Redfish are one of the most popular species along Florida’s coastal waters. Whether sight fishing with lures or targeting them with bait, redfish are readily available nearly any day of the year. This is especially true in our area of Florida – Bradenton and Sarasota.
Redfish are primarily bottom feeders who enjoy crustaceans. That said, they tend to go after whatever is readily available given the time of year. Anglers will want to keep this in mind when heading out for a day. In the winter redfish are steadily eating crustaceans (shrimp and crabs), but when baitfish start swarming in during the warmer months, they switch gears and become aggressive predators.
A basic inshore setup is all that is required to go after redfish. This includes light and fast rods, 3000 series reels, 12-20lb braid mainline, and 15-20lb fluoro leader. If fishing with bait, a 2/0 circle hook would make a good choice. Those fishing with whitebait may want to drop it a size to a 1/0 so the bait swims more freely, and those fishing with chunk bait may want to kick it up to a 3/0 size.
Baits and Lures
For bait, an all-around good choice, no matter the time of year, is shrimp. Hungry redfish will readily scoop these up at any given opportunity. These can work live or frozen, freelined or with a popping cork. When swarms of baitfish arrive on the flats in the warmer months, threadfin and pilchards, these make better choices. Pinfish are also a common bait used in the area for targeting redfish – among other species.
Lures will switch up a little depending on the time of year, but there are a core few to have on hand at all times. These include topwater lures (a spook jr for instance), suspending twitch baits, soft plastics, and spoons. If you keep your lure color choices in the natural range (for spoons, gold is a favorite), you will find a lure that works at pretty much anytime. Good rules of thumb are slow and low in the water during cooler weather, and high and fast during warmer weather.
This again comes down to the time of year and water temps. Bait fishing is reasonably straight forward, lures will want to mimic the action of whatever the redfish are eating at the time. Here are some examples:
Topwater – Walk the Dog action
Suspending Twitch – Tick, Tick, Pause – repeat
Soft Plastic Paddletails – Bumping the bottom or fish like the suspending twitch
Soft Plastic Shrimp – Bumping the bottom or lift quickly from the bottom and let it float back down
All of this only works in the right areas. As with most inshore species, moving tides will create more fishing action. Places to fish for redfish include expansive grass flats, mud holes, oyster bars, and out in front of the mangroves. In extremely cold weather, up towards coastal inland springs that feed into the flats or anywhere water temps are kept slightly warmer (power plant outflows for instance). Of course, if you see a big cloud of whitebaits getting smashed in shallow waters, it is probably a safe bet that redfish are doing the pouncing – fish these when you see them.
Redfish aren’t too hard to figure out – in just a few trips you could be catching them like a pro, these tips and tactics will help you down that path.