Pensacola Shallow Water Flats Fishing

September is an interesting month on the water. Water temperatures are starting to head south, and some interesting things are happening with the fish. The inshore species we generally target are Speckled Trout, slot-sized Redfish, large Spanish Mackerel (like 5+ pounds large), Bluefish, Ladyfish, and of course Red Snappers on a catch and release only basis. We also catch a few groupers on our snapper spots. Some of my buddies have landed Cobia in the Bay recently, but I have not spent much time out there looking for them. The shallow water flats and structure fishing has been so excellent I have not needed to!

Here’s a brief review of stuff that has been working for me and my clients.

1. Speckled Trout – early morning they are killing top water plugs on the grass flats, in anywhere from 2 to 5 feet of water. If you get much deeper than that it’s hard to get them to the surface. If you can work a “walk-the-dog” style plug you’ll probably have great success. I tie mine to about a 3 foot 20 pound fluorocarbon leader with a loop knot. The loop knot enhances the lure action and makes them look more natural. All my small spinning reels are spooled up with 15 pound PowerPro braid. Forest Green in color. By the way, I use St. Croix Avid series 6.5 foot medium power fast action spinning rods. I believe they are the best “trout” rods available. Visit the St Croix Website. Any good 2500 or 3000 series reel will do, my personal choice is the Shimano Stradic or Sustain.

2. Redfish will also hit the top water stuff. If the water gets a little deeper and you are confident with your casting, try a gold spoon, also tied with a loop knot to your 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. Smaller spoons seem to work better for me. And often times you will pick up a nice trout. These two species share a lot of the same hangouts.

3. Spanish Mackerel, Bluefish, and even Ladyfish require a slightly different setup. I use about a foot of 26 pound coated wire leader tied to a couple feet of 25 pound fluorocarbon. The Spanish and Bluefish are super toothy and will cut fluorocarbon. Not so much for the Ladyfish, but these three species tend to run together for some reason. Maybe they share a taste for the same bait! Note – try to avoid using swivels. Learn to tie your leaders to your main line. These toothy critters will hit a swivel and cut you off in a second.

4. Red Snapper and other bottom dwellers – all the snapper spots are loaded up right now, and the fish are hungry. I have had good luck with live pinfish and/or cut menhaden, fish on a Carolina rig using just enough weight to keep the bait down deep, just a few feet off the bottom. A large circle hook tied to heavy mono should do the trick. Just remember – DON’T JERK! Just tighten your line and the circle hook will do its magic.

Good luck out there and remember – only keep what you are going to eat for dinner tonight. These fish don’t freeze well, and if you release them, you can catch them again and again!

Captain Dave