I have to admit it. I love fishing. As long as my rod is bent and the drag is singing I’m a happy man. I’ve found this to be true for a lot of anglers and that’s what brought me to this topic… ‘Trash fishing.’
Seriously. A lot of articles have been written about how to catch tarpon, snook, redfish and sea trout but I can’t seem to find a thing on the art of landing what we southwest Floridians call the trashcan slam made up of ladyfish, crevalle jacks and catfish. So I thought I’d take it upon myself to enlighten readers with what I’ve learned about the big three of trash fishing.
I’m really not sure how the crevalle jack got on the list. Perhaps because it has little or no food value. But it makes up for that shortcoming with more fight, pound for pound, than most redfish I’ve hooked. They’ll readily eat just about any live or artificial bait and they don’t give up even when lifted out of the water. The jack attack is, without a doubt, one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced while fishing. Imagine a school of about fifty fish cruising at about fifteen mph, hell bent on eating everything in their path. It’s a ton of fun to throw whatever you can in front of this moving bus. And that’s what it feels like when your offering gets taken. You’ll swear you hooked a bus! Any jack over 5 pounds is worth the price of admission. They’ll blast off for the mangroves and then 3 seconds later light the afterburners and head for open water. They move so fast I’ve seen anglers looking the wrong way for the fish and then ZING the line comes tight and the tip of the rod breaks off. Now that’s fishing!
Two of the best places in our local area to target big jacks is the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River and the north end of Estero Bay. For some reason these two places seem to always hold the biggest fish. In Estero Bay they school more closely together then in the river but both areas are target rich environments. The easiest way to find them is to throw a few handfuls of live shiners in the water and watch for explosions, or you can simply blind cast a lure that looks like a bait fish. Always keep your eyes open for birds. The terns and gulls will usually hang right over a school of jacks hoping to pick off whatever leftovers the jacks leave behind.
Ladyfish are fun. Really! When the going gets tough and you can’t seem to buy a bite from any other species, there are almost always ladyfish to rescue the fishing trip. They are nicknamed the ‘Poor Man’s Tarpon’ for a reason. They jump and somersault when caught and most of the time they throw the hook before they can be landed. But don’t worry. Just as soon as your dislodged lure lands back in the water there is another ladyfish waiting to attack it. They usually school up by the hundreds and they are relentless in their pursuit of your offering. It’s not all that unusual to catch two at a time on a lure.
Ladyfish schools move around quite a bit depending on weather and tides but the one place they seem to stay near is the grass flats out in front of St. James City on Pine Island. Once again, look for the birds. Ladyfish create quite a ruckus when feeding and they leave lots of leftovers behind for the birds to pick up. They’ll hit just about any type of artificial lure that looks fishy but make sure you move it quickly. They love a quick retrieve.
Catfish. Seriously? Why on earth would I give you tips for catching the taboo saltwater catfish? No one I know that saltwater fishes wants to find one on the end of their line. But you have to have it to complete the slam.
This one is easy. Simply soak a live or cut bait on the bottom of almost any deep water cut and you should be rewarded with the final piece of the trashcan slam puzzle. Release it quickly and don’t tell anyone it happened.