Flats fishing is favored by experienced anglers looking for a challenging, yet more personal fishing experience. Unlike deep sea fishing which requires big boats, huge tackle and deep waters, flats fishing is usually done with a flat bottom skiff and a long pole for propelling the skiff across shallow waters.
By quietly gliding through shallow protected waters, anglers get the opportunity to be up close and visually connected to the fish before they cast to them. The three most sought after species of fish in the Florida flats are bonefish, tarpon and permit. Many anglers aspire to acquire the coveted grand slam, bringing home one of each of these prized catch in one day.
The first step to successful flats fishing is to look for optimum conditions. The two best seasons for success are spring and fall. Most guides choose flats that are between 1-3 feet in depth, often with deep water channels nearby. Grassy flats that hold the current, and provide a resting place for baitfish are usually teeming with predator fish.
The second step is to choose appropriate tackle. Anglers usually prefer casting with fly rods to test their skills on the flat. It is helpful to have some expertise with light tackle as flats fishing can be challenging. Factors such as tide, depth, and of course the type and size of fish you are after will be the determining factors in choosing the most efficient tackle.
Finally, the decision to use live or artificial bait is one that not everyone agrees on. Some guides suggest using artificial bait as live bait will often die after multiple casts. Some anglers and guides like to free line live baits while casting artificial to get the most coverage.
If you love the combination of enjoying nature in smooth calm waters along with the thrill of sight casting, then flats fishing is sure to be the perfect choice for you.