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Find reds in passes, on bars, flats

September 5, 2009

I was at the dock offloading some very sunburned clients last week and some guys were on the way out in a rental boat.

"Hey Captain, where do we go to find redfish. We are new to these waters," they asked.

That's a question many face when leaving the dock when they are new to our huge fishing grounds. In our area, look for reds in several locations, but start with mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, passes, and flats. Find a mangrove island point with some overhanging branches, a bit of current, and enough water to cover a red's back (or deeper). Anchor a cast away and throw a live or dead shrimp, live or dead pinfish or whitebait, or a chunk of ladyfish back under the branches, and wait.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Once in awhile, toss a small handful of diced shrimp or fish in the area for chum and soon you will be tangling with a copper colored bulldozer.

All gamefish are attracted to bars, especially oyster bars. Same drill here with anchoring and live or dead baiting, but I like to hit oyster bars with lures for reds. A gold spoon, top-water plug, plastic shrimp or jerkbait fished along the edges and ends will produce. Just make a natural presentation by casting up current and letting your offering sweep naturally by the bar with the current. Same deal with a flyrod presentation.

Some of the biggest reds of the season will be taken in the passes. The program at Redfish Pass is to get in line with the rest of the fleet and live line (with or without some weight) lively pinfish or white baits near the bottom as the current pulls you down the shoreline and sweeps your boat toward the Gulf. Huge snook and reds are caught like this every year.

Another great bet for a jumbo red is Boca Grande Pass. I suggest you book a guide or hitch a ride in a friend's boat to learn this presentation, especially if you are a novice. At Redfish Pass, fast currents and lots of boats, bottom snags, all can test your seamanship and fishing skills.

Stealth approach

Finally, look for reds on the flats in fall and all winter. Quietly pole, trolling motor, or idle in channels near flats and keep an eagle-eye out for single or whole school pushes, or "nervous water," or flashing tails up on the flats. These are reds rooting around for dinner in very shallow water. Stealth is the key and present your lures to the edges of these schools.

Making a long cast with a gold spoon after you determine which way the school is moving works great. Cast in front and off to the side. Don't attack the redfish head on with your lure. Remember, baits don't attack reds, reds attack baits, keep it natural. Don't cast in the middle of the school and stay quiet.

Capt. Dick May of Easy Rider Charters says the reds want ladyfish chunks early in the morning. Spanish mackerel and snapper are in the passes. This has been one of the best late trout seasons in many years. Even though the whitebait has gotten small the cut ladyfish is king. Getting out at daybreak is the ticket for action.

Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters has been hitting tarpon off Fort Myers Beach. Wednesday produced some great action offshore of Redfish Pass. Three cobia to 41 inches, two keeper gag grouper, one 40-inch snook release and one 30-incher for the plate. This was in addition to mangrove snappers, grunts, lane snappers and Spanish mackerel.

The Spanish are really charged up as they had them jumping higher than the T-top on the boat.

If you come upon a boat or guide working a school of reds, be courteous, quiet, leave and find your own, unless invited.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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