Don’t Float Your Cap

While I’m fully aware of the stealthy benefits associated with wade fishing, I’m just not sure if it’s the right approach for my region. How do I determine whether or not an area can be safely and effectively fished on foot? – Pete Obrien


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Photo: Tosh Brown

You’re right about the stealthy attributes of wade fishing shallow estuarine habitats, but it is critical you consider a few safety aspects before getting wet. First and foremost, it’s never a good idea to wade fish without a buddy. In addition, it will be in your best interest to study a nautical chart to get an overview of your area’s bottom characteristics. Wading unfamiliar waters should be done with caution and you’ll want to investigate shorelines, flats and bars that are shallow enough to fish effectively—four foot depths will be the maximum you can handle.

If you are entering the water from land, you won’t be immediately overwhelmed by deep water, but if you are unfamiliar with the area and deploy from a kayak or skiff you could quickly end up over your head. While there are thousands of public access points throughout the state, it is important you avoid trespassing on private property. With that being said, waterfront property lines generally extend to the high tide mark, so if you are in the water but fishing behind someone’s home you are completely legal.

When searching for promising areas to wade you want to look for light colored sand bottoms that provide firm footing. Grass flats are also great places to focus your efforts, just make sure you walk slowly and beware of deeper potholes and depressions within the grass. Areas with muddy bottom can trap you like quicksand and should be avoided. If you’re investigating unfamiliar shallows, then you may want to make your initial trip on a lower tide so you can get a better understanding of the bottom. There are also some areas throughout the state where sharks are commonly encountered and here it’s best to stay in the boat at all times. The murky water of Everglades National Park is one of many places you don’t ever want to wade fish. With crocs and sharks prevalent it’s best to stay in the boat!

Once you’ve found a safe and promising location with legal access you’ll want to quietly enter the water. While shuffling your feet prevents you from stepping on a stingray, it will also help you make note of changes in bottom topography. Barefoot wading is a terrible idea, and with the warm water of summer you won’t need waders. Lightweight wading shoes or old sneakers will suffice. Minimal disturbance is the name of the game.

With such great opportunities throughout the state it is highly encouraged you get out and explore the diverse ecosystems available to anglers who aren’t afraid to get wet. Whether you jump off a skiff, kayak or gain access by land, walk slowly and fish effectively by thoroughly fan casting your surroundings. With increasing fishing pressure there’s no better way to sneak up on unsuspecting game fish.

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