Ever since I was a small boy fishing in the waters off Sheepshead Bay, and Rockaway point, New York, I have always had a passion for ultra light fishing in calm sheltered waters. When I was boy it was for baby bluefish known as snappers in that part of the country or small striped bass that could be had on the moving tides off most of the local beaches. I rarely if ever went above 6 lb test line and almost exclusively used artificial lures. Thirty years later and enough big game fishing around the world to make even the most die hard fisherman green with envy, and I still get a kick out fishing the inland waters with the lightest of tackle.
Living in the South Florida sunshine, I am lucky enough to have access to some pretty great offshore fishing for Dolphin, Tuna and Sailfish, in addition to many other species, yet I never miss the opportunity to grab my lightest rod and reel to fish the northern part of Biscayne Bay between Government Cut in the South Beach area, and Haulover inlet of North Miami beach. Scattered with grass beds and small Mangrove islands there is an amazing amount of incredible shallow water angling to be had in this vicinity. There are of course the normally targeted species such as Tarpon, Snook, Sea Trout and the occasional Bonefish that can be caught in these waters, but I am going to mention the sub-culture of Biscayne Bay shallow water fishing.
Some of my favorite species to target are Lookdowns, Ladyfish, an assortment of Jacks, and at certain times of the year Spanish mackerel, all of which can be caught from shore, if you know where to fish. Lookdowns hold a special place in my heart, as a young man I would fish under the bridges at night until I had several of these silver beauties, a bit of rice, a cheap bottle of wine and I ate like a king on pennies a day. Times have changed and I still love to catch Lookdowns, but almost all my inshore fishing is now catch and release. Light line, moving current, and a small jig, along with some structure and bridge lights are all you need for any of these species. I have actually found some of my favorite freshwater panfish jigs such as the Flirty Girty, tipped with a variety of plastics works well for almost any of these small Biscayne Bay fish.
One day I was casting away the late afternoon hours behind a local university located on the edge of Biscayne Bay and decided to try a DOA shrimp in a narrow channel frequented by kayakers. No sooner than I had twitched the lure twice than it was picked up and a several minute battle with a large Ladyfish began. Ladyfish are an incredible fighting fish, and although they have little or no food value (unless of course you are a hungry Tarpon), they are among the most acrobatic of the inshore species. The DOA shrimp also seems to work very well with larger Lookdowns and also seems to have the ability to turn on the fishing when other lures and jigs get no strikes.
My personal preference is a light spinning reel filled with 6 lb test, a 5’6” or 6’ medium action rod that can cast a ¼ ounce lure with some distance and accuracy. The great thing about these inshore species is that most lures can serve double duty. The ¼ ounce DOA shrimp is quickly becoming a favorite, but the small silver Rat-L-Trap works well with Jacks and any other fast swimming species. I have had great luck casting both of these from the shore around the mangroves of Oleta State Park. You can also rent a kayak there and spend the day drifting around the mangroves and enjoying the incredible scenery.
Fishing for these unheralded species in Northern Biscayne Bay with ultra-light fishing tackle is not only incredible fun for anglers of all ages and abilities, it is also an easy and peaceful way to remove yourself from the hectic, fast paced lifestyle common in Miami. With nothing more than a quick trip to the local Bass Pro Shops in Dania, Florida, less than 10 miles from most of my best fishing spots, you can be having the time of your life!