What's hot: Redfish get my vote. The upcoming new moon brings the strong, low tides that drain the flats dry. Reds will stage along the dropoffs until the tide begins to return, then move up on the flats, feeding heavily on crabs and shrimp.
Tactics: Work the edges looking for schools of redfish early on the incoming tide. As the water covers the flats, reds move onto the flats proper about a foot or two deep. Look for tails breaking the surface as they grub on the bottom. A quality pair of polarized glasses will help spot the reds as they move from bait to bait. Jigs such as Cotee's Cracker Shad or DOA's TerrorEyz are proven favorites over sandy or light manatee grass bottoms. Cast well beyond your target and hop or jig these small bait into the reds' view. Heavy turtle grass bottoms might require a gold spoon or weedless rigged jerk bait. In any case a stealthy approach is a must. The reds will run to the cover of deeper water if they are disturbed. I like to push-pole the skiff scouting for schools then wade the last 50 yards.
Tip: Big trout often hang in and around redfish schools. Trout season has closed through the end of December in the southern zone. Be sure to check the fishing regulations for your area.
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 560-6762.