish with anglers who have more experience and success than you.

Beach Snook Fishing – Part I

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By Ken Taylor
Summertime is definitely the right time to fish the beach for catch and release snook action! If you’ve never caught a snook, surf fishing at the beach is an excellent place to try it and now is the time to go. Snook will readily take artificial lures, flies, live or cut bait as they prowl the surf in preparation for their summer spawning sessions on the outgoing tides at the varied southwest Florida passes.

My favorite style of fishing is sight fishing with artificial lures as I can carry a backpack filled with them along with a chilled water bottle as I walk the beaches in the morning starting around 8:30 a.m. The sun has to rise high enough in the eastern sky for it to sufficiently illuminate the water so that snook can easily be spotted. Once I spot a snook, I will make a perpendicular or angular cast and move my lure away from them as they swim north or south along the beach. This presentation is the most effective, as a baitfish doesn’t attack a predator fish. Snook will attack a lure by reaction once it moves away from them, as they like to chase bait down or simply come up from behind it and suck it in.

In order to see fish, a quality pair of polarized sunglasses with amber based lenses is essential; amber provides the best contrast for shallow water and easily helps distinguish between an active fish and the sandy bottom. Most actively feeding snook are found in the first trough, which is generally from where the waves meet the sand out to about six feet. For this reason, stay on the sand in ankle deep water because if you wade out into deeper water, the snook will be behind you!

I also like to wear a wide brimmed hat or cap as this will help shade your eyes and keep your head cool from the hot sun. I also like to wear high performance breathable clothing that has a high sun protection factor (SPF) in tans or blues which help camouflage me from the fish as I make casts at them. I also make sure to put on sunscreen— an SPF 30 or higher— first thing in the morning before I go to the beach. Clothing and sunscreen are essential to help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.

For a fishing rod, I prefer a seven-foot spinning rod with a medium action with an extra fast tip. This combination allows for gentle presentations of my lures and still has plenty of backbone to land a fish or 20 pounds or more. I’ve fished our local beaches for over 20 years and have caught or released many snook over 10 pounds and a few over 20 pounds as well. Most of the fish you will catch will be the smaller aggressive males that are usually in the 20–25 inch range, but they are still a lot of fun and pull hard for their size.

In a future article, I’ll discuss the lures and colors which I’ve found are the most effective for beach snook!

Ken Taylor is the Fishing Department Manager at the Venice West Marine located at 1860 Tamiami Trail South in Venice. To contact Ken, stop in or call the store at (941) 408-8288 or by e-mail at

Surf Fishing Essentials

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

I love waking up before dawn, grabbing a coffee and driving to my favorite surf fishing spots with a fluttering in my stomach that can only come from the anticipation of casting to schools of huge surface-feeding stripers. I travel down empty roads and darkened windows, feeling like I have the world to myself, and when I arrive at my destination and hear the shriek of terns over the water my heart races. I can’t get my waders on fast enough and as I half-jog to the shore I imagine the scenario of seeing my plug disappear in a watery explosion that leaves me battling a creature half as big as myself. Within a few minutes I turn these musings into a thrilling reality. This is what I live for.

In June, bait is everywhere and so are the striped bass. These fish are lean, aggressive and can be found in great numbers, but choosing locations to fish is a challenge for surfcasters, since standing on shore and having a limited casting range can be a hindrance. An angler must come to conclusions about where the fish will be and when, but areas with certain features can provide distinct advantages.

My favorite areas to target are deep, narrow river mouths with lots of moving water. Bass are opportunistic and use river mouths to their advantage because they bottleneck the water, limiting space for prey to flee. Also, the stronger current is more difficult for small baitfish to overcome. Examine charts to locate deep pools and other features that may appeal to bass, and fish different stages of the tide and different times of day. If a spot looks like it should hold bass it probably does, but sometimes they’ll only set up and feed during very specific conditions. Fish a spot diligently and you’ll eventually discover a pattern.

Targeting points that are surrounded by deep water is another strategic approach for a surfcaster. As baitfish make their way along the coast, keep in mind that they must obviously travel around obstructions like points of land, which disrupt the shoreline and extend into deeper water. The bass will set up at these points and await the inevitable arrival of schools of bait. Certain wind, tide and light combinations will create more optimal conditions, so once again vary your approach in relation to these factors. The list of viable fishing spots goes on and on, but a basic understanding of the natural features and conditions that attract bass and why they do so can help narrow it down significantly.

Finding great areas to fish is a sort of science, and having the proper gear will aid you greatly in your experiment. Your rod and reel are your primary tools to deliver your plugs and retrieve the beasts that latch onto them. As I mentioned earlier, the greatest limitation to the surf angler is your position on shore. Being able to make long distance casts when needed is something you must be able to do, so having a rod that is capable of this is important. I recommend a graphite blank of 9 to 10-feet, capable of handling lures of up to four ounces. Your reel should be well matched to your rod and have a full spool of line, since having a half-full spool can severely limit your casting range and put you at an automatic disadvantage. I use 50-pound braided line with a four foot, 50-pound mono leader. Braided lines not only cast farther, but transfer energy from your rod to your plug quickly and more effectively, providing solid hooksets and better plug action. I use “Breakaway” clips at the end of my leader because they offer a quick means to change lures, and unlike standard swivel clips they cannot accidently open.

For me, plug selection is a simple decision. I love pencil poppers, and my plug bag is full of them. In my opinion, there is no other lure that is quite as diverse and effective at calling big fish. White is my favorite color, but I also have a couple yellows and blues. The yellow plugs work best in foggy, cloudy or low-light conditions and the blue is for when the fish are on mackerel. Most of my pencils are 3 to 3 ½ -ounces and they cast like missiles, which is great for those days when the fish are hanging off shore a bit. I use wood plugs exclusively, and companies like Gibbs, Lemire’s and Afterhours offer some of the best, all of which are durable, well constructed and cast a mile. Other than pencils, I have a few “spooks”, a couple surface swimmers, a “polaris” type plug made by a friend and some tins. These lures have their applications, and I’d be foolish to limit myself to one type. I also keep a small dry box that holds my swivels, clips and hooks, as well as a spool of 50-pound leader material that I zip-tie to my plug bag. I wear nylon, breathable waders with stocking feet because I like the ankle support that wading boots offer. My wading belt has two large “D” rings on it, one of which holds my pliers and the other to clip an eight-foot stringer onto. A headlamp with a red light is also important, especially for the early morning and late-night outings.

Don’t believe for a second that owning a boat is essential to consistently catching big fish. While June is prime time, a surfcaster can find success throughout the summer by adapting techniques and fishing various locations, keeping in mind the reasons why fish do what they do. Some of my fondest fishing memories were while surfcasting, and it’s those same inescapable memories that flood my mind on those dreamlike drives to the shore.

By Capt. Casey Allen

Hands Free Plugging

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I am the first to admit that I am addicted to throwing topwater plugs. Whether I am stalking the flats of South West Florida for redfish and snook or hitting up the local ponds for largemouth bass, my hands down bait of choice is a low pitch topwater plug. Most experts will proclaim that the only time a floating plug is effective is in low light conditions. I laugh when I hear that the only time topwater is productive is at sunrise and sunset. Shear stubbornness has taught me differently. For me, if I can locate the targeted species and utilize the proper techniques, it is game on. Here are a couple of easy to follow pointers I follow when slinging my favorite plugs. (more…)

Successful Tips for Fighting Saltwater Fish with a Fly Rod

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

saltwater fly fishing tips

Most fishermen think of the fly rod as a casting tool rather than a fish fighting tool. Rarely, in most freshwater fly fishing situations, does the angler have to apply a great deal of pressure to subdue a fish or lift very large fish from deep water. However, when fishing in the salt with a fly the fly rod and how the angler uses it becomes a very important part of the anglers success in bringing a large saltwater game fish to leader. (more…)

Finding Freshwater Fish in the Fall

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

As with spring, fall is in a state of transition in all things, including fishing. Waters and weather are turning cooler, fish are changing their living habits and habitats, and where you caught them in the summer is no longer valid in the fall.

Freshwater lakes exhibit turn over in which the waters get mixed up and the layering of the thermocline into specific levels of oxygen, temperature and food are no longer constant or consistent. While many species in the summer gang up into certain areas and spots with specific advantages, this no longer applies in the fall. Often the general trend is that fish will start to feed up more (good for us flinging lures and bait) and then start to go deep to where they can rest over during winter months.

Unfortunately, this varies all over the place according to latitude. The water temperatures change and fish movements of fresh waters in Maine or Seattle the next few months are going to be markedly different from those same fish in Florida or southern California. You have to adjust for the latitude.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to find out what is going on in your neck of the woods or your cove of the lake. And it is a simple answer. It never occurred to me when I was just starting out and really could have used the information. The more I fish and the older I get, the more I find out that there are lots of easy ways to get good information.

The answer is to ask questions of those who know or might know. Tackle shops are always good repositories of information, particularly if they have access to guide services of their area. Keep them happy by buying from them and check them out for the best spots and techniques for the species you want and the waters you want to fish.

Another seldom used yet excellent source of information is through your state fishing agency. Most states have biologists who are specialists in one or more species and some states even have specialists on specific lakes and rivers. It is also possible that unknown to the general public, these same states have completed surveys and studies of fish species and lakes that will provide a wealth of information as the when, where, what and how of fishing for specific fish in the fall—and every other season.

Often these same biologists are happy to share information, glad to be asked by local anglers about the best fishing, and might even take you along on a shocking, netting or study trip to help you learn about your favorite fish or fishing spot.

Call up your agency, ask about the biologist specializing in your favorite fish species or fishing area, and make friends with him or her. Meet with them if possible. Often they can send you reports on lakes and fish habits and habitat of your area for you to study and peruse. That can be great winter reading and study.

While general information through books and tapes is great, specialized local information can put you in the right spot this fall, for the best possible success on the species you seek.

Successful Fishing Strategy

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

“Because that’s where the money is,” Slick Willie Sutton replied when asked why he robbed banks. Sutton, once one of America’s most notorious criminals, merely followed the logical pattern practiced by every predator since the beginning of time. To game fish searching for a tasty meal, shorelines become the treasury of our marine habitat. Schools of smaller critters seek sanctuary in the shallower water and the structure a shoreline offers. Bigger fish prowl and probe shorelines because they know a vital food source takes refuge there.

When fishing a shoreline, start by analyzing it in general and each seemingly productive spot specifically. Predators tend to cruise along the shoreline, investigating any type of structure and focusing on specific features. Baitfish often concentrates along edges and transitional zones where the bottom changes from rock to sand, grass to mud, and other types of terrain. Drop offs and deeper holes provide ambush places where a predator can lie in wait for a hapless victim that wanders over the edge.

Study the visual shoreline above the water’s edge, because the same structure will usually continue beneath the surface. Sharply dropping points on land should follow the same pattern under water. Fallen trees offer a haven. Sheer cliffs indicate deep water below, while gentle beaches ease slowly into the sea. On a flooding tide, husky predators may cruise back and forth or they might hold in deeper water off the edge. Check out potholes on either incoming or outgoing tide. If the wind is blowing, try fishing the windward shore. The zephyrs drive smaller fish there and tend to hold them in that oxygen-rich water.

Learn to use tides and currents to your advantage. You already know that fish face into the flow of water. If the big guys are holding in one place, look for them to use structure as a shield from the flow of water. Beaches generally produce better on incoming water. At the bottom of the tide, look for action at the mouths of creeks and feeder streams where the lack of water forces prey over the edge.

Points, pockets, and identifiable features form the heart of any shoreline. The key lies in presenting a bait or lure so that it sweeps past a potential ambush spot with the current. Structure such as trees, rocks, drop offs, holes, creek mouths, converging currents and so forth are always worth a cast or two. Make sure each presentation lands beyond where you expect the fish to be, so you can work it effectively. If you land right on the structure, you will probably scare your quarry.

Shoreline fishing is very visual and fuels the adrenalin pump, particularly when the water is clear and you can see your target. Make each cast with precision. It should be as close to shore or as far back under overhanging limbs as possible. A foot or two can make a difference. You also have the option of casting parallel to the shoreline and, at times, this can be very effective.

As you learn to read the water, master the tides, and present your offering in a natural and realistic manner, you could find yourself brawling with some pretty effective fish. That’s what shoreline fishing is all about. Try it!