How to Catch Redfish in Florida: Tips and Techniques from a Professional Charter Captain
*(Reader submitted article - Photo Of Meisa Brown, Courtesy of Sea Hag Marina)
As a professional charter captain in Florida, I've spent countless hours on the water chasing after redfish. These fish are a favorite among anglers for their hard-fighting nature and delicious meat. If you're new to redfish fishing, don't worry - with a few tips and tricks, you'll be reeling them in like a pro in no time.
First things first, you'll need to know where to find them. Redfish can be found in a variety of habitats, from shallow flats to deeper channels. Look for areas with structure, such as oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and grass beds. Redfish also tend to school up, so if you catch one, there's a good chance there are more in the area.
When it comes to gear, a medium-heavy rod paired with a sturdy reel and 10-30 lb braided line is a good place to start. For bait, live shrimp or finger mullet are popular choices, but artificial lures such as soft plastics and topwater plugs can also be effective. One thing to keep in mind is that redfish have excellent eyesight, so it's important to use a leader and keep your presentation as natural as possible.
As a professional charter captain with years of experience fishing for redfish in Florida, I have learned a few things about these elusive fish that can help novice anglers improve their chances of catching them. In this section, I will provide you with an overview of redfish habitat, feeding habits, and behavior.
Redfish can be found in a variety of habitats, including grass flats, oyster bars, mangrove shorelines, and tidal creeks. They prefer shallow waters, typically less than three feet deep, and are often found in areas with a lot of structure, such as rocks, logs, and vegetation. When fishing for redfish, it's important to pay attention to the tides, as they will often move in and out of different areas depending on the water level.
Feeding Habits of Redfish
Redfish are opportunistic feeders, and will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. Some of their favorite foods include crabs, shrimp, and small fish. When fishing for redfish, it's important to use bait that mimics their natural prey. Live shrimp, crabs, and small baitfish are all effective options. Additionally, redfish are known to be attracted to scent, so using bait that has a strong odor can help increase your chances of catching them.
Redfish are known for their strong fighting ability, making them a popular game fish among anglers. When hooked, they will often make long runs and try to wrap themselves around structure in an attempt to break free. One of the keys to catching redfish is to be patient and let them tire themselves out before trying to reel them in. Additionally, redfish are often found in schools, so if you catch one, there's a good chance there are more in the area.
Another important thing to keep in mind when fishing for redfish is their sensitivity to noise and vibration. Redfish are often found in shallow waters, and any loud noises or sudden movements can spook them and cause them to swim away. When approaching an area where you think redfish may be, it's important to do so quietly and slowly to avoid scaring them off.
Equipment Needed for Redfish Fishing
Rods and Reels
When it comes to rods and reels, there are a few different options that work well for redfish fishing in Florida. For spinning reels, a medium-heavy rod between 6'6" and 7'6" with a 3000 to 4000 size reel is a common setup. If you prefer baitcasting reels, a medium-heavy rod between 6'6" and 7'6" with a baitcasting reel is a great choice.
One of my favorite rods for redfish fishing is the Ugly Stik GX2. It's a durable and reliable option that won't break the bank. Plus, it comes in both spinning and baitcasting versions, so you can choose the setup that works best for you.
When it comes to terminal tackle, there are a few key items you'll need. First, you'll need a good quality fishing line. For redfish fishing, I recommend using a braided line with a test weight between 20 and 30 pounds. This will give you the strength you need to reel in those big reds.
You'll also need a selection of hooks and weights. For redfish, I recommend using circle hooks in sizes 3/0 to 5/0. These hooks are great for catch-and-release fishing, as they are less likely to cause injury to the fish. For weights, I recommend using egg sinkers or split shot weights. The size of your weight will depend on the depth of the water you're fishing in.
Bait and Lures
When it comes to bait and lures, there are a few different options that work well for redfish. Live bait, such as shrimp or mullet, is a popular choice. You can also use cut bait, such as pieces of mullet or crab.
If you prefer to use lures, there are a few different options that work well for redfish. Soft plastic lures, such as paddle tails or jerk baits, are a great choice. You can also use topwater lures, such as poppers or walking baits, for some exciting surface action.
Keep in mind that the type of bait or lure you use will depend on the time of year, water temperature, and other factors. As a professional charter captain, I can help you choose the best bait or lure for your specific fishing conditions.
Techniques for Catching Redfish
Locating RedfishWhen it comes to locating redfish, there are a few key things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it's important to understand their habitat. Redfish can be found in a variety of environments, including grass flats, oyster bars, mangroves, and deep channels. Look for areas with structure, such as rocks, docks, and pilings, as these can attract redfish. Another important factor to consider is the tide. Redfish tend to feed during incoming and outgoing tides, so it's important to time your fishing accordingly. Pay attention to the water level and look for areas where the water is moving, such as inlets and channels.
Casting TechniquesWhen it comes to casting for redfish, accuracy is key. You want to be able to place your bait or lure right in front of the fish, so it's important to practice your casting technique. Aim for a spot just in front of the fish and try to land your bait or lure as softly as possible. One technique that can be effective is to cast up current and let your bait or lure drift towards the fish. This can create a more natural presentation and increase your chances of getting a bite.
Retrieving TechniquesOnce you've cast your bait or lure, it's important to use the right retrieving technique. Redfish can be finicky, so it's important to experiment with different retrieves until you find what works best. One technique that can be effective is to retrieve your bait or lure slowly and steadily, with occasional pauses to let it sink to the bottom. Another technique is to use a jerking motion to imitate a wounded baitfish. Overall, the key to catching redfish is to be patient and persistent. Keep trying different techniques until you find what works best, and don't be afraid to ask for advice from more experienced anglers. With a little practice and some luck, you'll be reeling in redfish in no time!
Fishing Regulations for Redfish in FloridaAs a professional charter captain, I want to make sure you are aware of the fishing regulations for redfish in Florida. It's important to follow these regulations to ensure the sustainability of the redfish population and avoid any penalties.
Size and Bag LimitsThe Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has established size and bag limits for redfish. The current slot limit for redfish is 18-27 inches, with a bag limit of one fish per person. This means that any redfish caught must be between 18 and 27 inches in total length, and you can only keep one redfish per person per day. It's important to measure your catch accurately to ensure that it meets the size limit. You can measure the total length of the fish from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail (not including any fin filaments). If the fish is too small, release it immediately to ensure its survival.
Seasonal RestrictionsThere are also seasonal restrictions for redfish fishing in Florida. The FWC has established a closed season from March to May, during which redfish cannot be harvested. This is to protect the redfish during their spawning season and help maintain healthy populations. It's important to check the current regulations before you go fishing to ensure that you are fishing within the legal season.
Catch and Release Best PracticesCatch and release is a great way to enjoy redfish fishing while also protecting the population. If you choose to catch and release, there are a few best practices to follow: - Use circle hooks to reduce the chance of gut hooking the fish - Handle the fish gently and avoid touching their gills - Keep the fish in the water as much as possible - Revive the fish by holding it upright in the water until it swims away on its own.
By following these best practices, you can help ensure the survival of the redfish population and enjoy the thrill of catching them for years to come. Remember, as a responsible angler, it's important to follow all fishing regulations to help maintain healthy populations of redfish in Florida.