REDFISH RULES

by

Jerry LaBella

LEARN THE SIMPLE RULES TO SUCCESSFUL REDFISHING

One look at a redfish and you know it’s built for brute strength. With its blunt face and broad-shouldered look—it’s a fish with a fight even before it’s hooked. Unlike the speckled trout with its long, sleek look and ability to throw hooks, the redfish is honed to test your tackle and strength. So to many anglers, the redfish rules the marsh. 

When we talk about redfish, fall seems to be the primary season that comes to mind. Thus, it has been said that redfish come inside during this season. The simple fact is redfish have been inside the whole time. The reason for thinking otherwise is that during summer months, when tides are often high, redfish migrate into shallow ponds off the beaten path. As a rule, how many anglers do you know that fish these areas during that time?    

On the other hand, north winds force tides lower during the seasons of fall and winter, consequently causing redfish to move out into deeper channels, bayous and canals. Here redfish are more accessible to most anglers, leading them to believe that they have “moved in.”    

In regard to “inside” redfishing, perhaps the furthest season from your mind is summertime, particularly if you’re a marsh angler. This is because most anglers would much rather be out on the breezier, open bays and beaches in pursuit of fish. But according to professional guides, redfish can be easy targets even during summer months, if you know where to look. Veteran anglers generally find them in the marsh, over the reefs, and in shallow ponds.

However, among renowned redfish anglers, it is an established fact that limits can be had in the months of July and August just as commonly as October or November. But the choicest months for those in the know are May or June when the weather is more moderate in comparison to wintertime. This is when there’s a lot less wind and a lot more redfish to be found, as many redfish enthusiast can attest to.       

As a rule, redfish are predictable to weather changes. In comparison to trout, redfish are much more tolerable of very cold weather. Hence, during such conditions redfish continue to feed in their usual haunts, while trout and other species head for deeper waters with lockjaw.    

This, of course, doesn’t mean that redfish are impervious to weather changes. Such things as cold temperatures, dirty water and low salinity levels can cause redfish to react either favorably or not.   

To underscore the point, redfish are known to bite like there’s no tomorrow a day before a front, and even while a front is moving through. The opposite, though, occurs a day after the front when high pressure starts to build. This the dreaded time when redfish get a bad case of lockjaw, and you would swear that the marsh is devoid of them--only to be made a fool of as they show off their backs in shallow water.

To avoid such harassment, follow the rule of the pros: it is best to fish for redfish the second day after a front passes, when the tides are returning water to the bays. This is the time to look for the first good falling tide after a front. During such conditions be at your favorite spot early, and you can be assured the redfish will have your arms throbbing.   

Any redfishing veteran is well aware that severe cold fronts can be an angler’s most welcomed delight. This is when redfish compact into tight schools, and not necessarily in very deep water. A good example of this is what takes place in dead end canals in very cold weather. The water in these areas are frequently less than eight feet in depth, yet numerous redfish are caught in this relatively shallow water when temperatures plummet.    

Another condition that will bring redfish together for easy target is an extremely low tide that flushes them into deeper spots in the marsh. Once the school is located, a redfishing extravaganza can take place.    

Redfish seem to feed best on falling tides; but redfish take feeding on low tides to an extreme. Ideal tides are those at normal stage or a slight bit below normal high that just starts to fall. As the water leaves these marshy, interior ponds it is noticeably clean. Near the end of the falling tide the water becomes murky as the lower parts of the ponds drain, reaching their muddy bottoms. As a rule, then, to give the redfish the best shot at your offering, be at your favorite pond or drainage opening when the tide first starts to fall.

Ideal places to fish are at the mouths of cuts where waters empty into larger areas, such as lakes, lagoons and bayous. As a rule, redfish prefer to position themselves right down stream from the openings. As the waters pass through, redfish have at their disposal an assortment of delectable items: crabs, minnows, and much bait fish—including your bait.    

Fish the shorelines of canals, marsh ponds, lakes and anywhere the water is as shallow as six inches in depth. Redfish often pursue crabs and minnows that lurk around these grassy, shoal areas.    

During periods of low tides or when the weather is very cold, look for deep holes near shallow water which make for excellent territory to try. Many successful marsh redfish anglers prefer using live minnows when available, or second choice, artificial plastic minnows. The live bait is either fished under a popping cork or sliding sinker rig. The latter is mostly preferred when fishing brisk moving tides in deeper water.    

Though live minnows work very well in catching redfish, biologist that have surveyed redfish stomach samples, most frequently find small crabs as part of their main diet. This is not unusual, they claim, as the shallow marshes are nursery grounds for such like crustaceans, and
redfish are masters at locating and feasting on them.

There's no doubt about it, when it comes to marsh fishing, the red fish rules!

CAPTION:  Capt. Phil Robicheaux—marsh fishing expert—displays a glimmering redfish taken from the edge of this marshy grass pond.

PHOTO BY AUTHOR

 

 

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