Redfish are picky in the creeks during the hot months
Redfish are picky in the creeks during the hot months
By Jim Hammond
For the past few weeks the reds have been a little finicky when it comes to their feeding habits. Most of the guides I have spoke to in the past few weeks have had little success with catching reds in the creeks because the mullet hatch has happened and the reds seem to be feeding primarily on these small mullet.
I have thrown almost everything that I have in my boat with little success on reds. It seems that unless you make very long cast and work the lure just as it was designed to be worked, the success rate is one or two fish per school, instead of the four to six in past months.
There has been a major mullet hatch and these fish seem to be targeting mullet only. I have even placed a fat shrimp in front of reds that were feeding with little success. One of the problems with using shrimp this time of the year is that there are so many pinfish, that the reds do not have a chance to get to the shrimp before the pesky pinfish has picked it off of the hook.
The fact that most of these reds are very spooky when in less than a foot of water is not helping matters.
Here is a way that has produced some quality fish for me and several others these past few weeks:
If you can find a bait shop that sells small mullet (from 3 to 5 inches in length), then get a few dozen. For those of us that put in on the north side we are having to catch our own. I start by getting my 7 or 8 foot Fitec Super Spreader cast net ready to throw. I then look for a sandy bottom that has bait moving on or around it. I like to throw over a sandy bottom as opposed to the mud bottom, that so many creeks have because when throwing over a mud bottom, it makes a big mess in the boat and the sandy bottom does not. I guess if I were to install a wash down pump in the boat then I wouldn't mind the mud so much.
If you have some one that can drive the boat slowly while you stand on the front deck, ease along looking for the mullet and cast over them. If you do not have some one to help drive them you can put your trolling motor down and ease along looking for the bait or you can find a good spot and put the anchor down and wait for the bait to come to you.
Once you have about 3 to 5 dozen, you should be ready for Mr. Redfish. Depending on conditions and how good your anglers can make a long accurate cast with throwing all of the bait off of the hook or throwing the Jaw Jacker jig into the oysters determines the style of fishing needed to catch these hard fighting reds.
If your anglers can make a long accurate cast, then I like to ease along with the trolling motor casting along the oyster mounds, the creek mouths and sight casting to cruising or feeding fish. This style is probably the method I like the most because it takes a degree of skill to make the cast and to know when to set the hook. For this type of fishing, you will need to go slow and be very quite as the reds in shallow water a very attuned to boat noises and once they know that you are near they will either run from you or be very cautious on feeding. I like a six and a half or seven foot Ugly Stik spinning rod, a Shakespeare 3835 Intrepid SS reel spooled with 20 pound test PowerPro braided line and a Jaw Jacker 1/4 to 3/8 ounce lead head tied to the line. Hook the mullet from under his lower lip and come up with the hook through his upper lip. If you hook him just a hair back from his lips, he will stay on the hook better. To prevent from spooking the fish, keep your boat as far away from where you want to cast as possible.
If you are blind casting to the edges, cast along the edge and let the bait sit for a second or two before making your retrieve to the boat. Your retrieval back to the boat should be very slow, keeping the bait in contact with the bottom. I like to make my cast, feathering the line with my index finger to let the bait make a soft entry. I then close the bail, take up the slack as I lower my rod tip toward the bait. For my retrieval, I slowly raise the tip, pulling the bait across the bottom. When I get my rod tip almost straight up, I wind up the slack, bringing the rod tip back down and repeating this process until the bait has moved out of the strike zone. The strike zone is normally from the edge to about ten feet out. When you get out of the strike zone, crank the bait back and make another cast.
If you are casting to cruising fish, look at the direction that the wake is going and make your cast at least 6 feet in front of the fish. If you cast on top of the wake, you will most likely spook the fish and he will no longer be catchable. If you are out of the water and ready to cast and see a fish explode on something, throw your bait past the fish toward the shoreline and quickly drag it toward the commotion. If you do not spook this one, he will be a sure thing to eat your bait.
The other method is to find and area that holds fish, such as a mud flat that you have seen them feeding, a shell bank that holds fish or a creek mouth. Ease up to one of these areas and lower your anchor, very quietly. I like to anchor as far away as I can make a cast to the area that I want to fish. When the boat comes tight on the anchor and it is where you want it, throw out as many lines as you can fish or is legal (three poles per person in Florida). For this rig, I like the same spinning outfit as previously mentioned or an Ugly Stik 7 foot long Ugly Stik Lite bait casting rod with a Shakespeare Medallist reel spooled with PowerPro 20 pound test. From there slide on a 1/2 to 1 ounce egg sinker, then a small swivel, then a 2 to 3 foot long, 20 pound test monofilament leader with a Daiichi D16Z Bleeding Red hook tied to the leader. Hook the mullet in the nose and throw him to the fishing spot and wait. When the rod starts to bend, let the fish tighten your line then set the hook and hold on.
If you give one or both of these methods a try, you will have some string stretchers pulling drag.
The offshore action has been great with limit catches of kings, beeliners and some nice catches of snapper, amberjacks and a few cobia.
I went last week with Capt. Eddie Smith of the Turtle Boat and we boated five kings to 25 pounds, six barracuda, 2 bonita, two amberjacks and six big jack crevalle and were back to the dock by 1:30. We even caught a king fish on a strip of fish bites. This rig consisted of two treble hooks and NO SKIRT and NO other bait. That's right just a strip of fish bites.
The flounder have shown back up and there are a few to be caught along the river and rock piles.
For charter information, you can call me at 904 757 7550 in Jacksonville or go to my web site at:
Capt. Jim Hammond