I have been focusing a lot of my attention on sharks lately. It’s my usual routine to start off my shark charters by taking my clients to catch their own bait. Freshly caught bait outfishes frozen or store-bought bait hands down, plus catching it is really a lot of fun.
I mostly look for ladyfish, but I will use just about anything that’s legal, including catfish, mullet and sugar trout. Just a reminder: All of these baits will also work to catch tarpon, in case one of the small schools of our area’s resident tarpon happens to roam by you while you’re out soaking some bait.
OK, I know this is starting to sound like a shark column but it’s not actually going to be one, though the shark bite has been very good lately. I’ll be talking about them soon enough, don’t you worry.
Over the last month or so, my clients have been catching large numbers of very nice speckled trout while catching bait for their shark trips. At first I figured it was a fluke, but I move around a lot chasing bait schools and the trout have been at pretty much every stop. The trout bite has been so bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) at some points that I had trouble getting enough bait for the shark fishing.
Then after a couple of trips I figured, why not capitalize on this crazy opportunity? My father always told me to never look a gift horse in the mouth. So now I’m taking my clients trout fishing at the beginning of their shark trips and using their bycatch of jacks and ladyfish as bait. It’s a win/win for all of us. They get to take home some tasty trout at the end of their trip and this crazy bite makes me look like I know what I’m doing.
And just in case you’re wondering, yes, sharks eat trout and no, it is not legal to butterfly a speckled trout for shark bait, so please don’t. Just eat them yourself instead.
If you would like to go out and have a blast catching some delicious trout any time in the near future, let me give you a little heads up on where to find them. If you’re fishing the lower Harbor, you can’t go wrong fishing 3 to 5 feet of water on any of the flats between Bokeelia and the back side of Cayo Costa. Not only are there some very good trout but also a mixed bag of mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and jacks. You should have no trouble at all keeping your rod bent in this area.
Sandfly and Devilfish keys have been producing very well, as have Bull and Turtle bays. The biggest trick has been finding bait schools which, let me tell you, hasn’t been hard at all — just look for the birds. The trout have been very aggressive in these areas and are taking just about any lure you want to throw at them, including topwaters.
Now, you can’t go wrong with a soft plastic. My go-to bait has always been a quarter-ounce jighead with a DOA CAL paddletail shad. The pink with silver sparkle color has been working great on the trout, as has the root beer with the green paddle.
For those of you fishing the mid and upper Harbor, try topwater lures all along the east and west walls. Not only will you have a shot at some monster trout, but you might also luck into a nice redfish (or two, or three — just saying). The flat in front of Hog Island has also been a very productive place lately.
I know it’s a little weird to go hunting for trout in late summer, but we have to take the opportunities we are given. Besides, we have to take a break from tarpon sometime, right?
Capt. Mike Myers, owner and operator of Reelshark Charters, is a full-time Charlotte Harbor guide, and a co-host of Radio WaterLine every Saturday from 7 to 9 a.m. on KIX 92.9 FM. Having fished the waters all along the Southwest Florida coast for more than 40 years, he has the experience to put anglers on the fish they want. His specialties are sharks, tarpon and the nearshore Gulf waters. For more info, visit ReelShark.com or call Capt. Mike at 941-416-8047.