What's hot: In the upcoming transitional month, redfish and snook will use the mainshore to feed around docks and oyster bars. These structures around bayou entrances and river mouths have the food and habitat these gamefish seek. Shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans will be the main diet to sustain them throughout the winter. Work the start of an incoming tide around the islands off the Intracoastal Waterway, bouncing pumpkin bucktails along shell banks on the north sides. The lower water level will funnel bait along deeper edges. Dark brown tails work best for a little contrast to these lighter-colored oyster bars. On higher tide, freeline shrimp around docks with a split shot just above the hook. Keep the bait in the shady zone, as this is a key feeding area for redfish and snook. Look for sandy potholes just off docks as another ambush zone where the tide pushes through. Trout in the 20-inch range are showing up on grassflats between the docks. At first light, these breeder-sized trout will attack topwaters or a shrimp popped under a cork.
Key tip: Larger, select-sized shrimp at fishing centers are key to catching gamefish this time of year. These shrimp are usually taken by the first few smart anglers to the shop. Smaller shrimp will not last long with the abundance of pinfish on the flats.
Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at (727) 439-9017 or at [email protected]hud.com.