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Make mine mud: special targets for shallow-water casters.

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When a relatively small area of muddy water stands out from its surroundings, odds are something fishy is going on.

A fishable mud might be as big as a parking lot or as small as a tennis ball. It might be a patch, a puff or a long trail. It can be almost white or it can be merely a shade different from its surroundings. Regardless, it generally is worth investigating.

Let's get the least likely mud out of the way first. In some areas, particularly Florida Bay, experienced anglers have learned to pass up large muds that are thick and bright, almost white. Those are muds freshly stirred up by big schools of mullet, and it's unlikely that any trout or other gamefish have had time to respond to them.

A much larger mud that is far less bright is much more demanding of attention. A small portion may appear fresh and white. That's where mullet are rooting around right now. Adjacent to that, look for where the mud has settled, leaving the water visibly silty but not nearly so white. That sort of mud--cloudy, fading out--indicates that the mullet have been working the area for some time, sending clouds of silt trailing away downwind. By now, trout and other fish have likely gathered for a feast of shrimp and whatever other goodies the mullet might be rousing from their hiding places in the soft bottom.

The logical place to begin fishing is just downwind of the brightest portion, where the silt has only lately begun to dissipate. A jig is generally the best lure to present. Color isn't too important but it should be bright so it will stand out in the murk--maybe yellow, or orange or fluorescent.

Sometimes it's the feeding gamefish themselves that make the mud. In this case the mud will always be new, never bright, and noticeable only to the alert eye that keeps on the lookout for just that sign--a puff or patch of slightly more silted water. The drill here, as you should guess, is to toss a lure or bait as quickly as you can right to the spot where you see a bit of mud well up.

On sight-fishing flats anywhere in Florida, anglers are pretty sure to be familiar with the most common of all muds--a long streak left by a stingray as it wings along, feeding. Gamefish follow a ray often enough to make them worth checking out. Redfish, bonefish and jacks all tag along at times, so look carefully for the tip of a fin in the ray's wake, or for a swirl of any sort in the shallow water.

One mud you wouldn't expect to be attractive is the one you make with your pushpole. But don't discount it entirely. Many a guide of angler, upon looking back for some reason, has been surprised to discover a bonefish, redfish of shark following the mud puffs stirred up by his poling.

Offshore Muds

The most spectacular of all "mud fishing" occurs offshore of the central Gulfcoast in fall and spring, when shifting seasons cause shrimp to congregate in huge numbers in 15 or 20 feet of water. It's hit and miss, but if you hear of mudding action through your news pipeline, pack up and get going. Such activity may be sustained within a reasonably searchable area for several days at a time. A single mud can produce hot action on mixed species--good-size silver trout (with maybe a few specks, too), mackerel, bluefish, jacks and an occasional cobia or kingfish. What to use? A shrimp, of course, or any lure that remotely resembles a shrimp.

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Mudding Bones

Bonefish muds fall into two categories: (1) a big, obvious area of mud made by a bunch of small fish, and (2) a series of small puffs that can enable knowledgeable folks to "track down" larger bonefish as they wander and feed across a shallow sight-fishing flat.

Big muds of small bonefish aren't that common around Greater Miami and the Keys, but are the mainstay of many bonefishing operations throughout The Bahamas. In Florida, our bonefish guides look for big fish--sometimes humongous fish--and on many occasions they pole along a trail of scattered mud puffs, each one stirred up by a fish stopping to root for a crab or worm on the soft bottom. By pausing frequently to scan the surroundings for new puffs of mud, the guide can determine the direction being taken, and eventually can work into position for a cast.

By Vic Dunaway, Senior Editor
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Title Annotation:FS SEMINAR: LIGHT TACKLE; mud fishing tips
Author:Dunaway, Vic
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:762
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