The time is now!! The redfish schools have invaded the bay, and the bite has been as hot as the weather. Those that have fished with me, or are familiar with me, know that I am an admitted addict of the flats and spend a lot of time on them; with that said, now is a time of year that I love! The redfish are pre-spawn, loving to eat, and loaded throughout the bayside flats. I have been fishing 5 to 6 different schools in the bay and the bite has been rock solid.
The schools and the fish vary in size from slot fish, to schools of big overslot breeder fish. Daily what they are liking to eat is varying from live bait to cut bait, and it is just trial and error until you figure it out any given day. Here is a shot of a fellow Online Fisherman forum member Lance who hired me to get him out when his family was in town. We must have caught over 50 redfish within a couple of hours, and had quadruple hookups like this one left and right! We were using live whitebait on Medium action Hurricane Redbone rods, outfitted with Penn Spinfisher V 3500’s with 15 lb braid, and 20 lb leader and a 1/0 circle hook.
As well given the right circumstances you can see these redfish schools tailing, which in itself is a sight to be seen, regardless of catching them. They have to be in a pretty content state, not spooked and wanting to stick their heads in the ground to eat. I took out a local photographer, Sam Root, and he was able to capture some awesome shots on our trip that day. Here is a pic above of the action! We caught a few fish as well, but just watching these beautiful fish and taking photos of them was the main mission… and is a test of patience for anyone looking to see how long they can go not casting into that mess of fish!
The snook bite is starting to pick up as they are returning from spawn and settling into their transitional locations before the winter. We are getting a lot of the smaller males of course as they tend to be more aggressive. The larger breeding fish are mixed in, and with a little luck we have put some of these beauties to the boat. Remember to keep the line tight on these fish, but not to hoarse them as that is one of the common mistakes I see. Too much pressure on these fish will often cause a fast break of that leader on the razor sharp gill plates of the snook. Most of the fish have been blowing up on live bait in areas with good tidal movement. Mangrove points are the places I concentrate the most when snook fishing. On the high tides they are in tight in the mangroves, and I mean really tight. It is hard to get to them, but if you skip one back into the bushes they will definitely eat it!
Here is a happy customer with a big ole snook caught on the same gear as above. Doesn’t help a 37 1/2″ snook look big when your customer is a high school kid, Zack, who is a 230 lb. linebacker who is only a junior and will more than likely be playing Division 1 football very soon! He and his dad Mike joined me visiting from South Dakota and got some great fish and had a lot of fun.
The snapper bite remains pretty strong as well. It has slowed a little, but plenty of them are out there for the taking. These are my favorite fish as far as eating, and are wonderful to fill the cooler with. We have been using small baits, on small hooks with appropriate weight to drift your bait into the strike zone. Usually just a split shot will do. These little guys are quick and have great eye sight, so keeping a keen sense of feel is important, as well as trying to hide that hook the best you can!
Last pic is a shot of some overslot tailing fish with a couple of my best customers, Eddie and his girlfriend Sara, who doubled up near sundown on some real beauties!
Move slow on those trolling motors, keep a close eye on the activity, and be patient…all the above will pay off as you get the chance to tangle with fish of a lifetime on our wonderful estuary of Tampa Bay!
Captain Greg Doherty