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Time for Mr. Redfish is right now

September 10, 2011
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

What's more exciting to a shallow saltwater angler than a quarter-acre of happy, feeding redfish and flapping tails?

Not much. The time is now. The place? Right here in our back yard.

All along the coast rat reds to sometimes 20 pounders soon will school up in super skinny water and put on the feed bag.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

Trout, drum and croaker's first cousin, Mr. Redfish, usually lives inshore until about 4 years old or around 30-35 inches, then usually- moves offshore to live out its life, returning in the fall to the bays, passes and inshore areas to spawn.

The fish generally school by size and a typical flats school might number five to well over 100 fish. Offshore anglers sometimes see massive schools that cover acres and turn the water copper bronze as they swim near or on the surface.

If you are lucky enough to happen upon one of these giant offshore schools a big plug retrieved rather quickly and erratically will draw several bruiser reds into a race with your plug as a prize. It's quite a sight to see a half-dozen 20-plus-pound bull reds peel off from the school and home in on your plug.

The Florida state record presently is at 52 pounds with the all-tackle record at 94.2 pounds caught off The Outer Banks of North Carolina. To me that means that somewhere out there is a 125-, 135-, 150-pound redfish with my name on it yet to be caught.

In our waters, fall brings lots of reds but generally a six- to eight-pound fish is typical. Yes, they do get bigger here, but most don't. I caught an 18-pounder last year that was in water so skinny almost one-third of the fish was visible above water.

There is a place where the big adults generally don't leave and give anglers an opportunity to sight fish these big reds year round ... the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon. It's a chain of water that includes the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon and Banana River.

New Smyrna Beach, Oak Hill and Titusville are known as the Redfish Capital of the World, drawing more than 700,000 folks each year looking for a shot at a jumbo, sight-fished redfish on light tackle, be it fly or spin.

It's quite an amazing sight to see 6 to 40-plus-pound reds grubbing along the bottom with tails as wide as brooms waving at you. The first time I saw this up close and personal was on my last visit and was amazed.

If redfish really trip your trigger by all means get a guide and book a trip to the area for a shot at a once-in-a-lifetime sized redfish.

Speaking of drum, if you want to pull on a big one right now hit the bridges and lower a half blue crab to the bottom and wait for a 30- to 70-pound black drum. Tip: fish the eddy behind the piling.

Sometimes these deep water drum will be found on the flats as well. A couple years back I was running by a well-known fish bar in Matlacha when I looked over and saw several jumbo tails waving at me. I thought I found redfish heaven till I realized they were huge black drum scouring the bar for crabs and shrimp.

They aren't much on lures so I dug in the box and found a few Gulp crabs in the 2-inch variety. I tossed these in the school and let it settle. In a few minutes I felt a tick on the line and hooked the first of several 40-pound drum that day.

These Gulp crabs also catch reds as well as snook and tarpon. These guys get huge as well with the all-tackle record standing at more than 113 pounds caught in my home state of Delaware.

Take a kid fishing this month!

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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