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A few tips on how to catch redfish

October 11, 2019
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

First time redfish clients are usually amazed by the sheer power of Southwest Florida redfish. Trying to get a 10-pound red with a mouthful of your shrimp out from under a 5-foot canopy of mangrove fingers that are trying their best to snag your tight line can be quite the heart pumping battle, and what keeps bait fishing redfish anglers coming back for more every fall.

New to the redfish bait game? Don't worry, it pretty basic. At the end of your line attach a quality swivel. Tie on a 24-inch piece of leader material. Slide on a 1/4 to 3/8 oz. sliding barrel sinker then attach a 2/0 3/0 light wire circle hook to the end to complete the outfit.

You can simply tie on a 1/4 oz jighead or regular J hook to your leader but a greedy redfish destined for release will most often suck down the bait and swallow the hook killing itself. Please use circle hooks and remember there is a no kill policy for redfish in effect.

Often novice bottom anglers have trouble detecting the strike usually by not paying close attention to the line. By the time they realize the fish is on its swallowed the bait and is 10 feet back under the bushes.

For new clients, I solve this by adding a small float right above the swivel. This visual aide works wonders along the mangrove edge and saves fish as it's now easy to see a strike and react.

Now, go to any spot that you know is chock full of fall redfish, along a certain mangrove shoreline, near an undiscovered oyster bar, by a small unnamed island in Pine Island Sound or Matlacha and quietly anchor or Power Pole down. Stay quiet.

Impale a live or dead shrimp, 1-inch wide ladyfish or mullet steak or live/recently dead pinfish on the hook and cast as far back under the mangroves as possible. Set down the rod and keep a fairly straight line to the hook and an eagle eye on the line. Any movement, jump or "tick" of the line usually means a red, snook, tarpon or catfish has taken the bait.

After recognizing that something has eaten the bait and is taking off, most newbies make the same fatal double mistake, which means a giant skyward hookset which instantly tangles the line in the mangrove fingers. A hard hookset also pulls the bait and the circle out of the fish's mouth.

Using circle hooks properly means simply reeling tight to the fish after the strike, not power setting the hook with a hard jerk. Simply reeling causes the hook to rotate finding the hinge of the jaw for a solid hook-up.

In a nutshell - feel, or better yet, see the strike -- put the rod tip in the water and quickly reel down till it's - fish on!

Always keep the rod tip in the water during the fight till the redfish is clear of the sticks otherwise no redfish, just that loud crack of a broken line and your foot kicking your own rear because you already read this and knew better.

After sitting in one spot for at least 20 minutes with no takers, pack up, relocate, go to work.

Over the years successful trips will help you establish a location pattern that produces year after year.

For those like me that can't sit still and need to keep moving, a whole variety of lures and flies will work on schooling and or tailing redfish in shallow water.

If you can't see the shallow fish but suspect they are in the area, using long rods, light line and long casts will pay off. Best search type lures are spoons and top water plugs which both can be cast a mile.

Tip: Redfish, snook and trout will follow schools of shallow feeding mullet.

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



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