Back to school: Anglers fishing for reds
We are on the verge of finding schooling reds for yet another late summer season. Schools are containing 100-300 fish.
Although only a couple of schools have been sighted, more will be showing in the weeks to come. Most will be found on shallow grass flats containing sandy potholes and/or oyster bars.
When you find these schools, angling success is determined by your approach. If you come up on the fish with your motor running, you’re likely to spook them. Take your time and study their movements so you can predict where they’re headed. Then you can quietly and successfully approach the school to present a bait.
Once you’re on the fish, try casting a variety of natural and artificial baits to see what’s working. Live shiners generally work to hook up the copper-colored fish. If you’re using artificials, DOA Cal jigs work great. So do gold spoons.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure and finding a variety of species. He’s finding mangrove snapper to be abundant and his clients are having great action on medium tackle. By using live or fresh-cut shiners, Girle’s clients are catching their limits of snapper without much effort. Cobia are patrolling the nearshore reefs with fish up to 60 pounds being caught. Live pinfish or shiners are attracting the bite. Finally, juvenile gag and red grouper are being reeled up in between snapper bites.
Spanish mackerel are congregating around structure in the Gulf. Free-lined shiners don’t last long when the Spanish macks are around. Fish up to 22-inches to the fork are the norm.
Moving inshore, Girle is targeting schooling reds on the vast grass flats of Sarasota Bay. By fishing the higher parts of the tide, Girle is scouting out these schools and leading his clients to them. Most reds are falling in the upper-slot or over-slot range.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says mangrove snapper are the most consistent bite at the R&R. With water clarity nearing perfect, you can see the schools of snapper under the pier. This being said, they can probably see you too, so use a light fluorocarbon leader. Fifteen-pound test is great, but I wouldn’t go more than 20. Live shrimp or shiners combined with an extra small hook will get you connected.
Spanish mackerel are being caught at the pier. Gotcha plugs or speck rigs are proving prosperous. Expect to catch macks 15-20 inches.
Additionally, with the reopening of snook season just around the corner — Sept. 1 — it’s time to start watching for snook at the R&R. With the clear water we’re experiencing, you can see these giant snook lying under the pier. For the slot-size fish, shiners and pinfish will work. If you’re going for the over-slot catch-and-release snook, try using a ladyfish for bait.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is finding good action along the beaches. Spotted seatrout, catch-and-release snook and even a few redfish are being caught by casting a few shiners into the shore break. Most fish caught are being sight-casted — you can see the fish you’re trying to catch. Not only is it exciting to see the fish you want eating your bait, but there’s also a challenge in being accurate because your bait placement is crucial when sight-casting.
Moving out to nearshore structure, Lowman is catching his share of mangrove snapper. These fish fight well, and provide excellent table fare. Expect to catch snapper 12-15 inches, with the possibility of bigger ones in the mix.
Also, Lowman is finding good action on Spanish mackerel and ladyfish — both on the beach and in the bay. Live shiners free-lined behind the boat are a surefire way to tie into these migratory fish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting redfish. As we approach the time for these big spawner reds to school up, Gross is on the lookout. As of this past week, Gross is finding these schools and catching reds when the opportunity presents itself. Live shiners free-lined or fished under a popping cork are producing bites. Upper-slot and over-slot reds are being reeled to the boat.
Snapper are finding a way into Gross’ cooler. By fishing nearshore structure in the Gulf of Mexico and in Tampa Bay, Gross is catching snapper in the 15-inch range.
Fresh-cut shiners on a rig consisting of 20-pound fluorocarbon, a split shot and small circle hook is getting the bite.
Capt. Mark Howard of SumoTime fishing charters has been putting his clients on spotted seatrout, redfish, catch-and-release snook and mangrove snapper.
Howard has been locating spotted seatrout in 2-8 feet of water. These yellow-mouthed bruisers are being caught on shiners on the moving tide. Using a popping cork rigged with a tiny split shot near the hook will get the baits deeper in the water column and keep them away from the hoards of needle fish, Howard says.
Howard is finding catch-and-release snook near the beaches and on the outside points of Tampa Bay. He says to look for these fish as they move away from the passes when the new moon arrives. Chum with shiners and smaller pinfish to get the snook to chew.
Redfish are starting to gather into medium-sized schools and rallies are starting to occur during Howard’s recent charters. He’s using live and dead shiners to chum and get the bite fired up. Follow the schools of reds from the outside edges on low tide and then up into the bushes as the tide increases.
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