Redfishing 101

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 By Capt. Mike Locklear

Here’s what works for me when I go redfishing:

First of all you need me to guide you for the best results. Otherwise read on. First, a couple of brief tips concerning reels and fishing lines are worth mentioning. The reels I use have super smooth drags and do not stick when fighting a big bull red. I prefer Shimano or Daiwa SS 1600 open-faced spinning reels with front controlled drags. The model I am using now is the Shimano Spheros 3000FA or Shimano Stradic 2500-FH.

Now I am testing some Okuma FH S30 spinning reels and they are proving to be more than worth their money with 7 ball bearings and a good enough drag.

The type of fishing line I like the best is Power Pro in either 8 or 10 pound test. These diameters are smaller than regular monofilament and thus cast almost twice as far. My old stand-by is Ande Backcountry Blue in 8-10 pound test. Also Berkley Trilene Big Game in the 10 pound test in a color called Solar. The fish don’t mind the bright green color and the advantage is you can see the line easily to prevent getting tangled up with your fellow angler while having multiple hook-ups.

Another tip to keep your line straight is, if you are using spinning reels before each trip, let out about half of your fishing line while idling and drag it behind the boat with nothing attached for about five minutes. This will usually untwist your line. I always use swivels when I spoon fish to keep line twist to a minimum.
Feed them: Cast a shrimp out, sit and wait...
I either use large live shrimp or pinfish about 3 inches is prime size under a Cajun Thunder Oval shaped popping cork with about 24 inches of 20-30 lb. clear monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. Sometimes I have to either decrease or increase the length of the leader depending on the depth. I tie 1/0, 2/0, or 3/0 # 89 Eagle Claw plain shank hooks depending on the size of the bait. Just above the hook about 10 inches I crimp either a #4 or #5 removable split shot. When the conditions are calm or if there is little or no current I use no lead or corks. Hence the term “freeline”. That is when you use just a hook and a leader without any terminal tackle. This technique works best when you are sure of where the fish are and they are kind of spooky. Sometimes I will put a fresh piece of ladyfish or mullet about 2 inches wide from a cut of filet.

The best time to catch redfish around Homosassa is during income tide from about half made to flood. The last hour of incoming is the magic hour for me. The best time of month is four days before or after the full or new moons in August or September. These times produce the highest tides and largest sizes for our coastal redfish. June is a good month but the sizes are down a bit on average. Although mighty hot in August, so is the fishing with catches over 30 bull reds common.

How you catch redfish is by anchoring well away from a well chosen outermost point with plenty of current running parallel to the shoreline of any mangrove studded island. This will insure you that the redfish will not be spooked. Cast towards the point and let the “cork rig” drift in towards the point of the island. You must let the live bait drift in with the tide by continually hand feeding line off the reel. This free drifting technique will produce fish for you. I can not over emphasize the point of letting the “cork rig” drift to cover ground and find the fish for you. If results are not produced within 15-30 minutes, I recommend you move to the next point as it would appear that no one was home at that spot.

Redfish loves Gold spoons. The two spoons of choice are the Johnson Silver Minnow both in 1/4 to 1/2 half ounce sizes. You can use the 1/4 ounce size for lighter tackle in the 4-8 pound test line. I use mostly 10 pound test line and cast half ounce spoons for all my red fishing trips. To catch redfish on spoons, a few tricks will produce an easy limit with little effort.

Try fishing the same tidal conditions as mentioned above. A drifting technique by casting towards or parallel to the shore when possible with a medium to fast retrieve during the early incoming stages of the tide. After the tide is up and nearly high you can slow your retrieve down a bit. The trick is to not getting hung on the rock bottom is this; before your spoon hits the water, close your bail by hand or engage your handle to take slack line out caused by wind or a high cast. If you start reeling a second or two before the spoon hits the water their will be no slack line and you will rarely hang up on the rocks. Gold color spoons are the best and great for bright sun. Try using silver on cloudy days and black if it is early or late in the day.

For the fittest fish, press the barb down with a pair of pliers. Unlike speckled trout, redfish have a tough skin inside their mouth and I rarely lose one because of a pressed barb. To end this redfish segment, the best release is the one that you don’t touch with your hands or net. This can be done by using a pair of long needle-nose pliers at boat side.

Good luck and good fishing,

Capt. Mike Locklear