FLATS FISHING
  Flats fishing has become a generic catch all
category, but it always refers to fishing on
or around a sizable expanse of shallow water
with little change in overall bottom contour.
This can be a grass bed, an area of mixed
bottom, a sand expanse, or even a broad
area of oysters and rocks amongst one or
more of the above.

   Here on this section of the Florida coast,
it is generally a large expanse of grassbed or
an area of mixed grass and sand patches.
Fishing these waters effectively requires
one or more of several different tactics.
Depending on the angler(s) and particular
interests thereof, we may fish lures, flies, or
live bait in depths ranging from less than a
foot to as much of five or six feet of water.
This can be
sightfishing or simply
methodically casting an area that holds fish
while using the trolling motor or poling to
properly position or approach the given
spot.

   Poling or moving along slowly with the
trolling motor is usually reserved for working
specific spots like a bar or series of
potholes or a mangrove edge.  This involves
specified direction to the casting since the
spot always involves sighted fish or some
kind of specific bottom contour or structure
that holds the bulk of the fish. On a big flat,
when we aren’t concentrating on specific
contours or features, drifting is an excellent
strategy to cover a lot of water and catch a
lot of fish. This is especially the case for
novices or anglers who are simply out for a
good time and some bent rods, not
necessarily for a specific species or goal.  
The same lures and techniques can be used,
but there is less direction to the casting and
I usually encourage anglers to fan cast
unless we locate a pocket of fish in one area.

   We use topwater lures frequently which
brings with it all of the excitement that
surrounds that manner of fishing. But,
depending on season and conditions, we may
fish jigs or soft plastic jerkbaits just as
readily. Fly patterns cover the depth range
from surface flies like poppers, deer hair
muddlers and sliders right on down to
heavier Clousers or crab patterns. Live bait
can be shrimp, assorted small finbait, big
pinfish or large mullet, all dependent on the
intended target species.

   You can expect to catch
seatrout, snook,
redfish, Crevalle jacks, and ladyfish.  
Grouper,
gafftop sailcatfish, sheepshead,
and flounder are not uncommon additions. In
the right seasons, bluefish, Spanish
mackerel, tarpon, cobia, permit, and
pompano will be present.

   Most 8 hour trips will include some time on
the flats and possibly sightfishing as well
depending on your interests. Since this kind
of fishing inevitably results in visible fish,
polarized sunglasses are very helpful, and if
the effort evolves into dedicated
sightfishing
, then the polarized lenses become
essential. Flavored in any fashion, though,
flats fishing has become one of the hallmarks
of fishing inshore saltwater in Florida and I
am happy to accommodate your interest if
you simply want a taste of it.
A 28.5" winter snook that was laid up soaking up the sun. She
couldn't resist making a snack of a well placed jig.
A well placed fly nailed this flawless 32" redfish.
Reds exceeding 27", like this one, must be released.
A 43", 26 lb female, caught on 12 lb plug tackle and
successfully released after this quick weight
check. I no longer weigh fish in this fashion, but this
one was luckily unharmed.