Fishing on the Flats
Saltwater fishing on the flats (or freshwater estuary) can be exciting and challenging, however, it can also be dangerous. No matter what tackle you use fly rod, spinning or bait casting the flats is a good area to catch fish. The larger species of fish (bonefish to tarpon to shark) are typically present because they are cruising for small bait fish.
If using spinning or bait casting rods I recommend any of the salt water rods at least ten feet in length in order to make the long cast. Always use wire leaders to protect your line. If in doubt of what lure to use, select something that represents bait fish. Ideally, pick something that has silver on the sides, white on the bottom and black or green on top. Spoons are also great in silver, gold and chartreuse. A lure that will catch fish anywhere is the Rapala lure. They represent bait fish anywhere and give a seductive ‘wounded’ action. Be aware of the bait fish in the area the larger fish are chasing.
If you are using fly fishing gear I recommend using a 10 or 11 weight rods and a minimum of 200 yards of backing on a fly rod. Since there are fish in the area that may have teeth be sure to use a wire leader on your fly. This will keep them from biting through the tippet (the end of the line). Beware of sharks in the area and don’t keep fish tied to your body. You could be inviting a shark or barracuda attack.
Other safety measures include wearing a life jacket, sunscreen and a wide-brim hat to protect you from the harsh reflective sun on the water. Keep a cell phone with you in case you need help and always be aware of the weather as you will need enough time to wade off the flats.
When fighting really big fish go to shore and fight them from land and beach them. Hit them on the head with a fish club if you are going to keep the fish or cut the leader and let them go if you’re doing catch and release. The hook will dissolve in their mouth. Whatever you do don’t go near the mouth of a fish with teeth they can unexpectedly lunge at you and take your fingers off.
If you are fishing in saltwater be sure to wash down your tackle (rod, reels and line) in warm water and soap to avoid corrosion of your gear. Salt will eat up your gear if you’re not diligent cleaning. This type of fishing calls for expensive reels ($200 reels and up) with excellent drags because of the long runs. Take care of your fishing equipment and it will take care of you. Always obey the laws and be a good sportswoman.