When hunting redfish I like our low winter tides and clear water. With the low water I know exactly where the fish won't be; under the bushes.
Any time you can eliminate one huge piece of the fish location puzzle you're ahead of the game. With spring comes the game-changing high water obviously allowing all the fish shoreline mangrove shelter and access to the food that lives there.
Where do you start your redfish hunt when faced with the question, flats or bushes? What style fishing do you enjoy? Are you a bushbeater or flatsmaster? Caster or bait soaker?
Capt. George Tunison
This time of year the reds will continue to roam the flats as well as reside or at least feed under the shrubbery. Make a choice, it's Saturday and you've been given by the powers that be, five hours and not a second more, to fish, or else.
Choose the open flats and use the same lures that have seen successful duty for the last several months, mostly topwater plugs, spoons and soft plastics. Choose the bushes and the same lures work here as well. Cast a big topwater down a mangrove shoreline or a spoon as far back under as you dare.
The high water period is the time when bushbeaters that are accurate casters will fish the pants off those that cast poorly. If you like throwing lures around mangroves and your casting skills need work, start practicing in the back yard or pool or be prepared to spend lots of time and cash at your favorite tackle shop.
There are several thousand dollars worth of rusting lures just out of reach decorating the interior of most mangrove shorelines in Matlacha Pass. My clients and I have contributed heavily to that sum. As they say, "If you're not getting hung up once in a while, you're not fishing close enough."
If you are a newbie it's sometimes hard to imagine a 12-pound redfish way back under the trees, almost on the shoreline with a third of its body exposed and a roof of impenetrable mangrove branches overhead providing shelter and safety. Most anglers that run-and-gun an overgrown mangrove edge, never present a lure to these fish, go home with an empty cooler, and declare loudly that "the fishing was really poor today."
Many times I can fish the same stretch, right behind that guy and pull fish out leaving the run-and-gunner scratching his head.
If you want to be successful at shore/mangrove fishing:
1. Slow down and pick the shoreline apart. Take a small section and work it hard, not just the outside edges. If you are spending 90 percent of the time fishing only the easy edges then you are missing 99 percent of the fish hiding way back under the limbs. Don't bite off more than you can chew. (Only five hours, remember?)
2. Slow down and develop confidence. The fish is back under there, fat and happy, go in and get him.
3. Again, develop good casting skills.
4. Learn flipping and skipping casting techniques. If you become proficient at these two presentations your catches will skyrocket. Learn which lures skip well and how to make them come alive. Learn how to skip cast a DOA Shrimp, 10 feet back under the shrubs or a dark dock and watch your catch rates go way up.
5. If not a caster then find a likely spot, soak your baits for 20 minutes, then, move to the next spot and repeat. Shrimp or cut ladyfish or live/dead pinfish are the ticket, fished on the bottom. Lively cast-net caught white baits freelined back and under is usually magic for snook and reds.
6. Always hook and fight with your rod tip in or close to the surface. Rowland Martin hooksets tangle and break lines. Keep it down and dirty till the big guy decides to come out and play in open water.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.