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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Customers come into the store. We talk and watch some videos. Many replys are the same. Good to watch a local show. Tired of watching guys catching bonefish shows that have nothing to do with our area........They can have a lot to do.

For many fisherman the back bays are a puzzle. A line of Intercoastal markers directing boats to the ocean. A place where if you aren't carefull can catch and hold you until high tide. For others it's a series of channels where flounder, weakies, blues and stripers can be caught by serious fisherman to a novice beginner.

All along the intercoastal are large shallow flats that many fisherman avoid. No markers except for a commercial grab float here and there. Sometimes even the commercial crab trap is visable at low tide. Mud flats protrude and on clear water days you can see the bottom if you venture to close. The boggie man to many boaters.

Watch a bonefish show sometime and you can see just how much fun and productive these shallow waters can be. You won't catch a bonefish but every gamefish you seek in the back bays will be there in numbers. I can guarantee that in early spring when waters are still cold these shallows will outproduce any of your favorite deep holes. Water warms up fast on these flats and every fish will be drawn to it. I have seen as much as twelve degrees difference between bottom temps on the flats compared to the deep holes. When the holes are 50 the flats can be over 60. For a cold blooded fish this is like a warm blanket.

If the word finesse plays a part in fishing, it's in these shallow waters. Watching a bonefish show will give you a great education on how to fish these flats. Granted the fish we target aren't the caffeine fueled bonefish but the same tactics pertain. Light tackle and stealthy will outfish heavy and loud.

There are three ways to fish the flats that I'm aware of. Drifting, anchored and using a push pole. Never tried the pole and since I fish alone I probably won't ever try. Drifting and anchoring are my favorites. Light spinning rods with six or eight pound test over the years has proven my most effective tackle.

The whole reason I started this thread is because there was another thread in the Tackle Box that asked about popping or rattle floats. They work and are most effective in shallow waters. The right noise is as good as any chum when fishing flats and rattle or popping floats make the right noise. If a few feet of water noise is spread out from top to bottom almost instantly. The flats are large echo chambers telling every fish whats going on. A large fish like a striper or weakie smacking a baitfish on the surface is a call to others around that food is to be had. A rattle or popper is calling to all fish that there is something to come look at and maybe even eat.

Rattles and poppers are designed to trick other fish into feeding by giving off sound that immitates baitfish or predators striking. A noisy lure will draw more interest than a shinny one. Floats can be purchased that have rattles inside. This float above a small bucktail or teaser hook is a deadly combo on the flats. The float will rattle with a flick of the wrist. The float will also hold you bucktail off the bottom away from the seaweed and in the predators strike zone. The noise will draw interest and the tail or teaser will draw a response.

The only problem with flats fishing is knowing the flat. They aren't just large flats full of fish. They have contours and thin channels that will hold bait and gamefish more than just flat bottom. Take some time and find these areas and half the game is won. The second half of the game is the time. Flats fishing is an early or late day game. When the sun is up high and there is traffic the game is over. You want to be out there an hour or two before the first waverunner is out of bed.

Light line is the most effective in shallows. It's has less resistance and cuts through water much faster than heavy line. Just think quiet and fish light and you will catch more fish. Try a sidearm cast with a rattle float. A big overhand will have more altitude and make a larger splash. It's supposed to sound like bait not bombs.

It's not a bad idea to chum up a little help. Flats are loaded with baitfish, grass shrimp and small crabs. Chum works instantly because it has a very shallow area to work. Shiners and shrimp will congregate behind your boat with a little chum. The scent will also pull in the predators but the bait will hold them in place. When chumming it's a great time to anchor. Then you are the starting point for all the action. All the bait is from your position back. Floating a bait into this area is deadly. Just keep letting line out and your presentation will drift over and by everything in the slick. Every few seconds pop the float or rattle and give it's position away. Float goes down or starts moving sideways and you set the hook.

One of the great returns to this kind of fishing is the fish can't go deep. A nice weakie or striper going airborne is a common sight and a real thrill on light tackle. Some of the best flounder fishing can be had this way in the early opening days of the season. Warm water will draw them in even the big ones. A rattle or popping float will pull them in like a magnate.

If I had to pick my favorite time it would be last of the incoming and first of the outgoing tide. It's always been the most effective time for me. Just seems like more and larger fish during this tide period. If the tide doesn't match with early morning or late evening don't worry. Fish the flats but closer to where the flats empty out into the intercoastal. Much of the baitfish will be feeding into or out of the flats at this time and the predators know this.

Catch the next bonefish show and watch how quiet they are. Tilt you motor up and take off your shoes. Bare feet are much quieter than shoes on deck. Remember that your boat is a drum and every noise will beat into the water. Think invisable when fishing the flats and watch your catch increase.
 

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Well said, good post Fred. Never even thought of the popping noise of a float enticing the flounder to attack in the shallows but makes a lot of sense
 

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You speak wisely. Just be careful of "being on a flat during outgoing" :) As somone who spends a lot of time on the flats in the Keys, you DO NOT want to become grounded on an outgoing tide. Great overall good comments & secretly I hope most don't follow as it could lead to way too many people on the flats.
 

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I enjoyed your post Fred. What is the largest boat that works best on the flats? Could I fish the flats comfortably in a 20ft Grady WA? What boat do you use?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I run a 20 foot CC seapro and it works great on the flats. Like I said before. The last of the in and first of the out. Even when you can see bottom you may have six feet of water under you. Early spring will have the intercoastal filled with boats while the flats are empty. It's a fun way to fish with little competition.
 

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Chunky,
Great info as always. Use the push pole back in Richardson's, always come away with stripey's, blues, etc. Absolutely gotta know the water though like ya said. On more than one occasion I've seen boats flying out of Turtle creek, make the left up Richardson's, scram east towards the intracoastal and come to a very sudden, muddy stop!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
They just discovered America. :D
 

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This past spring some barners, couldn't get away from the sharks.Sharks this sharks that, then one day one of the guys said the inner coastal marker #, I was like that's crazy! I'm less than 100yards away, and all I was gettin was blues and bass. I tried to make some suggestions,thank god no one caught on...I also found you didn't have to go to a sound to find fish on flats?
 

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Good read thanks Chunking.
 

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Fred you da man. I take it from your post that the water clarity is a little worse up here and you concentrate on structure on the flats rather than sight fish??

Great Post

RyanF
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Sight fishing is hard up here in the shallows. Most don't have a platform to stand up on for a better view. BONEFISH give their location away when they tail. Heads down looking for shrimp or crabs puts their tail on the surface where it can be seen.

I find that chasing a fish that has made a mark on the surface is a waste of time. When you get to where it was it's gone. Except late summer and fall when the mullet and peanuts are on the surface. Then most predators are more than willing to pay more surface attention.

I'd rather find the little narrow dip or channel that wind their way through the flats. Every flat has many of these little dips running along the bottom. If the flat wasn't so wide the dip would actually have a channel cut into the bottom. Since the water flow is so slow across these flats there isn't enough force to cut a deeper channel.

These dips are like runways to the larger fish. Thats the way they run onto and off of the flats. Just like we use streets. It's a predators way of getting from point A to point B. Find these dips and fish them hard. These are my favorite chumming areas. Use a rattle or popping float or just a plain float and drift a bait along the dips and watch what happens.

I usually go by water depth on where I set my hook. If I'm using bait I try to keep it about a foot and a half off the bottom as long as the water depth is around five feet or more. Any closer to the bottom and the blueclaws will come up and attack. If the water is shallower than five feet I will go deeper and take my chances with the crabs.

Don't worry about flounder and keeping a bait on the bottom. Flounder lay flat but their eyes are always looking up. A bait a few feet off the bottom is an easy target for them. I love anchoring up with chum for summer flounder fishing this way. Chum on the flats can draw every flounder for about a hundred yards behind you right up to your hook. Any new flounder working their way onto the flats will pull right up behind your boat for easy meals.

Last year we taped a show anchored up using chum on a real windy day. Kept letting the float drift with the current and loaded up with a bunch of blues and summer flounder up to four pounds. Threw the anchor up on a sod bank and let the wind hold us off in a few feet of water. Fished one rod with live minnows and the other with some strip baits. Caught a lot of fish. At one point I had to put one rod away because the hits were so fast. This was early in the season when the water was cold. Sat out there with my winter jacket on and had a blast. Plus there wasn't the hassle of trying to drift on a windy day.
 

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last summer I was fishing with a buddy out of his skiff on a flat over behind stone harbor..we were drifting floats back over the flat and just killing the flounder...another boat stopped and thought we were targeting weakies (because of the floats)...we showed them what we were doing and they couldnt believe you could catch flounder using floats in that water....its a real deadly technique that I learned some time ago in florida...
 

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hey fred,am i guessing that your clam belly technique would work for flounder,blues,weaks and spring stripers in the spring just like it does in the fall.... also in the same locations as it does in the fall.
 

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Next question. What should I chum with? Am I trying to chum the spearing and shrimp to the boat with catfood or something. or should I be throwing frozen spearing, clam or something?

RyanF
 

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Chunking: do you use a fixed float or the sliding type with the stopper knot????????
 
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