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Stealth is top priority for redfish

October 13, 2012
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

These past weeks the redfish pattern has remained the same.

Be on your favorite redfish flat before the sun rises. Remain QUIET and watch for schooling activity. When you see tails or nervous water indicating a school try and get to the fish as quietly and quickly as possible. Figure out which way they are moving, then set a course to intercept them without spooking the whole school and blowing them off the flat.

In skinny water this is always best accomplished with a push pole. Wind drifting is obviously the best method, but usually there is no time. Trolling motors work, but more often than not I'm in water so thin it's impossible to even deploy the troller.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Second choice is to stake the boat and wade if the bottom permits it. It's all about blending with the environment and keeping quiet. Sometimes reds feed heavily driven by hunger and competition and you can get away with some noise, but more often then not they are skittish and all it takes is one heavy footstep or someone banging a deck lid to spook them.

During the cold water period, featuring crystal clear water, our reds sometimes get as spooky as the bonefish in front of Bud and Mary's in Islamorada (the Keys). After poling for a long distance to get in position there is no greater disappointment then to see your school of fish shoot away at high speed to parts unknown.

Remember, fish in thin water are naturally spooked. Sharks and dolphins patrol the edges of flats and up on the flat if there is enough water. Eagles and hawks mean death from above so skinny water fish are always on alert. Newcomers to flats fishing are often amazed to see dolphins leaving mud trails in ultra thin water chasing mullet, trout and reds.

After sun-up on the higher tides, the reds will shelter under the mangrove edges when they leave the flats and continue to feed or simply choose to disappear into deeper water. If you are fishing a lower tide and the flats and mangrove areas are dry, move to the potholes in two to four feet or again the drops and deeper edges adjacent to the flat or bar.

This time of year I like redfishing on an incoming tide at dawn. If you can, consult your tide chart and plan your red trips accordingly.

Typically, your school red will be between 4 and 10 pounds with much larger fish mixed in like the 21-pound truck caught earlier this week by Oscar Pittman (surface plug). I spotted a small school of reds and alerted Mr. P. He casted to this school and while working the plug, from the opposite direction a large lone torpedo-shaped wake appeared, rocketed across the flat missing his plug, turned and inhaled it. Quite a sight in 15 inches of water. The tail was broom sized on this beautiful, completely spotless jumbo red. Congrats!

This big guy was typically a little far inshore from the passes. Most bigger reds stay in deeper water. If you want to bag a big bull red this fall, fish the passes on the bottom, near structure. Put in your time and a bull red of 30 to 50 pounds or more might just stretch your string.

If you want a world record, fish offshore in North Carolina - home of the biggest reds in the USA.

Capt. Roy Bennett of HotOneII Charters and friend Ken Jaros loaded up on baits at the Belton/Johnson reef and started grouper fishing offshore at 9 a.m. By 10:45 they had 11 keeper red grouper to 26 inches and threw three of them back to have their limit.

They fished in 85 to 90 feet of water on a beautiful day. On the way back in they saw acres of Spanish mackerel in 60 to 70 feet of water, but no kingfish.

Check out this unusual redfish.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or



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