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!
That is so great that other people besides me love to fish the northern part of Biscayne bay! It actually was a segment on a saturaday morning angling show too. The Flats just inside Haulover Cut hold all kinds of great fish!
A long way west from Biscane Bay, but want to catch lookdowns . They’re here around Port Isabel, southernmost Texas. Some fishermen said they have caught an occasional one in the shipping channels, and a recent red tide fish kill left many dead on some shores and around pilings where I live. But I have not been able to catch one fishing around my local docks even under lights.
I use the right, light tackle and a variety of 1/16 – 1/8 oz jigs and even Sabiki rigs. OK, I haven’t tried a 1/4 oz DOA Shrimp. Judging by the fish kill they may only get to a # here.
So, what size lures to maximize my chances?
And, if they’re not at my particular dock, where else, at what depths, when, should I concentrate? I have a kayak.
Jaded, after many redfish, seatrout, black drum, sheepshead and ladyfish (not enough jacks, pompano OR LOOKDOWNS) – poor me.
Actually, one of the best lures I have ever used is a Maribou Crappie jig. I use the1/8th – 1/16th oz jig in usually white or chartreuse. Cut the hairs back to just behind the hook. A very slow twitching motion on a moving tide is perfect. Most times they hit on the fall back after the twitch. I use the DOA shrimp for the larger ones. Dock lights and a moving tide but I have caught them during the day as well. Keep moving around until you find the fish.
I;m 65 born in south miami fl . I hate tell you but the coral gables area to black point is the best fishing for snook ladyfish permit saltwater croc’s 100lbs tarpon. the probem is there is NO fishing from shore for the last 15 years or more.. I fish 4 nights a week and hide from cops all night. nobody really care about our shore line, for fishing, and i hate to say it but the real locals lost the battle to fish from shore. The north wins again. respectfully submitted Phillip Snook 3rd generation miami born
Thank you so much for this information Phillip! I used to hide under the broad causeway fishing for snook myself. There is great shore fishing from most of Biscayne bay, if you can find it without being chased!