Updated on January 24, 2022
Looking out on grassy flats or a shallow bay you might see a small group of people standing in waist-deep water carefully shuffling around and following signs only they can see. While it might look funny these anglers are enjoying a day of wade fishing which is one of the best ways to get in touch with nature. Wading allows you to be immersed in the environment that you’re fishing and become part of it instead of spectating from above.
At its core, wade fishing is a style of fishing where anglers stand in the water, stalk fish, and must be self-sufficient. While Wading may seem like an inefficient way to hit the water, it’s a great way to target fish that you otherwise couldn’t reach. Anglers stalk fish and make targeted casts with conventional or fly fishing gear which requires skill and makes success that much more rewarding. Wade fishing also forces anglers to be self-sufficient and carry all the gear they need to avoid a long trip back to shore or the boat.
Anglers spend a lot of time in the water while wade fishing and a swimsuit can work but waders are the popular choice. Waders keep you dry and protect you from anything in the water that might poke, bite, or sting. The other benefit of waders is that they can hold critical some of the critical equipment you need while fishing. Wade fishing requires more tackle than any pair of waders can hold so a wading pack, fishing vest, or tackle board will carry the bulk of your gear. These tackle holders are made in a variety of shapes and sizes but they are made to hold everything you might need while out on the water. Because the shore or boat is a long trek away you have to carry your pliers, cutters, stringers, tackle, and any other equipment you might need.
Rod holders are useful when you are out in thigh-high water because you can’t just set your rod down. These rod holders look a little different and are usually attached to your belt or pack so you can use both hands when needed. For safety, a wading belt is always a good idea. Wading belts are used to prevent water from filling up your waders if you fall. If water fills your waders it makes it difficult to move and almost impossible for you to be pulled out of the water because of all the extra weight.
On saltwater flats spinning gear or baitcasting is the most common but fly fishing is becoming more popular every year. Wading in freshwater is dominated by fly fishing but there is still a healthy amount of people fishing with conventional gear. While every angler has their preference it’s important to know what works. Spinning gear is hard to beat in saltwater and with a rod length of seven to eight feet, a skilled angler will be able to cast at fish a long way off. Tackling the salt with a seven, eight, or even nine-weight fly rod is perfect for the larger fish and bait but only as long as you have the skills to match.
For bait, it’s hard to go wrong with shrimp on popping corks which can be thrown weightless or with a small weight. There is also a long list of artificial lures that have proven to be successful including poppers, spoons, jigs, and flies. Make sure to use an appropriate wire leader if you are targeting toothy fish like mackerel or bluefish. Packing a landing net is also important because handling fish with sharp teeth, fins, and gill plates can be dangerous especially when you are so far from shore.
For starters, shuffling along the bottom is the safest and best way to wade through saltwater and avoid stepping on things that could hurt you like a stingray. Being in the water allows you to get a better feel for what’s going on in the environment and learn how fish react. This has a learning curve and comes with time but just remember fish are sensitive to vibrations so move slow. Slide one foot forward and gently move forward while trying to avoid sending out ripples that might alert the fish that you are there.
Wading is a completely different experience compared to fishing from land or a boat. It allows anglers to be intimately involved with the behavior and environment of the fish they share water with. The feeling of being immersed with the fish is something you can't get without getting your feet wet, literally. This goes both ways though because fish are very aware of their environment and getting a jump on them can be difficult. Drifting across a shallow bay in a boat allows you to cover much more water in a lot less time than shuffling across the bottom while wade fishing. The upside to this is that you can pinpoint and accurately target the fish that are in the area. One way of fishing is not going to be more effective than the other it just depends on how you want to fish.
If you are after redfish or speckled sea trout there is no better place to be than Baffin Bay down on the Texas Coast. It’s widely known for having excellent fishing for both species throughout the year and at the right time of year, being home to some truly huge fish. The water is full of various types of cover which holds bait and creates the perfect spot for these fish to set up an ambush.
One of the top bucket list spots for anglers who love wading is the Flats around the Florida Keys which hold the coveted bonefish. These flats are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world and are a true angler’s paradise. The combination of prime fishing and perfect weather makes it a world-renowned fishing destination.
There are so many other places with great opportunities to go wading. Any spot that has shallow and or clear water is a good candidate and likely has a guide running trips. If you want to give wade fishing a try check out our wading trips and find out what it’s all about.