If you’ve been following the Fall Fishing articles this month, then you’ve read up on what baits work best for fishing saltwater this time of year. Today, you’ll learn what tactics to utilize to get the most out of those baits. There are already so many factors—environmental, habitual, etc.—that have an effect on fish activity, and when fall hits, anglers will have to know what to look for, as well as where to look for it, if they want to return to the dock with a smile on their face and a full cooler.
The biggest change in fish activity during the fall is that many species tend to move towards shallow waters now that the heat isn’t as unbearable. Smart anglers will capitalize on this and focus on bays, inlets, and marsh coves where species such as redfish normally congregate. Furthermore, an important factor here is baitfish. Species like speckled trout will be chasing baitfish into the shallow waters which, in turn, will attract other animals that feed on them, namely birds. As you maneuver your boat throughout the area, keep your eyes peeled for collections of birds feeding at the surface. While such a situation may seem like frenzied chaos, it’s still necessary to approach the action carefully, because you WILL spook the fish if you don’t. Turn off the engine and stealthily use the trolling motor to get in closer and then cast at your leisure.
Another big change in fall saltwater fishing occurs when shrimp and other prey move from the canals and marshes out to the bays and coves. Here, you’ll want to fish any place where water from inland areas drains out to the larger areas, where it funnels and concentrates the baitfish and shrimp. This is where fish will be waiting for their food. Cast upstream and work your bait towards the fish to take advantage of this situation.
When fish feed on prey items like baitfish, the leftover bits and pieces that don’t get eaten create an oily film that rests on the surface of the water. This is called a slick. As time goes by, these slicks will spread out and grow larger. Therefore, smaller slicks are more recent and are tell-tale signs of recent feeding in the area. Don’t give up on large slicks, however. Simply pick apart the area with casts until you find the fish.
The real key to capitalizing on fish behavior this fall is following the baitfish and adjusting your tactics to correlate with feeding habits. Knowing where to look this time of year, as well as what to look for, in terms of feeding activity on the water, will help you land fish after fish. Just be sure to bring a big enough cooler!