As we near the end of Summer, the kids return to school and so will the Redfish in Tampa Bay. September generally marks the beginning of large congregations (schools) of Redfish to invade popular flats and back bays throughout our estuary. Every year seems to be a little different with the amount of pressure and boats on the water, but with a little time on the water, patience, and persistence you can have an amazing day of fishing.
The first challenge is locating the fish. For starters, if you have fished a school of Redfish in years past, now is the time to go back to those areas and look around. Even if you have fished there in the last few weeks, you might find something totally different now or in the coming weeks. Finding and patterning mullet schools will be your biggest ally in locating Redfish. Most of the large populations of Redfish throughout the bay don’t travel too far from their “happy” place once they have moved into an area. In general they will patrol the outer flats and sandbars on the lower tides and will transition to the middle of the flat or near the mangroves on the higher tides. Following the mullet will get you close to where the Reds will be.
Once you have located a school of Redfish, take your time. Chances are you are not the only angler that knows about them or has tried to catch them – they might be spooky! The best scenario is to set up in front of the fish (if they are moving) and present baits to them naturally by intercepting their normal pattern. Having some chum (live or dead) ready as they approach will increase your chances for multiple hookups or possibly stopping the fish, creating a feeding frenzy. A lot of times, cut bait works well for fishing schools because it doesn’t move or spook the school before getting taken and you can generally cast it further. Pinfish, Threadfins, Greenbacks, Mullet, Ladyfish, Crabs, or even Jumbo Shrimp will all work perfect on a hungry pack of fish. I prefer to increase the size of my hook to a 3/O to 5/O Mustad Demon Circle and use 24” of 20-30lb Ohero fluorocarbon leader. The larger hook size will increase your hook-up ratio and keep less fish from getting gut-hooked on a gentle bite.
If throwing artificial lures is your thing, there’s no better rush than fishing Redfish schools. As mentioned above, approach is everything – even more importantly throwing artificial. My bait of choice is soft plastics. Fishing competitive Redfish tournaments has carried me all across the southeast US and I have found confidence in several rigging techniques and color patterns. More often than not, I am using a ¼ oz Hook-Up Lures jig head paired with a #313 Gold Glitter D.O.A CAL jig. The action and size of this bait mimics most inshore bait fish perfectly. Another great choice is a simple gold spoon. I prefer the Johnson Sprite weedless version in a 1/4oz model. There are several ways to rig this lure but I like to add a split ring and swivel to the spoon as opposed to where my main line and leader are tied. The advantage of the spoon is super long casts and ease of technique. Simply cast and reel adjusting the speed accordingly until you find the bite. The size limit for harvesting Redfish in our area is 18-27” with the tail pinched and the bag limit is 1 per person per day.
SUZUKI TECH TIP
Lower Unit Service
Shallow water is hardest on our lower units for obvious reasons. Whether we are self serviced or rely on our professionals please find herein a list of tasks that will keep our props turning.
- Remove the prop inspect for damage and look for fishing line around the prop shaft.
- Pressure test the lower unit. If it doesn’t hold pressure find out why: seals, prop shaft, shift shaft or driveshaft, crack?
- Drain gear lube if it looks milky there is water in it. Take it apart and inspect gears and bearings.
- Check prop shaft run out. Remove the prop shaft bearing carrier and inspect for corrosion behind the o-ring. Clean replace o-ring and prop shaft seals.
- Remove and clean water intake screens.
- Inspect and replace the water pump at service intervals. Shallow water running may shorten the interval.
- Inspect the driveshaft spline and support bushings. Any corrosion clean and lube well replace drive shaft seal.
- Repair and repaint any damage.
- Inspect all shift linkage and bushings. Repair and lube as required.
- Refill with correct gear lube! Be sure it is full. Many times there will be an air pocket that will make it appear full. Tilt the motor up and down several times and re-check level. Start and shift it and re-check level. If it is not filled to the correct level, the upper bearing will fail.
Capt. Travis Yaeckel
Instinct Fishing Co.
Stay dialed-in to what’s biting in Tampa Bay! Capt. Travis Yaeckel, Capt. Jason Prieto, Capt. Ric Liles, & Danny Guarino bring you the full report each week. Listen every Sunday Morning 8-9am on 1040AM ESPN Sports Talk Radio. Watch LIVE on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday 6-7pm. Or download the podomatic app on your phone or tablet and listen anytime. Search “ Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show “ to follow us and find current and past shows.