Hope everyone got their new Ferrari, $85,000 purple metal flake 350HP flats machine, and that matched set of highly engraved rifles they were hoping Santa would drop off.
If not, just be happy it's not blowing snow sideways and if not today, this weekend you probably will be fishing, boating, shooting, or simply just enjoying the outdoors in your own special way here in Southwest Florida.
Weekend warriors that are passionate about their sport have it hardest as no matter what the weather, tides, or condition, it is what it is, and they have to deal with it.
If your passion is poling wading or drifting the ultra-shallow winter waters of Pine Island Sound, Gasparilla, or Matlacha Pass in hopes of finding hungry redfish happily hunting heads down and tails up as you pole within easy casting distance, this weekend the tide Gods have smiled on your schedule. That being said, just hope the wind demons play along as well creating the perfect conditions for sight fishing, tailing, winter redfish this weekend.
My tide chart calls for a negative low of -0.2 at 6:29 AM Saturday and -0.4 at 7:23 AM Sunday with sunrise at 7:16 both days and highs at 12:46 and 1:57. Perfect!
Get out before sunrise and be settled, quiet, and in position as the sky starts to grey. Now is not the time to be tying lures, fumbling with tackle boxes, or shuffling around the boat. It's also not the time to be scaring fish with flashlights and loud talking. You are in eight inches of dead calm water, yes you can be heard. As the t-shirt says, "shut up and fish."
A huge part of successful angling is preparation and planning. Don't waste limited fishing time rummaging around your storage area looking for a can of WD-40 for that ancient squealing reel. The noise that you just created was heard underwater for 50 yards or more and probably spooked any fish or whole school within your range. Be on site early, with fresh tackle or bait, a reel properly spooled for maximum casting distance, ultra-sharp hooks, quietly watching and listening as it gets light.
In the distance you think you just saw a tail wave. Not sure you wait, and then yes, it's a tail! No, it's three! Suddenly, there are a dozen tails signaling that a school of reds is not far from the boat, happily grubbing along the bottom inhaling everything that tries to get away. Now, getting within range without spooking them into another county is the key issue.
Quietly pole or drift to them. If you only have a trolling motor use the slowest speed and try to shut it off and drift to them after getting an electrical boost from the TM.
If you think you are in range then cast to the outside edge of the school, never to the center, which if you do usually means game over, start looking again.
If your cast is short and your reel is under spooled then shame on you for not being prepared. Often times the school is feeding and moving away. You need casting distance. You waited a week, got up at 4 a.m. and are fishing with an under-filled spool, and can't quite reach them?
Learning to "snub" the line moments from touch down allows the lure to gently enter the water rather than sounding like a safe falling from the Brooklyn Bridge.
You've done everything right and now three reds have broken from the school and are now racing each other to your spoon. The early hours and preparation pay off as you happily do battle with the bulldozer of the flats and lay claim to your title - Weekend Warrior Redfish King!
Suggested lures; DOA Shrimp, soft plastic jerk baits rigged weedlessly, plastic paddle tail jigs or live shrimp on light jig heads.