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Fall’s a good time to catch bull redfish

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Sep 17, 2021

Capt. George Tunison with one of the big redfish he has caught in local waters. PHOTO PROVIDED

If catching a huge bull redfish is high up on your bucket list this fall, then pick your location and start casting. I’m not talking 10, 20 or even 30-pound drum, but those hitting the 50-pound mark or larger. Fall is redfish time from Texas to Florida and also northwards, far up the east coast.

Locally, schools of 5 to 10-pound reds will gang up on food items across flats in Matlacha Pass and Pine Island Sound, as well as both sides of Charlotte Harbor, which will continue into November. Occasionally bigger fish wander inshore to work the local flats like a 22 pounder I caught and released in front of Burnt Store Marina a few years back, in water not too much more than ankle deep.

If catching that big drum locally is your only choice, fishing in and around our passes rather than on local flats might be the best choice. Occasionally, our offshore fleet sees huge schools of big bull reds on the surface when heading offshore, but not too often.

Although the Florida state record fish is over 52 pounds, we typically don’t catch the really big bulls here and, even though we aren’t seeing the huge schools of smaller reds that once patrolled our fall flats like in the early 2000s, we still have plenty of fall fish that provide good sight fishing opportunities, as well as epic mangrove edge battles.

If you have the time to travel, consider moving your search westward to the famous marsh, bay and oil rig fishery to what most consider the redfish capitol of the world, hurricane battered Louisiana.

Here your next cast could hook a 5-pound fish, the next cast a 45-pound brute, the different sized fish all mixed together back in the shallow marshes. If you can’t find your jumbo red back there, then move out to the coastal bays and river mouths. Others anglers fishing the near and offshore oil and gas rigs for tuna, cobia and grouper often hook a huge Cajun bull red as well.

For sheer numbers of reds and big bulls, a trip to Louisiana is hard to beat. Add in the great offshore fishing, duck hunting, the food and hospitality, it’s easy to see why they call this destination an outdoor sportsman’s paradise.

After your visit to the home of delicious blackened Cajun redfish, return to Florida and then head north to the Space Coast and N. Indian River Lagoon where a sight-fished 50 pounder is a real possibility in the shallow waters. This is also the home of Florida’s biggest seatrout, many over 30 inches and 15 pounds or more, like the current Florida and all tackle world record gator trout of 17 pounds and 7 ounces. A trip to the area wouldn’t be complete without sampling the world class tripletail fishing where an over 30 pounder is a real possibility around the cruise ship channel buoys, not far from shore.

If you didn’t get your 50-pound bull red on your North Florida or New Orleans trip then continue travelling north to the home of the all-time, world record redfish, North Carolina. This 94-pound, 2-ounce fish was caught in 1984 bottom fishing with mullet.

Fall is prime time to be on North Carolina’s 1.5 million acre Pamlico Sound or the Neuse River, where monster red drum gather each fall.

Back here in Southwest Florida, shallow water reds fall to top-water plugs, soft plastics, fly rod fare and what I consider the best skinny water redfish lure ever made, the gold spoon. In North Carolina and Louisiana, anglers are big on large, noisy, popping corks with plastic jigs, dangling below them.

Try a bass-style spinnerbait this fall which is a lure not often used in our area, but produces violent strikes from shallow minded, fall redfish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.