Although we are blessed with world class fishing year round, the fall months are my favorite.
The cooling weather also brings large schools of redfish to our flats and smiles to thousands of anglers' faces. Our waters support redfishing all year with the toughest fishing occurring during the winter months.
Ultra-low winter tides and gin-clear water require anglers to be on their "A" game. Long casts, light lines, zero boat noise and stealth tactics are required to fool reds that are every bit as spooky as highly pressured Keys bonefish during tourist season.
Capt. George Tunison
Remember if you can see them, they can see you, in these ultra-clear winter waters. Wading is a real plus during these times. Stake out the boat a good distance away and walk in to the island or shoreline that you suspect holds your fish. Getting out of the boat presents a much lower profile and allows an angler to get in much closer without tipping off the reds to your presence.
Another tip is to use a sidearm cast rather than waving your rod overhead, which defeats the whole purpose of the wading presentation. Learning to sidearm cast parallel to the water is the first step in mastering the skip cast. Learning to sidearm skip cast allows you to present to fish that most anglers never get a shot at. Getting way back under docks, limbs, anchored boats is not possible with the traditional overhead cast.
Summer season presentations are not quite as critical due to darker stained waters and higher tides which allow reds to seek food and shelter up and under mangrove shorelines. Skip casting artificial plastics back and under the branches will score reds and snook during these times. Live and dead bait fans will score using the same tactics if the angler can cast under or close to the shoreline branches with his offerings.
A chunk of ladyfish resting on the bottom usually will bring a red running as soon as he gets a whiff of the bait. Ladyfish chunks are redfish caviar. Cast out and sit quietly and let the "stink" work for you. I don't usually sit in one spot for more than 20 minutes if I don't get a hit. Find another likely spot, set up and soak your bait. If you hit enough spots chances are you eventually will find them and multiple hookups are the norm.
Ideally, look for an island or mangrove point with current running around it. If a channel or deeper water is on the point you probably have found a honey hole. When finding a spot like this, and it does not produce on that day, make a mental note and return there another time. Chances are that spot will produce reds, snook, snappers, tarpon, and even winter time inshore grouper for years to come.
Fall fishing for large schools of reds sometimes seems easy as these fish gather in schools of 10 to sometimes hundreds of fish. These fish average 3-6 pounds with lots of bigger guys in the 8-12-pound range and larger, possible. An 18-pound red inhaled my floating Mirr-O-lure last fall just as the sun was rising. This big fish's back was fully out of the shallow water as he grubbed along the bottom looking for breakfast.
Get out early and quietly troll motor, or better yet, pole along the flat edge and watch for nervous water as the school moves and feeds up on the flat. A gold spoon (or almost any lure) cast to the edge of the school usually results in 3-6 reds drag racing to inhale your spoon as feeding competition is high.
The first time a new red angler sees this, the memory will last a life time. Many anglers get buck fever and yank the spoon from the water. Remain calm, keep reeling, and enjoy the sound of a screaming drag.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.