Trout- Excellent: Right now the Trout fishing is insanely good for this time of year. If you think about it, we have the climate of central Florida mixed with Georgia’s eco-system. That is quite a combo. Trout are being caught in a multitude of places, but I have focused on finding small creeks with structure, whether it is docks, bridges, lay-downs, or rip rap.
I have found that when fishing this type of area it is best around the lower stages of the tide. Just because you are focusing on structure, don’t ignore deep holes in the bends, steep hard banks, and the middle of the creek. It is a common mistake that most of us make to just cast at the bank because that is where we see the structure. But, often the fish are in the middle of the creek. Think about what you see on the surface when water is rushing past an exposed piece of structure… you will see rips forming in the current that flow away and “boils” that are several feet away from the structure as well.
This same thing is occurring below the surface so it very important to not get tunnel vision. Fan cast the entire area before moving along.
Curly tail grubs, particularly the Christmas Tree grub, have been hot as well the old stand-by of live shrimp. Even if you aren’t a fan of throwing grubs, I would have a few in the boat for slack tide. When the current isn’t there to move a live bait along, a grub works great for covering some water and finding those dispersed Trout.
Redfish- Good: The Redfish bite is good right now, but the reason I say it isn’t great is because there just aren’t as many Redfish as there were a couple of years ago. Redfish are being found in the backs of small creeks around shell mounds as well as areas around the sounds where these creeks dump out.
The best baits are Gulps, grubs, swim baits, and jerk baits. Of course if you have live shrimp or cut mullet you will find them ready to eat that as well.
On higher tide stages I like to work the edges of the sounds along the intracoastal waterway. A couple of great baits to do this with is a jerk bait or swim bait rigged weedless with a worm hook. Cast your bait into the grass edge and work it out. Presentations vary from bait to bait, but I find that a medium retrieve with some jerks and pauses is good.
On lower tide stages, work the smaller creeks if your boat is capable. If not, work the edges of the bank nearest those creeks. The same baits will work but I prefer the Gulps and grubs on this tide. I have no basis for this preference, it’s just a personal thing and any of the baits described above will work.
Sheepshead- Excellent to borderline Insane: The Sheepies are being caught everywhere from the near-shore reefs, to the jetties, to docks and lay-downs. We have caught them on live shrimp, oysters, and fiddler crabs and I really suggest having a good mixture of the three because some days one will be better than the other.
There isn’t much of a secret to catching Sheepshead, but I will share one tactic that I use other than the orthodox pylon jigging. I like to take a live shrimp and rig it on a Carolina rig with a 1/4 oz. egg sinker and a small circle hook. Around slack water you can pitch this rig into lay-downs and just let it sit.
If the bandits are there it will not take long for you to get bit. The initial bite will often feel like a trash fish nibbling, but be patient and watch your line. Once the fish has truly eaten the bait you will see your line swimming and that is when it is time to start reeling. Resist the temptation to set the hook. Just reel and, at the most, do a slow sweeping hook set but do not snatch.
I love to fish for them this way because many times you find that you catch more than just Sheepshead. Trout, Redfish, and Black Drum will often find your bait. Who doesn’t like a little variety?
Bull Redfish- Good: The Bull Reds are on the near-shore reefs and can be caught on baits ranging from jigs to live bait. I like to use a heavy jig so that the Sea Bass don’t cause such a problem with constant bait thievery. At least if they eat the jig you can quickly unhook them and get back to what you were doing. Don’t be surprised if you catch a flounder while you’re at it.
Capt. TJ Cheek