Shallow water fishing, also referred by most anglers as “skinny water,” is one of the most exciting types of fishing.  A variety of species may be targeted this way from redfish in the Gulf, bonefish in the Caribbean, and striped bass in the Northeast. 

There is no greater experience in fishing that to be able to see the fish aggressively pursue your lure and explode on it in less than 3 feet of water.  A few generic qualities are far-reaching and can be easily adapted for any species that you want to target.  Knowledge, sight, and stealth are a few of the required techniques for anglers engaging in this type of shallow-water fishing.

Local Knowledge is Key

The best way to get familiar with “your” area is to purchase a detailed navigational chart. Navigation charts, especially ones with good bottom characteristics (contour lines, bottom type, etc) provide good information that can be used when trying to figure out locations to fish.  Cuts and channels are used as entry and exit routes for moving fish as the deeper water cover provides safety.  Generally, cuts, bars, and channels will not be static and require constant attention from the angler as they change frequently.  Gamefish will use these to enter shallow-water flats and feed on baitfish where they can be targeted by anglers.

Sight Fishing

Sight is one of the most important factors in fishing shallow water areas especially if you want to locate patrolling gamefish.  Polarized sunglasses are an absolute must and will dramatically reduce the glare caused by the water’s reflection and allow anglers to see further down in the water column.  There are a variety of manufacturers for these types of glasses, but it is vitally important to purchase a high-quality brand such as Costa Del Mar, Maui-Jim’s, etc.  Costa sunglasses are preferred by most fishing guides and offer a variety of lenses for different situations.

Stealth as a Means To Catch

When gamefish are feeding in shallow water they are more vulnerable so their flight senses will be ultra-sensitive.  Generally, they will spook easily and the opportunities to cast the lure in the right location will be minimal.  It is imperative to stay quiet and reduce motions on the vessel so the fish do not get spooked.  One way to reduce the chances of missing an opportunity is by having a few rods rigged with different lures so that you can quickly switch rods and cast to the location rather than switching lures and re-tying.  Gamefish with keen eyesight tend to be leader shy and will pass on opportunities in which they can see the terminal tackle or leader material. In order to combat this issue, lures should be directly tied to the leader and fluorocarbon leader should be used at all times.  Fluorocarbon leader has an refractive index close to water making it virtually invisible.

Shallow water fishing is one of the most enjoyable types of fishing as you can literally “see” the fish devour your offering.  But be sure to be wary of location, sight, and stealth as these will help produce more fish on your hook and hopefully more quality fish for your pictures or the table.

© T.w. Van Urk | – Small boat in shallow water in Brittany France