The Finer Details


[dropcap]L[/dropcap]et me introduce myself, my name is Taylor Vallejo and I’ve been exploring and discovering the Big Bend of Florida’s enriched coastal waters for several years now.  Fishing from a kayak gives me more of an opportunity to recognize the finer details of my surroundings without alerting the prey I’m chasing. These finer details are sometimes the difference between catching quality fish and leaving frustrated and empty-handed.

Understanding what to look for on the water can be complicated, but improved upon with each passing journey into the Gulf. Let’s talk about a few things to key in on when you’re on the water.
As I paddle out into the bay I immediately start watching every little movement that surrounds me; almost as if I was deer hunting, listening ever so closely for the cracking of a twig or the rustling of leaves. If an area holds fish there will always be a sign that gives away the location of a hungry redfish or trout. This sign may be slight: As slight as a blade of sawgrass moving from a redfish rooting in the mud for small crabs and snails as its tail breaks the surface of the water.

The phrase, ‘find the bait and you find the fish’ is true in a sense, but just because you find the bait does not mean you will always find the fish.  Look for schools of bait flickering on the surface of the water as they flee from larger fish.  This is a sure sign that a hungry predator is lurking nearby.  A common name for this behavior is nervous water or nervous bait. Often times, diving birds can be seen from a distance working these pods of bait. These bait balls could be massive, stretching an acre wide, or as small as a couple dozen bait fish.

In the marsh, when redfish are forced to come out of the flooded grass on a falling tide or low tide, try to pick out the wakes of redfish as they move along this marsh grass. If you don’t see the wakes of redfish, or don’t see any redfish chasing bait, paddle along the shoreline until one or two redfish spook. Usually where one redfish lingers there will be others in close proximity. Just remember to paddle slow and keep watchful eyes to detect any slight disturbance on the surface of the water.

Being able to paddle within a few feet of the fish you’re after is an obvious advantage of kayak fishing. Remember: If you’re having a hard time seeing through the glare of the sun, find yourself a good pair of polarized sunglasses to scan the bottom around you and to get an idea of the type of baitfish and foliage is in the immediate area. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a school of redfish. If so, stop immediately and fan cast the area and pretty soon you could be fighting your next trophy fish!

Remember to slow down and pay close attention to the finer details around you. Learning to recognize these signs of activity in the bay will put you at the next level of angling and put more fish in the ‘yak. Be sure to stop by the Guide Shop in St. Marks for some more tips and tricks.