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Fishing | Tips for redfish first-timers

By CAPT. GEORGE TUNISON - Fishing | Oct 13, 2023

Capt. George Tunison

First time redfishing on your own on local waters? Have lots of questions like where do I go, how do I catch one, do I need a boat, and do they taste good? Starting off you’re here at the right time as fall is schooling time in Southwest Florida as fish up to 10 pounds and sometimes more gather in small groups or in large schools numbering over a hundred fish that move across the shallows eating just about anything that moves in front of them. Certainly a bad time to be a shrimp, small crab or fish, but a great time to be an angler as these fish are very competitive and ready to play.

Where are they? Like any fish, where the food is and these guys are heavy eaters. On lower tides they will hunt the shallows and oyster bars then move in under cover during high water allowing them access to a smorgasbord of small fish and crabby delights that can’t escape their keen noses, sharp eyesight, and big appetites.

The ways to catch reds could fill several pages so let’s look at a handful of time proven tactics starting with the basics. Pick a live bottomed open flat, anchor the boat at both ends, toss out a bottom bait at all four points of the compass, sit back, turn on the game, and wait while the redfish’s nose does all the work.

Typically local red anglers and guides beat the bushes by anchoring then casting dead baits to mangrove edges, waiting 10-15 minutes then moving on to the next spot. When playing this game keep a close eye on your line as the redfish sneaks out, inhales your bait, then runs 10 feet back under the unforgiving branches already thinking about his next meal all in the blink of an eye which usually means a gut hooked and then broken off fish. Give yourself and the fish some visual help by casting to the edges using a small float about 12″ above the baited bottom hook and pay attention while talking. Always use circle hooks to help release fish.

Casters enjoy pitching and flipping live shrimp into mangrove nook and cranny’s for explosive reaction strikes from big fish. Bass anglers can enjoy the same pitching action with a huge variety of soft plastics like DOA Shrimp while fly casters probe these same small mangrove pockets with accurate casts. When they are far back under the woodwork mastering skip casting will put your soft plastic or even dead shrimp into shady hot spots other anglers dare not cast to.

Open water schooling reds being quite competitive will gladly take a top water plug, fly, spoon, live or dead bait. Presenting the perfect cast to a tailing or heads down tails up feeding redfish in the shallows keeps serious anglers coming back season after season.

For pitching large live shrimp I use a 1/0 Owner MUTU Light Circle hook and an Owner 2/0-3/0 MUTU Light Circle for ladyfish or mackerels chunks. Using a weed guarded hook for pitching your live shrimp will make your day easier.

No boat? Pick a sandy shoreline, get low in the water and access promising targets as you slowly and quietly move down the shoreline.

Time flies so enjoy reds while they’re here, on the hook and on the table. Taste good? Yes! But you can only keep one a day for dinner from 18 to 27 inches with two per vessel per day.

The FWC Redfish Management Plan consists of nine zones throughout the state with Cape Coral, Matlacha, and Pine Island, located in the Charlotte Harbor Zone.

Another red snapper weekend coming up if the weather works out while closer in a variety of snapper’s, grunts, and groupers, keeps the rest of the fleet fed and happy.

Tarpon still hanging around and big snook are looking for your twitched XL MirrOdine.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or via email at captgeorget3@aol.com.