I fish in and around ponce inlet and all I ever catch are catfish, it's getting really annoying. I don't want anyone's spot, but can any of you who fish in and around the inlet, coast guard station, bridges, can you tell me what baits you utilize? do you chum? What time of day is best? Do you start 2 hrs before high tide? What type of rigs are best for certain fish......
ANY suggestions are very much appreciated!
Sounds like you fish structure....a well placed split shot with a crustacean works well. Otherwise a live fish works good.
Match your hook to your bait and presentation style. Fish have eyes....remember this.
Around structure, moving water is best...
Inshore i typically fish live or dead baits with a 25lb fluoro leader. Hook size matches bait size, or fishing style (free swimming, dead bait on bottom).
Think like a fish and put the baits in ambush points(do you like to stand in the howling wind or would you take relief in a breezeway or behind a wall?) Just randomly sitting there and randomly tossing bait around will yield random results. Learn to pick your spots and times to maximize your catching.
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It's possable your missing other species of fish like snapper, black drum, and reds due to their delicate bite style. What I mean is they will pick up your bait and you have to give them 15-20 seconds to run before you tighten your line or they will release it. A catfish are easier to catch you just tighten and reel then in.
As in any endeavour...there are 10 % with 90% of thye catch.....
Spend some time doing your "due diligence" ....Go to the inlet a few days in a row and *WATCH* NOT FISH ...You will quickly figure out who the "sharp shooters" are....they are the guys there every morning in the dark...and leave between 8-9 AM and have caught a few good fish.
Watch what they use...how they rig...where and how they are fishing...then do that.
There are no "magic bullets"...no shortcuts to success....
Many things to do.
Knots to be unraveled
'fore the darkness falls on you
That is very sound advice, thank you! The only concern I would have would be trying to view what their rigging, or tackle looked like! I don't think many would look to kindly being watched by a guy with binoculars. :huh
Please keep the advice coming, tides, full moons, rigging!
Watch whats happening...You will learn a lot...then, Be polite and ask ...most are very nice and as long as you don't show up first thing trying to fish as a goofus and start f**king up THEIR fishing...they will be more than helpful.
The "regulars" for the most part are older and are less of the competitive "secret squirrels" ... And after you get some basic knowledge...you can tweak your particular style to suit you.
Many things to do.
Knots to be unraveled
'fore the darkness falls on you
If you are comfortable driving at night cruise around looking for lights that cast over the water on docks or bridges, they should offer good action.
Lastly if you are fishing bait, and get a catfish or two I would move. Reds and trout are "more" apex predators and IMO if a catfish finds it first there were no reds in the area.
The beach fishing looks good down there you could always try that!
Fresh cut shrimp or clams on a pompano rig and let it fly into the surf!
Having fished Ponce for decades, I can probably predict without any details that if you are catching a bunch of cats, you are using shrimp for bait, and probably dead shrimp. And I honestly have rarely caught catfish anywhere around the inlet except a few specific places, so this advice will be easy.
Like others have said, watching others who are catching the fish will be a great help. Also, doing a little reading on how to time your fishing with the tides, solunar tables and degree of daylight (dawn and dusk are best for multiple reasons, but mostly because of the low light conditions - so a heavily cloudy day can create favorable light conditions even at high noon).
So I suggest following all that advice. However I can tell you that I have caught gamefish with very good frequency in the Ponce inlet area at most every time of day and in every light condition, so if you don't/can't fish twilight hours, or if you want to spend a whole day fishing and not just catch catfish, here are some pointers I can give you:
1) Bait: Don't use dead shrimp. Whether you catch it in a cast net or a trap, or buy it from the bait shop, use live fish for bait. Finger or pinky mullet, mud minnows, pigfish, croaker, pinfish, mojarra, whitebait (any of the things people call menhaden, pogy, greenbacks, herring, etc., that all kind of look alike) - all these will catch the vast majority of gamefish and will only rarely attract catfish. Other good baits are fiddler crabs and sand fleas - also usually easy to catch by hand or available at the bait shops. They will limit your target species - sheepshead, drum, reds, black sea bass, pompano, whiting, etc. - but will rarely if ever tempt a cat.
2) Keep your bait moving: Even a big, lively live shrimp hooked through the horn can usually out-swim and out-maneuver a sea cat if the shrimp isn't anchored to the bottom. When I flats fish with live shrimp and bobbers, I usually know when a sea cat is trying to get the bait because the shrimp will jump out of the water. They usually evade it long enough for me to reel in and re-cast. Whatever bait you are using, if you drift it, free-line it or just keep it dragging with steady and very slow retrieve, you will keep most of the cats away.
2) Artificials: If you want to cut way down on your catfish strikes and other undesirable species, throw hardware. Soft-bodied jigs, spoons, plugs, spinners, sea hawks/gotcha's, surface lures (which are usually only good in low light conditions, but I've caught flounder on surface plugs in mid-day direct sunlight, so anything's possible), etc. You might still catch some cats - but most of them will be the gafftopsail cats, which are hard hitters, good fighters and good table fare.
**Note: If you are going to use lures, it is imperative that you fish them correctly! So often I see people complain about lures not working, but they are fishing them like dead shrimp anchored on the bottom. If you are not used to using artificials and are not sure how to fish them, just Google "How do I use ___ lure?" and you'll get all the info you need from internet threads to manufacturers' directions.
3) Mind the structure: Game fish - even pelagics - orient to structure. Catfish not so much. You want more gamefish and fewer cats, fish near the jetties, pilings, sea walls, beach cuts, potholes in grass beds, shell beds, you name it. Stay away from muddy bottoms or sandy bottoms without much structure around. That's the sea cat's primary forage spot. The only other fish that this will exclude is flounder, but you will find way more of them near hard structure than in the mud. Sea cats also eat crustaceans, grasses and microorganisms, so they will also be found around certain structure. And as others have said: do your due diligence here. Buy a book or get on the internet and fins out the structure that attracts the gamefish you are targeting. Fish on that structure.
4) Mind your terminal tackle: Don't use wire leaders. Don't use pre-ties leader kits with beads or other showy buzzers and whistles. Some folks swear by the for certain species like pomps, but it's been my experience that they spook more gamefish than they ever attract. But nothing will spook a sea cat, so the bulkier and uglier your terminal tackle, the more cats you will catch. Go as simply as you can, and always use fluoro or mono leaders. You'll lose some fish, but with wire, you're not going to catch any to lose.
5) Stay away from the places where you catch the most catfish. Unless you switch your bait and tactics and don't catch them anymore.
Again, I'll stress: due diligence. Many times people will avoid giving advice to beginners by saying, "The best teacher is time on the water"....well, that's very true but its usually just code for "I don't want to help you." My point is that I never even go on the water and start that education before first researching the heck out of it online. Google and Google Earth is all anyone needs to put themselves in the right place at the right time, using the right bait for any gamefish they want.
.....once you get there, catching them is another matter - that's where the time on the water being the best teacher stuff really kicks in.
Not only do you save money but you get the local knowledge and experience in your boat.