Wade fishing can be a great way to catch fish at a very small cost, but there are things you better know if you never have tried it before. If you ask other fishermen about wade fishing, I am sure that you will hear all kinds of stories regarding why many of them will never try it. So, before we get into the things that can happen, let’s get into what you should have before you go wade fishing.
There are a few pieces of equipment that you need to ensure a good, and safe, wade fishing experience. First, you should have a good fishing rod, anywhere from six foot to seven and a half foot, with medium to heavy action. Next, you’ll need good saltwater reel. Why a saltwater reel? It’s going to get wet…Well, more like it’s going to spend some time underwater. What I like to do is to pack my reel with good reel grease. This helps to keep the saltwater out, and will make the reel last a lot longer. I do not recommend using any high dollar reels for this style of fishing, unless you just like to spend money. Also, when you’re done fishing, instead of rinsing it off with fresh water, steal some lemon Pledge from the house and spray it on the rod and reel. Something in this stuff counteracts the saltwater. Just wipe it off when it dries, and put it away.
Bait vs. Lures
Do your homework before you go out. In other words, think about what species of fish you are going after and what their natural prey is. Shrimp is always a great all-around bait or if you have a cast net, whatever bait you find/catch around the area you will be fishing is definitely part of the natural diet of the fish in the area.
Don’t be afraid to try lures. Topwater plugs like the Heddon Super Spook works well in the flats. Another good one is the Strike King Z TOO, which is a weedless lure. Flip out these lures while you’re wading out to the spot you want to fish.
As for your bait, you’re not going to want to drag a cast net around while you fish. Try to get the bait while you’re still close to shore. Use a good bait bucket that will give your bait plenty of water change to help to keep them alive. Keep in mind that you don’t want to overfill the bait bucket because this will cause a lot, if not all, of your bait to die. Give them some breathing room. Use a good strong fish stringer to tie your bait bucket to; most of these are plenty long enough for your fish and the bait bucket. If you can, try to stay away from aerators. These make noise and you don’t want to spook away the fish as you are approaching them. Also get a fishnet or lip grip for your fish; this will make handling your fish easier and safer for you and the fish.
Let’s talk about wearing waders when you fish. There are a few things that you need to be aware of before using them: First, if you go too deep, they will fill up with water. Second, they will try to drag you down if you go in over your head. This can make a great day go really bad, very fast. I am not saying not to use them, but just be aware at all times of where you are about to step because there are some deep holes out there. I am unsure, but I think they now offer waders with flotation in them for safety. If so, I would strongly recommend them. Or another option is to just wear a ski belt or some other kind of waist flotation device.
As for myself, I don’t mind getting wet, so I wear an old pair of tennis shoes. You should always have something on your feet – there are plenty of things to hurt yourself on including broken shells, crabs, and don’t forget stingrays! Try to do the stingray shuffle when walking across sandbars, so that they will hear you coming and move before you get to them. If you don’t know what the stingray shuffle is, it is scuffing your feet on the bottom while you are walking. On a side note, stingrays are not out there to hurt you; their barb is their only defense and you would want to defend yourself if someone stepped on you too! Please show them respect and scuff your feet as you go, and you should have no problem with them.
Where to wade fish
Before you ever go wade fishing, you need to know where you’re going to go. This may sound simple, but if you don’t do some research, it could mean your life. Please don’t take this lightly, as people die wade fishing every year. Always check out the area very well before fishing. During the low tide, check out the deep holes and the shallow areas. Track the best area to walk to get out to the channel or hole that you want to fish. Remember these areas because the tide will come back in, and many seasoned wade fisherman have waited too long and found themselves in a bad place. Knowing where the shallower water is could mean the difference of still being able to walk in or having a long, dangerous swim. I grew up wade fishing around Tampa Bay and around the Skyway Bridge. In these areas you can find sandbars at low tide that go out for a mile. They are great fishing spots, but also can be very dangerous. There is not only the concerns of getting stuck out there when the tide comes back in, but there is a strong current that always seems to be going the opposite direction than the way that you want to go. So, again, I cannot stress this enough – know where you’re going ahead of time. Find out what time the tides are changing. Have a watch with you to check the time. Let some one know where you are going and what time you should be back. A good suggestion is to always have a friend with you. If they can hold their breath, you can ride on their shoulders while they walk you back into shore! Seriously though, fishing with a buddy is more fun and a lot safer.
You may think that clothing does not matter when going out fishing, but you’d be wrong. First off, wear clothing that will protect you from the sun. You know that sunburn you get when you go out in a boat? Well, wade fishing is like laying out on a raft – you will burn if you don’t have protection. A hat is a great idea, and polarized sunglasses are a must. Also, try to wear clothing that is in neutral colors like tans, light blues and light greens. Remember that if you can see the fish, they can see you. White and bright colors will spook away fish, and there goes your day of fishing! However, keep in mind that you don’t want to camouflage yourself so well that a boat runs you over…
Wading in style
Here is something that you may want to try, especially if you get into wade fishing. Get a truck tire inner tube that will fit either a cooler inside it, or a large washtub. Now you have a place to keep your catch, tackle, lunch, and you now have a work station if you run into a problem with your gear. Safety wise, it could keep you alive if you for some reason forget to come back in before the tide does.
Remember what I mentioned earlier, about using lures while wading out to your fishing spot? If you notice schools of Mullet in the flats, there is a great possibility that there could be Redfish in with these schools. There is also a high possibility of Snook and Seatrout. Always be on the lookout for baitfish breaking. You could find that the fish that you’re after are still in the shallows, and have not moved into the holes and channels yet. However, you still need to be very quiet when approaching, and have a pole that can make very long casts. You would be surprised what you can hook into in only inches of water.
Once you reach the hole or channel that you wish to fish in, you can switch to bait if that’s what you want to do. If you choose to fish with lures still, however, you will need to cast in a clocklike manner to cover a lot of area. Move along the edge of the hole or channel so that you can cover a large area in hopes of finding where the fish are. Then, try to work that area until the fish move. You will find that using a soft bait works very well – Bounce them off the bottom, or work them in a current. D.O.A. shrimp and Love’s lures are two that I would recommend.
Something to think about
I am sure that you have heard stories about wade fishing – everything from sharks to sea monsters. When you’re out there all alone, they all seem true. Something to think about though is that you are going into other creatures’ homes – we are the outsiders. So always watch what you’re doing, and have respect for these creatures.
Also be aware that you’re going to be catching fish, and most likely putting these fish on a stringer attached to you. These fish will be splashing about for a bit, and most likely bleeding a little. I think you know where I am going with this. More than once I have had situations with sharks. When you’re dangling fish in the water, you’re asking for them to come up and check out your catch. I have had times when I have been pulled back a few feet, only to find just heads of my catch still on my stringer and a large fin circling me. Oh, and believe me – smacking a shark on the nose with your pole really doesn’t work very well. So, remember the inner tube? It’s really a great idea because you can put your catch into the cooler…