When most people think of flats fishing in Florida, the top three species that come to mind are trout, redfish and snook, “The Inshore Slam”. In the Nature Coast region, April is one of the best months to target these three species, and here are my best tips for being successful at catching an inshore slam, using artificial baits.
Trout: The trout have made their push out to the open grass flats, west of Crystal River and Ozello, much to the delight of most anglers who enjoy drifting and catching these fish, using several different methods in 3 to 5 feet of water. The most popular method is to cast ahead of the drifting boat with a popping cork and jig combo. Several companies, including DOA Lures, offer a premade version of this rig that can be a very effective trout catcher. A “Pop-Pop-Pause” retrieve is sure to get the attention of any speckled trout in the area. To target the bigger trout, try drifting a live pinfish on a circle hook behind the boat as you drift, although this rig may not get as much action, you stand a good chance of catching a trophy on the larger live bait.
Redfish: Look for the Redfish to begin showing up on the outside islands that have rocky points or hard bottom near the mangrove edges. As we get closer to May, the spring high tides will give anglers more time up in the shallow water to hunt hungry reds. A Mirrolure Lil John on a 1/8 ounce jig head can be one of the most consistent baits for this application, as it works well as both a sight fishing bait and search bait, when probing schools of mullet. Live shrimp always get the nod once a school of reds has been located, and it is time to commence the catching.
Snook: Snook is not a species that everyone thinks about when they head to Crystal River to catch some dinner, but we do have a fantastic fishery for anglers in the know. I typically fish around the mouths of creeks or rivers when targeting them and my bait of choice, is either the Unfair Lures Rip N Slash 90 in color Pearl Olive (02) or the DOA Glow Jerkbait rigged with a live bait hook in the nose. Any spot that has a high current flow has the potential to hold a monster line sider, especially if oyster bars or rocks are nearby. Look for these fish harassing finger mullet or needle fish on the surface, and when they hit your lure, hold on tight for a spirited fight.
As Spring shows up in full force, and more and more boaters are on the water, remember to be courteous to other anglers on the water and show the same respect that you expect to receive while enjoying our great resource.