Having picked out a perfect morning low tide months ago, Keith and Jill were ready for some serious sight fishing. With light winds and glassy waters, the big schools of redfish were easy to see. The fish were happy this morning busting small mullet and flashing in the sunshine. Most importantly, they ate whatever was put in front of them: blue crab, cut mullet and artificials. At times, we could barely keep one rod in the water as the bite was so hot. Jill had the last word with her 14 pound trophy!
David had booked a charter in December to see some of the huge schools of redfish building as Winter approached. The fish sure didn’t disappoint today! Spent most of the charter at one spot as pod after pod made its way down the bank and over our baits. Whether we had cracked blue crab or cut mullet on the bottom, the rods would snap over every few minutes. The action was so fierce that we even called the trip early and headed back to the landing with good memories and tired arms.
While traditionally this season conjures up thoughts of the holidays, don’t write off fishing until the Spring. One of our fisheries’ greatest phenomenon is taking place as the temperature drops. Redfish are building into huge schools sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Casting into a pod of redfish so big it looks like a dark cloud in the water will make any angler’s heart skip a beat.
These schools form as the redfish’s metabolism slows down with the dropping water temperature and they seek protection in numbers from the faster dolphins. The redfish will try to stay in as shallow water as possible and come up onto the flats at low tide in hopes of evading their predator. In addition, on sunny days, the mud flats will hold a few extra degrees of temperature which attracts these schools as well.
As you might expect, these fish are spooky and if chased will not eat. Once a school is located, it is often best to wait until the school eventually comes close to you. There is nothing more effective now than a chunk of cracked blue crab putting out a scent trail in the water. Rig these baits with a size 3/0 circle hook and it is imperative that the hook point come cleanly out of the bait. Put the rods in a holder and wait until the reel starts singing before you pick it up.
Bait isn’t the only way to catch these redfish. Fly fishermen have an advantage here as flies can land softly and quietly. Darker flies have been working the best with a size #2 black wiggler drawing some fantastic strikes. Should black not work don’t be afraid to rotate over to a size #2 white/chartreuse clouser minnow. As always, aim towards the edges of the school; a cast right over the middle will send the fish running for cover.
Sheepshead, also available, have begun their seasonal migration offshore although there will still be some stragglers around. You’ll want to target these fish around barnacle covered pilings or docks. Fiddler crabs and pieces of oyster have been working well. Suspend your bait vertically next to pieces of structure using a small sinker weight a short distance above your hook. The bite of these fish, sometimes referred to as “convict” fish because of their black stripes, can be difficult to detect. Given their fight and taste though, anglers find them well worth the challenge.
See you on the water!
Capt. Geoff Bennett operates Charleston Charter Fishing providing fly fishing and light tackle charters. Clients choose from a full menu of fly rods, artificial and live bait fishing options with charters tailored to their desires. USCG licensed and insured, Capt. Bennett is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable charter to anglers of all skill levels and ages. For more information, call Capt. Bennett at 843-324-3332, visit his website at www.charlestoncharterfishing.com or email him at email@example.com.