When most people think of saltwater angling, they imagine a 40-mile boat ride off shore in pursuit of massive Sailfish or Tuna. These trips are expensive and require quite a bit of work with no guarantee of landing fish.
The beauty of fishing in the ocean is there are fish everywhere. You are not required to fish off of a charter boat. Inshore fishing off of the beach or wade fishing provide just as many opportunities to land fish. It’s affordable, easy and the variety of fish you can catch is exhilarating.
With the winter months quickly approaching, here are a few tips on how to maximize your success while wade fishing.
Have the proper gear
While wade fishing, your gear is going to take a beating. It’s constantly going to be subjected to salt water, scraped against rocks and vegetation and required to fight fish from unique angles. As a result, you’re going to need some quality gear to make sure you can enjoy your time on the water.
First, it’d be smart to have a 7’ to 7’6” medium or fast action spinning rod. Your reel should be a 3 to 4 thousand series. Also, be sure you are using braid. You’ll be okay with 10 to 15-pound test and 20 pound fluorocarbon leader.
Some quality brands to choose from are St. Croix (the St. Croix Mojo Inshore rod is great) and Shimano. Both companies make quality gear that can withstand whatever you put in its way.
Also, you’re going to need something to carry all of your gear. A wading belt would be able to hold everything, but it’s not also a bad idea to carry a waterproof fishing pack. A Sea-to-Summit pack is affordable and will hold everything you might need.
It’s also necessary to be properly protected while wade fishing. In the warmer months, a long sleeve fishing shirt, buff, hat, sunglasses and some wading shorts will do the trick. However, when the water begins to cool, a pair of waders is going to be a necessity. You don’t need neoprene waders, but they may be nice if you’re planning on spending quite a bit of time wade fishing.
Have the proper tackle
Jig heads and soft plastics are the name of the game when it comes to wade fishing in Florida. Bring jigs from 1/16 to ¼ ounce as well as five or six bags of soft plastic shrimp or other sort of swim baits.
You can also use live shrimp if you have the means to carry them with you. A floating bait bucket will do the trick. If you do choose to use live bait, free lining will work. You can let the bait drift and the natural presentation will likely lead to a few strikes.
If the current is too heavy, attach a few split shots a few feet above your bait and it will stay lower in the current.
You can also fish spoons while wade fishing. These are extremely easy to throw and the days when the fish are hitting spoons are some wonderfully entertaining times on the water.
Where can I wade fish?
The most important thing to look for when wade fishing is structure. Do the fish have something to stay close to that makes them feel safe? Also, causeways and beaches are great places to wade fish. They rarely see fishing pressure and access is easy.
If you can, search Google Maps or Google Earth to find great places to fish. Look for causeways between the mainland and islands or small inlets that connect land. These are going to hold fish and you should be able to access them fairly easily.
Also, shorelines that have large amounts of mangrove trees are great to fish. The mangroves hold quite a bit of bait and large fish scour these in search of their next meal. Be careful in these locations because the more bait, the more predators are waiting.
In Florida, St. Pete and Clearwater are home to wonderful locations to wade fish. Clearwater Beach, Fort De Soto Park, Weedon Island Preserve and Fred Howard Park are all going to hold a large amount of Tarpon, Reds and Snook.
How Deep do I wade?
When wading fishing, don’t take risks. The currents can be life threatening so it’s better to be safe than sorry. If possible, bring someone along when you’re wade fishing. A safe depth to go is around knee deep. You’ll be able to cover plenty of water and not be at risk of anything dangerous.
You may have to wade a bit deeper to reach your spot, but if you’re fishing, it’s best to stay around your knees. Wade into the tide or the current because this will make fishing much easier.
General Tips and Tricks
First and foremost, do your best to stay quiet. Yes, there is likely going to be quite a bit of water that you’re covering, but the less of a presence you can have in the water, the more success you’ll have.
Be prepared to move. Cover as much water as you can during a day of wade fishing. Keep moving along the area of shoreline you’re near and cast in all directions. Fish can sit in a variety of water depths. Once you cast in every direction, feel free to move down enough to tackle some new water.
Remember to wade into the current. Your bait will come back towards you when you’re wading into the current and this creates a more natural presentation. Presentation is key when wade fishing!
Don’t be afraid to switch up your bait. If you’re using soft plastics, try a variety of different colors until you find one causes some action. The bite can change at any point so holding strong to one certain color of bait isn’t the best idea.
Look for fish. If you see bait balls or diving birds, there are going to be fish. If possible, wade close enough that you can get a solid cast near the bait and begin fishing.
Be safe! If you find yourself being tugged by the current or tide, make your way towards safer waters. This often means you have to move a bit shallower. Heavy tides and current are great to fish, but not at the risk of your safety. If you see a shark or larger predator fish trying to take your catch, let them have it. Back away slowly and always keep an eye on their actions!
Time of day matters! If possible, wade fish in the morning or the evening. Many of the fish you’ll catch wade fishing are going to be ambush predators. The darker times of day are going to provide a nice amount of action. Fish structure during the lower light and you’re going to catch fish.
When you do catch a fish, you can spend some more time at that spot. Where there’s one catchable fish, there are likely more. Slow down and work the rest of the water before you move to a new location.
Be willing to try something new! If you’re new to saltwater angling, wade fishing is a great way to be introduced. You don’t need much for fancy equipment and you can truly learn the ways of current, tide and the fish. Spend a few weeks wade fishing and you’ll be amazed at how much you grow as an angler.