A livewell full of bait is great for finding hidden fish along any given shoreline. Most bait being caught is a little on the small side, so using these for a search tool works great. Any mangrove point or oyster bar that has moving water is a good spot to anchor up and throw out a few of these smaller baits. The moving water will take the wounded bait along the trees and work as bird dog to find fish. While fishing the spot, look for any baits that get popped or eaten further down the edge. This becomes a sure indicator of gamefish willing to eat and may give away the location of the whole school.
Most snook have started to move away from the beaches and are beginning the track towards their winter homes. When this first happens, the bite for these linesiders can slow dramatically compared to the summer bite that anglers are used to. Some extra time must be spent looking for them this time of year. Once located, the best thing to do is take note of where and how they are staged up with the structure that is being used. This becomes a great indicator of where other snook will be found over the next month. With the gin clear waters off St. Joseph Sound, downsizing leader is a must in order to get most snook to eat. Twenty-five fluorocarbon leader with 2/0 hooks have worked best, as long as the reel’s drag is not too tight to create excess friction and break the line. Freelining greenbacks has worked well and lets the baits swim naturally through a given strike zone without the restriction of a cork. Medium baits have outproduced the larger ones, as it is an easier meal to chase down.
There has been a steady increase of larger redfish from Clearwater all the way up to the Hudson area. These reds have usually been the most consistent bite throughout the months of September and October. With the incoming tides, the schools will push upon to a shallow flat and feed aggressively on crabs and small pinfish. A tail-hooked shrimp will allow anglers to cast way ahead of a school without scaring them. This low profile bait works well because it will crawl along the bottom where the reds are searching. These bronze bruisers will get into such as bottom-feeding mode that often times a live bait swimming towards the top of the water column will go untouched. Once the tide starts to peak out, the mangrove trees are prime hunting grounds to find these gamefish. Any depression or pothole along a shoreline that lies in the shade is a key spot to try. Whatever bait or lure that is used, must be placed inside that shade line to receive a bite. With all of the new scented baits on the market, it is great to use an artificial if pinfish or mangrove snapper are tearing up fresh bait. An 1/8 ounce jig head rigged with a new penny soft plastic shrimp has been producing well in the trees. On the grassflats leading up to the mangroves, a copper-colored weedless Huddlespoon has worked great as a search tool for finding those schools of redfish.
Deeper grassflats just inside most passes in north Pinellas county are starting to hold good numbers of speckled trout and spanish mackerel. As long as the tide is moving swiftly, the bite has been on. Small sardines and select sized shrimp under a cork worked with the boat are getting great action in the first few hours of daylight. Some larger speckled trout have been moving in around Fred Howard Park. Work the edges of the sand holes while drifting with the tide or wind. The mackerel have been crashing the schools of small glass minnows. A small silver spoon tossed into the action is a sure fire bite.