Most of us have been through a lot the last few months. The hard work of recovery just doesn’t seem to end. If you are like me, you are more than ready to start taking some time for yourself and unwind. The thought of relaxing fishing is often overshadowed by the thought of complicated rigging, long run times, and dealing with live or frozen bait. Lucky for us, productive fishing, without a lot of work or prep time, is actually right in our backyard.
The most productive time of the year to drift and jig the backcountry flats and channels is now. By drifting over these productive areas, in between 5 to 8 feet of water, over grass flats, and even deeper over the channels, you are likely to catch a wide variety of fish.
The main target for many anglers is the sea trout. Fortunately, there are plenty of them to be found. Also, there are many other great fish to catch. Mangrove, mutton, and lane snapper, cero and Spanish mackerel, all make up the more popular eating fish that you are likely to come across. Every now and then I have even encountered some yellow jack; a favorite table fare fish for sure.
There are plenty of fish to encounter; less in the table fare category, but great game fish nonetheless. Jack crevalle, ladyfish, sharks, bluefish and barracuda, are there to offer a great challenge on light tackle. Occasionally, a full-size tarpon will gulp a jig in the channels and offer a surprise jump near the boat. On more than a few trips, oversize sharks have shown up and helped themselves to a smaller fish as it nears the boat. If the toothy fish are cutting you off more than the table fare fish are coming to the boat, you are advised to put a few inches of light single strand wire between your hook and the line. It will cut down on strikes from the more persnickety creatures, but you will have more fun with the toothy ones.
All of this fun can be had with a very simple rig and basic light tackle. I prefer Gulp brand bait from Berkeley. These scented baits come in many sizes, colors and shapes. Most of which work well. I have fished many of them and have been successful. Of course, I do play favorites and have had the most success with a New Penny colored 3-inch shrimp pattern. I have friends who prefer the white shrimp and others who prefer the tapered minnow pattern, and I have seen great fish caught on all. As far as I know, all of the bait patterns are the same flavor and work well on a standard jig head. I like to use the lightest jig that I can get away with and still keep the bait near the bottom, without snagging the bottom too often. I have jig head colors that I like to start out with. I say ‘start out’ because, after a few fish, the colored paint is usually chewed off and I am left with a lead-colored jig that seems to work just about as well as the brightly colored jigs that I start out with.
Using braided line will increase your success rate. The thin diameter and near 0 stretch allow for the most sensitivity, farthest cast, and best sink ratio per pound test when compared to monofilament line. I usually spool with 20-pound test braid. While this may seem overkill for light tackle jigging, it has a diameter equivalency of about 8-pound test monofilament, is easier to tie knots in than lighter lines, and knots less in repeated casting than lighter lines. This, of course, works much better when a fluorocarbon leader is spliced between your leader and jig. I like between 15 and 20-pound for my leader.
Once you’re set, all there is left to do is find some productive water and start jigging. If there are a few knots of wind blowing your boat, you do not even have to cast very often. Just find a cadence to jig by and jig from the wrist. On the days when there is not enough wind to move the boat through the water, you just have to resort to the old-fashioned cast and jig method. Which, by the way, will keep the Fishing ADD afflicted anglers happy anyway.
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