Find The Habitat First (3 of 21)
In saltwater shallow areas predator fish like bonefish, redfish, and stripers will congregate to search for prey, but like in a freshwater lake, not all shallow water areas hold fish. What's critical to locating fish, is finding the right structure or habitat that the prey prefers. Shallow water holds much more of the important food sources, such as crabs, shrimp, and bait fish, than deep water. This is what draws the game fish we seek.
Additionally, some species of game fish come in to the shallows to escape larger predators, such as sharks. Anything that juts into the water and provides a haven for prey, like bait fish or crabs, is a likely place. First, let's talk about habitat and structure. We need to find places where there's a lot of prey, and it's easier for the predators to get at it.
Jetties, rocky shorelines, and even docks can be places to find saltwater fish. And even a seemingly monotonous and barren beach can be read like a trout stream. There are clues that indicate fish holding structure, both on land and in the water. On beaches, look for points, sand bars, or little bays where bigger fish can pen in bait fish. In an otherwise featureless shoreline, that's at least a good place to start. Of course you always look first for fish feeding on bait fish near the surface. But you don't always see that.
In places we call "flats", or large expanses of shallow water, first look for signs that fish have been feeding. Bonefish leave depressions in the mud or sand when they root for crabs and shrimp, and because the layer underneath oxidizes really quickly from dark to light, the darker the marks, the more recently bonefish have been in the area. Also look for patches of weeds or depressions on the flats that hold crabs, shrimp, and bait fish. Mangroves always hide food for bonefish, tarpon, barracuda, sharks, and redfish, so always search out places with lots of mangroves in the tropics, or at least patches of them.