No luck catching redfish? Get back to the basics
New to the area and not having any luck catching redfish? Given up on trying to catch one on a lure or a fly? You’ve heard it’s just like bass fishing and you’ve worn out your arm chunking and winding the flats all day and are ready to give up and go home?
Call a guide? Call a friend? You can and I’ll be glad to take your call, book a trip and even be your friend if you bring an extra sandwich!
But first, if you are still determined to do it yourself, here’s an easy method. Leave the overstuffed tackle boxes at home and go back to the basics.
To get a trolling motor lead foot, chunk and wind, two casts a minute lure slinger to slow down, sit down and relax, is often the real chore. If that’s you (that’s definitely me) this sit and wait game will be tough at first. You will get through it.
Rig the rods with a short (24-inch) 30-pound test fluorocarbon (or regular monofilament) leader. Add a 3/8 oz. slip sinker to the leader then tie on a small circle hook. This is called a fish-finder or slip sinker rig which allows the red to pick up the bait without feeling the weight. (Or, simply tie on a 1/4 to 3/8 oz. jig head instead of the weight and hook)
On the way, stop and buy some medium shrimp. If you don’t have a livewell, simply put the shrimp in a small container and put on ice. No container? Then ask the bait dealer to put the shrimp in a bag with no water and keep the bag on ice. The shrimp need not be alive to work well. Cut mullet and ladyfish chunks work as well.
If you plan to fish shorelines, position and anchor the boat a cast away from the shoreline and remain quiet. Cast your baits as far under the mangrove branches (best on a rising tide) as you dare then let the redfish’s nose and insatiable appetite go to work for you.
Give it 20 minutes then move if you have no takers.
Fishing an open flat with bait? Sure! Take Indian Field in Matlacha, a large open flat known to host redfish, here it’s a good idea to chum a little to draw fish to your baits while you sit back and relax.
If you think you might enjoy this sit and wait style fishing, then by all means invest in a bait-bat which looks like a fat toy baseball bat with the big end cut off used to throw bait. Take a few shrimp and cut them up and drop into the bat. With little practice you’ll be able to broadcast bait out over the flat drawing the redfish to your baited hooks lying in the chummed area.
Don’t get carried away with the amount of chum you are offering. The idea is to get the smell in the water and get them interested, coming to you and feeding, not offering a super-sized buffet freebie.
Problem is the bycatch. Expect to catch sharks, snook, cobia, trout (good problem) as well as pesky catfish while you wait for your redfish bite.
Offshore grouper and snapper are waiting for a pinfish or dead bait, and a big kingfish is always a possibility because of the large blue runner swimming off the back of the boat on the dead man’s rod.
On the way offshore, be sure to check those crab floats as its tripletail time.
Check buoys, markers and especially crab floats for this delicious, hard-fighting, high-jumping and oddball of a fish. Often seen floating or swimming on its side but usually found suspended just below a crab float.
If you spot one quietly return and drift a live shrimp back to the float or present a shrimp fly and hold on.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.