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Chasing redfish in shallow water

September 27, 2018
By GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Thousands of Southwest Florida anglers welcome October's shallow water redfish as well as the sight fishing opportunities this transitional month brings.

Everything's a trade off as our migratory tarpon end their season and once again journey southward for a Miami Christmas and are hopefully replaced by hordes of juvenile and sub-adult redfish looking to school up and chow down on our miles of flats.

Typic-ally the waters start to clear from the dark tannin-stained fish hiding brown that summer's rain brings to an often Keys clear view by December making it prime time for flats hunting or sight-fishing.

Hopefully our continuing water woes won't put a damper on some of the best inshore fun of the year.

New to the shallows game? Here are some basics. Learning to be quiet in a boat is rule one. Learn how to move around your boat quietly without making noise or rocking the boat. Sound a bit obsessive? It's not.

Pressure waves from a rocking hull, especially in very shallow water, are felt by wise fish, sending your trophy away from you or even making whole schools disappear.

An uncluttered boat goes a long way in helping you to remain on your stealth game as well as soft shoes and a quiet partner.

Boats: Obviously this game requires a shallow draft skiff so drop by your dealer for a hi-tech, $35,000 16-foot skiff that's guaranteed to float in 4 inches of water. If you're like most of us, "that ain't happinin' this year," which doesn't mean you're out of the game; you just need to get shallow.

A flat-bottomed aluminum Jon-boat with a 5 hp motor, a cheap pole, a cooler to stand on while you pole the boat and if you've got the extra bucks, add a trolling motor and battery to cover longer distances before needing to pole again.

Step up to fiberglass with a Carolina Skiff or other economical flat-bottom shallow running craft.

Kayak angling is the newest trend, and redfish and wading work just fine.

Poling the boat: Propelling your boat quietly with a long pole from a-top a poling platform is the best way to get within range of trophy fish in shallow water.

Not only is it quiet but by being up on the platform you have a great sight advantage, allowing you to spot fish that you would never see from the deck of the boat below.

Electric motors are loud in shallow water (compared to poling) and the water is often too shallow to use one.

Tackle: Light to medium spinning tackle in the 7 to 8-foot range for long casts with light lures. Braided line in the 10 to 15-pound range for most flats redfish applications. Bait casting reels work fine as well. For leaders in shallow clear water, nothing beats fluorocarbon.

Shallow saltwater and fly rods are always a winner and the ultimate angling challenge. For redfishing the flats, you'll find fly rods ranging from seven to ten weights aboard my skiff.

Typically I'm casting a weight forward floating fly line with an 8 to 10-foot leader but usually keep one rod rigged with a sink tip line to probe deeper dock structure.

A basic spinning lure tackle box would contain spoons, topwater plugs, and soft plastics with 1/8 to 3/8s oz. matching jig heads.

A basic fly selection would include a selection of streamers but I'm a bigger fan of Keel flies, flies which ride hook up not down, making them very weedless. Spoon flies work as well as big poppers or bass bugs.

Something anglers don't consider is color, not lure color but the bright red shirt you're wearing! When you go deer or hog hunting you camo up to blend with the forest. When I go shallow water fishing, light blue is my preferred match the sky shirt color.

Patience, stealth and long casts equals successful sight-fishing.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or



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