Shallow Water Predators
Tampa Bay redfish prefer shallow water and are often so shallow that their backs will show. The fish we commonly catch inside of Tampa Bay are juvenile fish from one to four years of age. Redfish are found along the edges of sea grass beds near sandy potholes or along deeper mangrove cuts. They like to hunt for crustaceans and bait fish in the roots of the mangroves. Found all over the state redfish are one of the more popular species of fish for anglers to target. They hit aggressively, fight hard and rarely give up until boat side and exhausted.
Fishing for Tampa Bay redfish on an open grass flat is an exciting day on the water or at times a frustrating venture. There are times it seems that no matter what type of bait or lure you throw their way they will ignore it. This is usually because they are aware of your presence and will not feed until they settle down. Patience is key when this happens you want to make sure that you are reducing your presence as much as possible when stalking them.
Silence is Golden
Banging hatches, dropping things on deck or motoring right up to a school will definitely prevent them from feeding. Use a trolling motor or push pole keeping in mind that when fishing for reds silence is required. Also make sure when casting to them you do not drop your bait into the middle of the school, you will want to cast in front of them and beyond them working your bait to the school.
Redfish love to hunt along mangrove lines. A good tactic for this type of fishing is to wound some pilchards by squeezing them and then tossing them in front of the mangroves. This will usually fire the fish up and get them to come out of the roots to feed on the easy meal you provided. Cast your bait to the area you are chumming. Be on the look out for swirls or commotion on the water as this is a sign that fish are there. You may also pick up a Snook or two with this method.
Tampa Bay Redfish Tactics and Techniques
By far my favorite way to catch them is on soft plastic paddle tails lures. Redfish love artificial baits and are hard pressed to pass one up. My favorite colors are black, Chartreuse, nuclear chicken, white and root beer with gold fleck. Long casts are a must working the bait back to the boat in quick bursts allowing it to rest. Redfish will usually hit on the drop and will turn and run quickly so have your drag set properly.
Lastly reds are by far one of the toughest fighter out there on the flats and a great fish to battle with. By practicing patience peppered with skill you can become a pro at catching these tough brutes and have many exceptional days fishing in Tampa Bay.