fishing for any budget
Looking back to last month's article I confess
the 'new opportunities' for myself have been less than hoped for.
That trend must change. In this article I will probably be pointing
out what may be obvious to some but may also get some potential flats
anglers to see that they too can get out more often.
For many anglers the image of fishing the flats is either on a guided
trip in some tropical island setting or at the very least on the casting
platform of a really sweet (expensive?) flats skiff. But are those
dream flats trips a once in a lifetime opportunity? You may have already
made it in which case you have my contact info and I will be glad
to join you! I have my plans for a little flats skiff one day when
it is more practical but for now I have found other options to fish
the flats and enjoy fishing and nature without waiting for 'someday'
A little more on skiffs and guided trips later but now I want to emphasize
that outside of a basic fishing outfit and a pocket full of tackle
you can be fishing the flats and have more fun than should be legal.
You will not catch them all but you can find and catch fish with little
effort. The whole concept of fishing shallow water is that it is shallow.
That means that you can probably fish where you want by wading. I
have seen some flats anglers swimming too. When you get caught with
the tide you have to get on your tip toes occasionally.
You can't wade everywhere for certain. But there are enough places
that you can such that you will never be able to fish them all. I
have not fished the Atlantic coast to the northeast but I have seen
anglers in waders out in the surf casting for striper. I have waded
in Georgia, North Florida, Tampa Bay, and the Keys among other places.
Your biggest problem is more likely finding a place to park than where
you can wade. As stated though you can not wade everywhere. Fishing
the Everglades there are few if any places you would want to wade
for a variety of reasons. There are places where the bottom is just
to soft to wade.
Also, there are some precautions you should take when wading. I touched
on the incoming tide and needing to swim back to your car. There are
places you can wade or even shore fish that may have fast moving tides
and with those dangerous currents. You need to be aware of what is
between you and the shore and allow time to get back safely. Tough
to stop casting but better to play it safe. Wading may also bring
you into contact with marine life that can cause injury, sometimes
severe. Jellyfish, rays, certain fish species and more remotely shark
encounters. Were proper foot protection (sometimes sandals are just
not a good idea), be careful where you step and get some information
on what harmful marine life there may be in your locale. The sharks
are not a big problem in most places but I have talked with some anglers
who have been a little uncomfortable with the behavior of some of
the bull sharks.
With a little planning, checking your coastal maps and some exploring
you can be sneaking up on trout, snook and redfish with a small investment.
This option will add a little more cost and effort to your flats fishing
adventures but it does open up many more opportunities for fishing
success. Since anyone can wade you give yourself some breathing room
but accessing areas that the waders can not get to. An example is
the Dunedin area at St. Joseph Sound. There is some wading available
within fifty yards of the roadway and it can be productive. Having
a vessel though can get you across the channel that carries 40 foot
plus motor yachts from Clearwater Harbor out to the Gulf of Mexico.
When you cross the channel you have several miles of flats surrounding
Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands.
No more worries about the tide coming in. Not much to worry about
as the tide goes out either. You can either drag your boat across
the mud or pick it up and carry it where you need to. This makes launching
an easy option too. While the boats and trailers are in a holding
patter to get on or off the ramp you can drop in almost anywhere.
While this is not the perfect solution for every situation it can
provide increased fishing opportunities on the flats for a few hundred
dollars. If you are industrious you can build your own and save even
For small craft you still have some considerations. You will need
to car top (or get a rack) to get your boat to where you are going
to fish or maybe even use a small trailer. You will need some safety
equipment including personal floatation and a warning device (whistle)
as well as some lighting if you venture out before sunrise or at night
(and there are some good opportunities at these times). Check your
local regulations and plan to be safe while you are on the water.
You can still wade of course and if you just drift along during you
fishing you may actually miss out on some good fish by not spending
enough time exploring the area before you are swept along by the tide
If you have the skiff of your dreams you are ahead of the game, I
have my eye on a small used boat that I hope to make an offer on sometime;
sitting there waiting for me still I hope. The fact is that with a
skiff you can get to places that would be an expedition in your kayak
or canoe. One of these days I picture myself in the Keys and a skiff
would be a must to fish the remote backwater. It does not have to
be fancy. You don't need a polling platform, casting deck or tower.
My best fishing buddy has a nice skiff that goes about as shallow
as any I have been in. He mostly uses it to motor out to his favorite
flats where he abandons the boat and wades. I hope to be able to use
my skiff to haul a kayak out to some seldom fished flats and explore
with the skiff as a 'mother ship' so I can sneak up on the fish.
There are some things to consider with a power boat. I have yet to
see any that are as stealthy as simply wading or using a canoe or
kayak. Even with a trolling motor you will tip off some fish that
something is different. You are also taller than either of the other
options and in the sight area of many fish. In shallow water they
are as worried about what is overhead as what is swimming with them.
The maintenance requirements must also be considered. Motors are where
most of your money goes and spending a few thousand dollars to replace
an engine can crimp your fishing pleasure. You have other requirements
for registration and insurance may be required but is always a good
Safety is of the highest concern. With all the boats on the water
collision is possible. Knowing your waterways can save you from running
aground but an abrupt stop on a shoal at high speed can also be very
dangerous. Be sure you look into boating safety instruction, use common
sense with the weather and the seas and communicate your trip plans.
You can cover more water with the skiff and remember you need to be
able to make the return trip.
This is one of the best options for new flats anglers. I learned some
valuable lessons on my first trip with a guide. I had lived in Florida
all my youth and fished nearly every weekend. Getting back into saltwater
though it was a big help to get some tips and instruction. It is also
a great way to kick start your enjoyment. A guide is almost always
going to put you on fish. Even guides have those days but you count
the number of fishless days you spend trying to get that first red
or snook and it can be frustrating.
A guided trip will cost you a little but probably less than you think.
Most guides can accommodate 2 or 3 anglers on a trip and this splits
the cost a little. Just remember that it also splits your fishing
time. As much as I love just being out there on the water, watching
someone else fish can wear on you when waiting your turn.
Your guided trip will provide you with some tried and true information
on setting up your outfit, tackle, where to fish and what to look
for when fishing is tough. If you are new to an area, new to flats
fishing or just want to focus on fishing and improve your chance of
getting that fish you dream of a guided trip could be right for you.
Budget is not a reason to wait
There is an option for you to get
out and fish the flats. Money is not a barrier and using any of these
approaches to getting on the flats will give you a shot at catching
fish. It will be up to you to make the time and get out to fish (I
am preaching at myself on this one). Take a kid fishing when you can.
They will remember it and it may be a lifelong hobby.
Get out and fish. Wherever you go, whatever you use make it a point
to enjoy yourself.
Let me know what you think.