Capt. Brian Sanders, who fishes the Ten Thousand Islands in Everglades National Park out of Chokoloskee Island, Florida, uses live finger mullet, pilchards, threadfin herring and shrimp. He catches the baitfish with a cast net and buys the shrimp.
“The oyster bars in Chokoloskee serve a big purpose,” Sanders says. “They harbor a lot of crabs, shrimp and small baitfish. Raccoons eat the crabs and shrimp at low tide, and as the tide rises, fish come in to eat them too.
“I’ve seen redfish bellies that are packed full of small little crabs. It almost seems like the redfish use the oyster bars to eat the crabs.”
Sanders positions his bay boat in front of oyster bars over dark bottoms with turtle grass. He says redfish, snook, sharks and jack crevalles cruise over that bottom, and his customers also catch reds and seatrout on top of the bars where they’re mixed in with mullet.
Oyster bars also attract black drum, sheepshead, ladyfish and mangrove snapper, which will all eat a live baitfish and a live shrimp.
“The colder months, when there’s not a lot of live bait around, fish a shrimp under a float on a higher tide on top of a bar, and on the edges of the bar when the tide is lower,” Sanders says.
Todd says Apalachicola Bay features a shrimp hatch in spring, so from that time into early summer, he fishes live
shrimp under a popping cork. In June, July and August, he switches to small menhaden or cut menhaden for trout; he goes back to shrimp in fall during the white shrimp hatch.