Thursday, December 25, 2008

Time to belly up to your local bar

You will usually find these oyster bars near creek and river mouths as well as spillways. The oysters you find will be covered in a slippery muddy slime and sharp as a razor. These structures hold surplus of baitfish and crustaceans; all of which are a steady diet to the redfish, trout, black drum, flounder, sharks, sheepshead and the occasional tarpon.

Oyster bars are all different sizes. Some will appear out of know where and some will flow parallel to a shoreline. One thing that will remain consistent to the bars you fish will be the tide’s effect on how the bars are formed.

Through the years of changing tides, one side will be built up with the other carved out for the tidal flow. Larger predator fish will always use the deep side of the bar to ambush a shrimp or pinfish that flows by. Subject to the tide changes are the smaller bars. These bars will endure the full circle of every tide change leaving them exposed to the air and sun. The larger bars can encrust enough mud on the crown to grow shrubs, marsh grasses and even mangroves.

When you find a bar that is topped with marsh grass, don't pass it up. This is a haven for fish. On high tide, a large patch of grass in an open area will usually indicate that an oyster bar lies beneath the depths. Such fish havens will provide a fishery year round, but the action really heats up when the thermometer drops. The reason the action heats up in the wintertime is because of the dark stained tannin water and dark bottom. The dark muddy bottoms that surround these structures will also radiate heat. When the tide rises the fish pour in as the dinner bell rings! As the tide starts to fall, the fish will seek out pockets of water left in the area to soak up the rays of our Florida sun.

Now, on to the rigging aspect for fishing such structures. I always start out with the trusty ole popping cork. The brand I choose is the Cajun thunder. It has brass and plastic beads on either side that makes a whole lot of racket when jerked with a short thrust. I was told by a rep of this cork to jerk the cork sideways and not straight up. Apparently the sideways motion resembles something that drives the fish nuts. The straight up jerk, well, not so much! Honestly I have caught fish using both methods so I will let you draw your own conclusion. Under the popping cork, I slide a healthy shrimp on, position the shrimp so it hangs just above the sharp bivalves. Fishing such structures can turn into a very annoying outing if your not careful. It will swallow up your tackle quickly, so learn the depths.

On another rod I usually set out different bait either dead or alive, and soak it on the bottom of a creek channel. The larger bottom dwellers will take to this method.

After securing the rods safely out of my way I will probe the surrounding waters with artificials. High on my list to throw in these areas are spoons, skitterwalks, top dogs, and exudes. The terminal tackle I prefer is a medium action 6' rod, teamed with a spinning reel loaded with 12-15 lb. test mono. I have heard great things about the new braids but have yet to try them.

Now that you have the basics on fishing these structures, it is time to belly up to them! Try different bars at different times. Tides, winds, rain, sun and everything else you throw into the mix will all change a certain area. The same bar you’ve fished onetime on a certain condition may produce differently the next time you return to it. As a general rule, I wait 30-40 minutes before I move to try a different bar if one doesn't produce a strike. I have fished with a few members on the PaddleZone who have experienced this type of fishing with me. I’m sure that they can attest to the fish that this method produces.

I hope you will give oyster bars a shot this winter! If you do, make sure you keep us updated with your reports.

Mike Kyle

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