Mackerel down, redfish up: With the influx of fresh water from all the recent rains, the large schools of mackerel and sharks seem to have made a mass exodus out of the East Bay area, but just like clockwork, the redfish have begun to get into schools and are roaming the flats looking for easy meals. Redfish will eat a wide variety of baits: live sardines, crabs, shrimp, live pinfish and any other kind of small baitfish. All of the above also work well dead or cut up. The top-producing baits right now are chunks of cut ladyfish and mullet.
Man the mangroves: On the higher tide stages, the fish are up in and around the mangroves. A strategically placed hunk of soaking ladyfish will coax a hungry redfish out of the woods to eat. If it takes three or four casts to get to the right spot, cast away. Once your bait is on the desired spot, leave it alone. Also deploy a couple of extra rods around the boat; this will increase your chances of hooking up.
Snap time: Snapper also have invaded the bay and are on the deeper flats and most range markers or anywhere there is good structure. The eddies behind the bridge pilings are a good place to look. Smallish white bait and shrimp are top baits. Chum with dead bait, using a chum bag with as light a leader as possible and as little weight as possible. Snapper, in my opinion is some of the finest eating fish the bay has to offer. With a little butter and Everglades Seasoning, it is mouth-watering.
Tip: Redfish use their sense of smell to home in on dead bait. If you move the rod tip from the water line to a straight-up position, you have moved the bait a minimum of the length of the rod (most are 7 feet or 7 feet 6 inches). When this happens the fish have to start all over again to find the source of the smells.
Tim Whitfield can be reached at (813) 714-0889 or firstname.lastname@example.org.