They took Tom’s small backwater skiff and first accessed some backwater holes to net a bucket of mud minnows. These, coupled with the a few finger mullet were the bait of the day. Mud minnows are relatively easy to catch if you have a small cast net, the tide is about half down, and you know where some pools of water have stranded these baitfish. Just a few casts with a four foot net into one of these small pools has enough bait to last all day.
With their bait, they headed for the private boat docks that line the shore of the St Augustine inlet. There is a good size trolling motor on Tom’s boat. That trolling motor is not a necessity, but it does help move from dock to dock as the very swift tidal current runs out. An outgoing tide brings the flounder to the docks to lie on the bottom waiting for a passing meal.
And as they “presented” that passing meal, the flounder cooperated. Not only did the flounder cooperate, but at one point a school of small redfish came through and for a while they caught small reds one after another.
Dock fishing on an outgoing tide is like that, flounder will be under and around the docks – or other structures that break the current for that matter – and other schooling fish will come through with the tide as the redfish did.
This is not a kind of fishing that is limited to St Augustine. From Texas all the way around the Gulf and up the Atlantic coastal states, dock fishing is easy and is overlooked by many anglers. And, the bait does not have to be mud minnows. Live shrimp, finger mullet, and even cut bait fill the gap as far as natural baits go. Artificials include jigs with grub tails, tails that some anglers call screw tails (swimming tails), and plastic imitation baits like shrimp or crabs. All these baits can take fish; it’s just a matter of finding out what the fish want on a particular day.
As for James and Tom, the total count was nine flounder, and James caught the two biggest all by himself! As Tom described it, James was begging and pleading for help or for dad to take the rod. But Tom’s coaching and encouragement – and downright refusal to take the rod – allowed James to now have bragging rights to the two biggest fish he has ever caught. And he caught them “all by myself!”