Fishing for Redfish is an exciting and challenging sport. There are many ways to fish for Redfish, and none of them are wrong. I will give you just a few ways that work, and put you on the right track to becoming a successful Redfish fisherman.
Redfish are primarily bottom feeders. They look in the grasses and mud for shrimp, crabs, and small baitfish. The structure of their head shows that it is easier for them to look down and feed off of the bottom, as opposed to a Snook or Tarpon who spend more time looking up and have a mouth better suited for ambushing bait from underneath.
Redfish tailing is something that gets most anglers hearts racing. This is when Redfish are feeding in the sand and grass flats in shallow water, and they expose the tip, if not all of, their tail fin. The Redfish are poking around the sandy bottom looking for a shrimp to pop up out of the grass or a crab to reveal itself. This is an exciting time for an angler, because we now know that they are there and hungry.
Smell and sound are the things to focus on when fishing for Redfish. The first thing to remember about Redfish is to be aware of is that they have very keen hearing. Do not get too close or you will spook the Redfish. Their eyesight is not that great, but they can hear very well.
Be careful how you present the bait to Redfish, and make it seem natural. Long casts to the fish work best, and baits that do not make a lot of noise when hitting the water are also a plus. Try to put your bait a few feet in front of the fish and not on top of them where it would in most cases scare the fish. Allow the bait to sink to the bottom, and give little twitches to get it to come off bottom to show itself. When using live bait like shrimp, let the bait do the work. Again, you can give a little pull to expose the bait for a second, but then let it go back to the bottom. Lures such as jigs and soft baits also work great this way, but you need to make the movement of the bait. Being patient is very important – Always let the fish come to the bait.
High tides you will find Redfish up in little creeks under mangroves and on the edges of saw grass and banks. At this time they are going to the places that the baitfish will be looking for safety. Again, an assortment of baits can work, but finding what the Redfish are eating is best. Casting up under structure like mangroves is a challenge and takes some practice.
Learn to skip your bait. This will get your bait or lure up under the structure to where the fish are. Skipping bait is similar to skipping a rock on the surface of the water. Combine that with an almost gulfing movement of your fishing rod about 2 feet off the water and a quick hard snap of the rod and your bait will skip across the water and under the structure.
Now, getting the fish back out from under structure can be a problem. If you are using lures, use weedless ones if possible and stay away from anything with treble hooks. Baits such as shrimp may not be that easy to skip, but sardines and pinfish skip nicely. In small creeks and edges of saw grass or along banks try to keep some distance, and work all the way up against the shore. This is where the Redfish are typically looking for food.
When you are not able to get under structure to the fish, you can use sound to attract Redfish. Popper corks used with live bait or even soft bait and jigs can bring interested fish out from the cover. The sound that a popper cork produces is similar to bait being attacked by a predator. This makes other fish like Redfish come looking to see if there is an easy meal.
Cast your bait close to the edge of the mangroves or structure where you believe the fish are located. Then with the line snug, give a quick snap of the wrist to make the popper cork pop. Let it sit for about 30 seconds and then repeat. This is also a great way to attract Redfish to your bait when you are fishing open flats.
Redfish also have a very strong sense of smell, so this is another thing to focus on when fishing for Redfish. There are many fish scents on the market now and most do a good job in attracting fish. Use scented baits or use scent products applied to lures to help get the fish to commit to the bite. Even hard baits like top water plugs work better with some scent added to them. Live bait has their own scent, so we do not need to do anything with them, however, chumming an area will help to bring more fish in and create a feeding frenzy. Baitfish such as sardines make great chum. Ballyhoo is another highly scented fish, which put off a great scent and are a great bait for Redfish if you cut them into chunks.
Gold spoons have always been a great way to catch Redfish. Something about the flash and the vibration of these lures provokes an attack from Redfish. Cast these lures anywhere that there is enough water for it to move properly and you think Redfish are located. I prefer to use weedless spoons, since I normally would be casting this lure in grass flats. You can work a lot of area in a short time and help to find out where the Reds are hiding.
Contrary to popular belief, topwater plugs can be used to catch Redfish. Over the years I have been told that you cannot catch Redfish on plugs, at least not on a regular basis. This is not true at all. When Redfish are tailing the flats on an early morning, and there is no breeze or even sound yet, you must not throw a noisy top water plug or it will scare them away. However, in deeper water and along waterways that Redfish are cruising, topwater and even suspended plugs can produce some epic fish battles. Just like spoons, you can cover a lot of area and find out quickly where the fish are.
Pound for pound, Redfish are one of the strongest fish you will ever hook into and we need to ensure their longevity. Redfish have earned the respect of many anglers over the years, and I am sure they will also earn yours after you hook into one. With this respect, I hope that you will help in the conservation of them and other fish by following a few simple rules. Use circle hooks when using bait. Keep the Redfish out of the water for as short of a time as possible. Handle the fish properly so that it has a better chance of survival after the catch, and only keep what you plan on eating.
I hope that I have helped to put you on the right track to becoming a successful Redfish angler. Once you get the hang of it, pass on the excitement by taking a child fishing to pass on the fun for future generations!