With each cool front come the north winds and the lower tides. In fact, many times when these fronts come through, the tidal marshes are nearly drained of most of their water. Whenever the water leaves, so does the baitfish and shrimp that inhabit those areas. With this situation comes the fall turn-on for fish catching. This is the case not only on the areas near the marsh drains, but this bait will also move out into the inland saltwater lakes and bays. And it will make the predator fish more vulnerable to the anglers.
To begin with, most of the marsh drains, canals or bayous that are used as tidal run-offs will offer some good action for speckled trout, redfish and flounder. The fish will be present to feed upon that bait that is coming from the marshes in the ebbing tidal flow. Many times the specks will get into such a feeding frenzy that they will be feeding from the bottom on up to the surface. The water seems to be boiling except for the fact that the fish’s silver sides will be flashing. Once a spot such as this is located, unless they are spooked, limit catches can be made without leaving the location. Do the fish remain on the surface feeding for long periods of time? That is not usually the case. They seem to come around, go into a feeding frenzy, and then move on for a short time. If you hang around for a while, then the specks will either return or some other schools will enter the area. This action will usually last as long as the water is flowing.
Whether to use bait or lures is up to the angler. Live shrimp or small shad are excellent choices when used under a popping float. Should not only speckled trout but also redfish or flounder be included, then I recommend lures. The specks, reds and flukes will all take the fakes, and the need to continually re-bait will be eliminated. Many times both the keeper redfish and the flounder will be present under the feeding specks. Believe me, they will readily strike anything that seems alive if it comes near enough to them.
Should the canals, drains and small bayous be too closed in for your taste, then expect schools of fish to be in evidence in the open bays and lakes.
This time of year has historically been the time for the giant schools of speckled trout to be feeding on migrating shrimp. The seemingly ever hungry seagulls will be feeding upon the shrimp that the ever hungry speckled trout are chasing to the surface. There may not only be specks present, but more times than not there will be some sand trout there, too. Whenever the bait or a lure makes it to the bottom, either a sand trout or a redfish will likely strike it. Once the slack is retrieved on the reel, it is not difficult to tell if a sandy or a redfish has taken it.
I’ve had a couple conversations with experienced saltwater anglers that are either guides or civilian fishermen. Both of these folks asked me to mention something about how to set the drag on their reels. It would seem that many bass anglers are now using strong-test braided line to fish in structure. By doing this they are able to pull the fish out of the tight spots without breaking their line.
On the saltwater scene, setting a drag too tight can cause lost fish. There are some really heavy fish in practically all saltwater areas. Once they are hooked, they need to be able to run with a properly set drag helping to wear them down. Also, more big fish are lost whenever they are within netting range. Not only do lines get snapped, but sometimes the hooks will straighten enough for the fish to become unhooked.
Some anglers actually use a scale to set their drag. They will attach the line to the scale and pull it until the scale reaches a mark less than the breaking test for the line. Should the line break below the test strength, then it’s time to replace it. Always pull the line from the rods tip and not from in front of the reel. Also don’t set the drag too loose, either. That could be as bad as too tight. Never try to turn the reel’s handle while a fish is slipping the drag.