Redfish Tactics

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Great and Productive 

By Submitted by Greg Hutchins   Photo by Neil Taylor, Strike Three Kayak Fishing

Huge herds of chunky redfish have now begun to appear in our shallow waters. They are fun to catch, but can be spooky and quite a challenge. We present here a few tips to aid in your quest for big reds.

WHEN TO STRIKE BACK: The surging wake made by a broad-shouldered redfish as he charges a fly (or other bait) in foot-deep water is bound to set your blood aboiling. Your tendency will be to set the hook hard as soon as the bait disappears from sight. Bad move! Patience doesn’t come easy in such a situation, but if you can control yourself for a second or two, your hookup percentage will soar. Wait until you feel a tug before hitting back. Used to feeding on crabs, a redfish automatically proceeds to toss his perceived dinner to his throat, where his crushing pharyngeal teeth can go to work on it. Strike instantly, and you run the risk of pulling the hook, or setting it too lightly in the edge of a lip. By delaying your strike, you almost always will set the hook solidly–usually in tough tissue at the corner of the mouth.

WATCH FOR THE “HUMPS”: When an angler or guide announces–usually in a loud and excited tone–that he sees a school of redfish “humping,” he is not just talking naughty. What he sees is a school of redfish moving in shallow water–each sending up its own wake that blends with all the others to form what appears to be–at a distance–a small tidal wave.

If you fish an area where a long stretch of flats lies parallel to deeper water, you can run the edge with your outboard motor and look for disturbances on the flat that might mean fish. A big, moving hump of water will not only mean fish, but lots of them and probably big ones. Your next move is to get well ahead of the traveling hump, shut off the outboard motor and pick up the fly rod or pushpole–according to your particular role in the operation.

SPOOKY IS AS SPOOKY DOES: Relative to the preceding paragraph, some anglers actually run their boats at the edge of the flats for long distances, hoping to spook a school of reds into humping visibly as they flee. Unlike bonefish, which endeavor to set a new marathon record every time you scare them, redfish normally lose their fear after a relatively short flight and can be fished again. They may be more skittery this time, but they can often be coaxed into striking.

This knowledge will stand you in good stead in many scenarios. For instance, if you start seeing puffs of mud from spooking fish while poling, or even slowly motoring, along a 2- to 3-foot-deep flat or shoreline, you needn’t figure that all is lost. Ease carefully away in a wide circle and approach the area again. Likely as not, the fish will have settled down and you’ll find them in the exact same territory, or not too far away.