We have all heard the definition of insanity as - “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.
This is, unfortunately, what many anglers do when targeting reds. Perhaps there was “this one time” when you “absolutely killed ‘em” at such and such a spot. Or maybe they are “always in this pond”, or “I only use this bait for redfish”, or “you can only catch redfish in the summer”, or “I can’t go after reds because there’s no live bait at the marina”, and on, and on, and on.
I am surprised at the number of anglers that target redfish that are not aware of the life cycle and habits of the species – Sciaenops ocellatus. Redfish are known by several names with red drum being the most common. However, although redfish are related to the other “drums”, they are unique in that they are the only species in their genus.
Redfish spend the first 3-4 years of their lives in the marsh and, after they reach sexual maturity, gravitate to the nearshore waters between late August and October to spawn. The larvae are carried back into the marsh areas by tidal currents where they spend the first year in calm and shallow waters. A one year old will be about 12-14 inches and weigh in at about a pound. Sexual maturity is reached at about 4 years of age and most breeding reds are 26 inches and over. While redfish continue to grow throughout their entire lives, after they reach 36 inches in length they tend to add more girth than length.
One of the key characteristics of redfish is that they don’t travel far from the area of their birth except during the spawning migration. But they do move around based on food supply and water quality – not clarity! Contrary to popular belief, redfish are not “always” in clear water nor do they avoid murky waters. It is the fishermen who prefer clear water so they can see what is going on. Passing up stained, muddy, or fast-moving waters is passing up many opportunities to catch quality reds. You just have to go about it a little differently.
Redfish are voracious eaters and will attack just about anything that remotely resembles food. Of course, live bait and dead bait are extremely effective but artificial baits of an endless variety are very effective as well. It seems that “real bait” anglers have a hard time making the move over to artificials and that is unfortunate because knowing how to use artificial baits opens up an entirely new and exciting way to catch reds.
Another area I find that many anglers fail to grow their skill is in their angling education. Learning about the waters you are fishing - what’s going on under the surface - and how to best fish those waters is equally as important as learning to navigate those waters in your boat.
One of the things I do when I have some time on the water is to spend at least part of that time (sometimes the whole day) searching different areas and different types of habitat and then just observing what is going on.
You can learn a great deal about the general habitat and health of the area you are fishing by noting what animals you see, watching what the various wildlife is doing, and figuring out why they are doing it. Put the rods down for an hour or two and just watch and learn. Then when you see them, let those reds swim on by without submitting to the urge to cast. See where they go, what they do, and try to figure out why they are doing it. It won’t be long before you are able to read the signs of the water just like driving down the road. And, your fishing success will be your reward.
by Danno Wise
February is generally a winter month in the strictest sense along the Texas coast. This is winter's final full month. But, generally Old Man Winter doesn't fade without a fight, sending down some of the year's nastiest weather during February. As a result, few fishermen venture onto the Texas bays during the year's second month. Of those who do get on the water in February, the vast majority of them are probing deep holes for coolers full of schoolie specks or wading waist deep mud tracking trophy trout. What is most often overlooked during the weeks bracketing Valentine's Day is the outstanding redfish action available up and down the Texas coast.
One thing fishermen should keep in mind during February is as bad as the weather can be on any given day, it can be completely opposite a day or two later. Because of these ever changing weather conditions, fishermen are likely to encounter redfish in a variety of locations and see them exhibiting a variety of different behaviors during February. From shin-deep shallows to the depths of the ICW and everything in between, under the right conditions redfish will be found in virtually every type of bay habitat this month. The key is knowing where to look under the prevailing weather pattern and knowing what to throw in order to illicit strikes from late winter reds.
Although redfish will transition between shallow, mid-depth and deep water throughout the month, they will consistently be in areas that provide a good 'winter home.' Simply put, anglers need to focus on areas of their local bay which provide a variety of a depths and habitats in a relatively small area. Basically, these fish want the convenience of being able to transition to various depths quickly as the weather changes. What anglers should look for are flats that have small channels bisecting them and/or border major channels such as the ICW. Ideally, the bottom composition should be mud or a combination of mud and sand. Having shell, grass, humps and other features is a nice bonus. Essentially, the key is rapid depth change. But, the more features a fish can find within a short swim, the more likely it is to spend its winter in the area. The good news is once this area is found, fishermen can be assured the fish are there. They just need to find the right depth and specific location in the area based on the weather conditions at the time.
FURIOUS FOUL WEATHER ACTION
Probably the biggest surprise to those unaccustomed to catching redfish during late winter is the quality of action that can be experienced under some of the worst winter weather. Of course, there are degrees of foul weather during February. And, many of those find fish in different areas.
Following a stretch of relatively warm weather, as the wind machine begins to crank, redfish will still likely be found in relatively shallow water. If anglers can find good quality water - likely along a lee shoreline - they may still be able to spot cast to reds in two to three feet of water. In this instance, the wind is actually an advantage. Although it does take some adjustment on the angler's behalf to ensure casts are accurate, the surface riffle prevents the fish from being too cautious or spooky. This generally allows anglers to approach closer to the fish. And, as the front is approaching, the fish usually begin to feed more aggressively.
On warm windy days when the water is too dirty to spot fish or fish just aren't being seen, but are known to be in the area, blind casting while "power drifting" an area can be productive. Throwing paddletail baits is the best way to quickly cover a lot of water. If fish are scattered throughout the flat, there is no need to slow your drift with a drift sock - just allow the wind to push you quickly across a flat while you fan the area with casts. The closer an approaching front is to the coast, the more anxious fish will be to bail out to deeper water. So, under these conditions it is usually best to concentrate your efforts within a quarter mile of a deep channel.
When the weather turns wind and cold, look for the fish to be in deeper water. Depending on the temperature, redfish may be cruising the channel edges or hunkered down on the bottom of the deepest hole or channel they can find. Only experimentation (or electronics) can help pinpoint their exact depth. Crankbaits run the length of a channel edge are a great way to find redfish under these conditions. When the fish are sulking on the bottom, use heavily weighted jigs. Traditional "tout" tails work well for this duty, as their slight profile allows them to fall faster than bulkier plastic tails.
SUNNY DAY SUCCESS
Although they represent a small percentage of late winter days, there are some absolutely gorgeous weather days during February. Generally, these occur a few days after a front passes through when the sky is clear, the sun is bright and the weather is warm(ing). When these conditions occur, reds begin prowling the shallows.
Under these conditions, fishing the flats for reds isn't a whole lot different than it is during summer or fall. In fact, they exhibit much of the same behavior as they do when feeding in the shallows at other times of the year, which comes as a surprise to many anglers. For instance, often times when fishermen stumble across redfish tailing on a winter flat, they are astonished, believing this behavior is limited to the fall season. While redfish do tail in the fall, that's not the only time they put their nose down and butt up to feed. They'll do it anytime they find something tasty they need to root out of the bay bottom. This often happens on a winter flat, as do a number of other "summer and fall" redfish feeding behaviors.
To attack reds in skinny water during winter, approach as you would in summer or fall. But do so more quietly. Really the biggest difference in winter flats versus other times of the year is how spooky the fish can be. This is primarily a result of the ultra clear water that usually accompanies a calm, clear winter day. Therefore, fishermen need to be extra cautious when approaching fish. Wading, poling or kayaking is best. It is also necessary to "lead" cruising fish an extra foot or two. And, when sight-casting, be sure to use a bait that lands softly on the surface.
YOU CATCH FISH IN THE WATER
Every fisherman has heard the joke where the old salt is asked where he caught his giant stringer of fish. The one where the cagey old angler replies, "in the water." That joke actually holds weight during the winter months. After strong northerns, there is often not much water left in the bay, as the tide is "blown out" with the north wind. On the days following a front such as this, locating fish is quite often just as easy as finding any water deeper than a couple of feet. Channels and holes are easily enough for fishermen to locate and, most often, they will be filled with fish.
Generally the best thing to do in this "fish in a barrel" scenario is either to wade (stand) on the edge of the channel or hole. Boating anglers should anchor or stake out along the channel edge. This is not a situation that requires covering water. It simply requires fishermen to thoroughly blanket the existing water with plenty of casts. Keep in mind, this condition is generally short-lived, as a couple days following the front, the normal water level usually returns. But, while the water is out the action can be unbelievable. And, in this situation, it rarely matters what fishermen throw, as reds will generally strike with abandon.
But, of course, this is but one of the productive redfish fishing scenarios to be had during February. In short, just about every day during late winter can be good for redfish. It is just a matter of adjusting to the prevailing weather and being willing to target late winter reds.
Capt. Danno Wise www.LoneStarSalt.com
Jan 01,2018 - Welcome all redfish enthusiasts to your Redfish Connection! This is an exciting time for all of us here at RC as we embark on a journey to bring you all things redfish.
If you are a novice, an avid weekend angler, a tournament competitor, or just interested in the sport of angling for redfish we will have information, tips, tactics, schedules, video, and podcasts all designed to unify the family of redfish anglers from the Carolinas to the TexMex border.
I was bitten by the redfish bug about 18 years ago and I still get that same adrenaline surge on a hookup today as I did so many years ago. I confess that I had been a bass angler for many, many years before I was introduced to the world of the bad brawling, fast fighting, ornery redfish by my friend Corby Dolar. And, when that bug bit me, it bit hard!
Back then, Corby was newly arrived in Alabama from the Florida Keys where stealth, poling, and long accurate casts were the methods of choice to catch those red beasts in the super shallow gin clear water of the keys. In those first few months Corby taught me many things about redfish and how to catch them. But, I am a man of science and it was the redfish itself and the study of its life cycle, habitat, and diet that intrigued me more than any other fish I had ever sought.
Redfish (Sciaenops oscellatus) have an incredibly varied habitat, diet, demeanor, and temperament. And, it is directly because of all these variables that they are one of the most fun, most exciting, and most frustrating game fish to pursue. On the one hand they can be amazingly predictable and will eat anything you throw in the water (I have even had a bull red hit my trolling motor prop!) and on the other hand they will be completely unpredictable, be found nowhere, eat nothing, and frustrate the heck out of angler trying to pattern them. There’s nothing like them anywhere in the gamefish world.
This is going to be your one stop shop for everything redfish so if you are looking for something and don’t see it let me know and it will happen. We will be adding content continuously in the form of updates, general information, blog posts, and more.
Come along with us on this journey as we at Redfish Connection bring you everything there is to know about that pesky varmint that makes us all so happy, so mad, so frustrated, and so glad.