Chasing Rays

by: Joe Sheaffer

As Spring takes hold in Southwest Florida, our fisheries will be in transition as well. The water is warming and the fish are definitely on the move. The inshore species are moving shallower and are going to be more aggressive. I really enjoy power fishing large flats this time of the year. If the water is clear, it can be a great time to sight fish, see, casting and catching that fish can be a huge thrill. As we scan the flats, we can see other creatures cruising these large grassy areas. Many species of Rays can be seen flying over the carpets of grass and every now and then they may have company. One thing that is clear is that many of our sea creatures rely on or use other species to help them in the quest for food. Many different species swim along or hang around Mullet Schools, Rays and even Manatees. These creatures stir up the bottom as they swim along, spooking small creatures up from the grass making them easy prey for opportunistic predators. I have been able to catch Redfish, Cobia, Snapper and even Spotted Sea Trout swimming next to Rays. This time of year as I power fish grass flats, I’m always keeping an eye out for Rays, and looking to see if they have a trailer or two or three nearby. Having good casting skills can be a huge advantage for this type of fishing. Many times, the Rays may be quite a distance away and being able to make a long accurate cast can be the key to getting a bite or spooking the Ray. I try to make my cast in front of the swimming Ray and intercept them with a swimming lure or a twitching presentation. One of the great advantages is that the fish are usually very aggressive, they just need to see your lure. Chasing Rays on the flats can be a blast. Keep your eyes on the lookout for Rays, Manatees and big schools of Mullet while fishing the flats. They may have a few friends chasing them around. Keep casting and good luck.