Bass Abound (Redfish)
Early fall is time of year when living is easy. The days are noticeably shorter and milder. Life seems to beat to a different pace in the fall. Fall is measured by things like tassels on the marsh grass, incredible colors and of course bass. Those of us who grew on the coast simply called redfish, bass.
Next few weeks should be exceptional for redfish! These fish normally forage on fiddler crabs. For the next several weeks shrimp will make up a large portion of their diet. Many small reds or first year fish are now legal 14 inch size, some are larger. Second year fish can be found in creeks on flats and near the sounds. These fish can be taken on incoming or outgoing water although outgoing tides usually produce nice opportunities to tangle with quality fish. Its not unusual while fishing a grass line to release two or three dozen keeper sized reds. When the small fish stop biting fish between 23 and 30 inches might moved in. The fish don’t bite this every day. Tides, luck, porpoises, wind, water clarity, interference from an unwitting angler and all play a part. The biggest factor is possibly the one we have the least control over that is porpoises. Porpoises can scatter a school fish to parts unknown and turn world class fishing into asking your fishing buddy what just happened!
Last fall Chuck King, manager of Cranmans Sporting World and I were scouting for trout and bass. Drops that I fished earlier in the fall weren’t producing. Chuck said lets fish a big bass place of his. We caught all sorts of fish. I estimated we had 50 bass between 7 and 10 pounds. Chuck had two on the fly. The fishing was spectacular!. A few days later on a similar tide I found porpoises all over the grass line. I motor in to drive the porpoises out. Four casts produced four fish. I got one 10 pounder to the boat. Then the porpoises were back. I often tell clients porpoises are the real fishermen. Instead of begrudging them you might as well look at them with awe and on some days with little envy. When porpoises discover the school of reds you’re trying to fish just move on. Drawing porpoises to boat is a crowd pleaser but should done with caution. Porpoises that get to use to human contact might come up to boat just to investigate who’s in their water. My suggestion is keep contact to a minimum.
With a little luck, the next several weeks should be ideal for redfish. Mild temperatures and plenty of bait will likely mean a strong redfish bite. Often fishermen who are not familiar with redfish will impressed my their fight. Its not unusual for a small fish to fight like he thinks he’s a big fish! A big fish might scream off yards of line as he high tails it to the grass or an oyster rake for protection. The best trout fishing usually takes off after the first winter cold snap. Before the cold snap think redfish! These fish will usually hold close to structure, if you’re not fishing close to structure you’re likely missing a lot of fish. Think in for bass and out for trout. My preference for a live bait hook is a gold #1 khale hook. The key for any bait in bass fishing is that it needs to be fresh (per Spud Woodward senior DNR biologist), the fresher the better. Bass will readily take a live or dead bait such as a large shrimp, a mud minnow, pogies or finger mullet. The stomachs of most bass are filled with fiddler crabs another excellent bait. Shrimp nonetheless is the primary bait during the fall.
Capt. Ray Crawely saids shorten leaders on float rigs as the tide ebbs (sometimes one foot or less). Capt. Ray prefers a 20# so the leader. My preference is a heavier leader, usually a 30# flourocarbon. Large fish can and will be in skinny water (usually less then 2 feet). It’s make little sense to fish skinny water with long leader but it’s done all time. Fish lighter tackle that less likely to spook fish. Plastics can and do work well. DOA shrimp are great in skinny water. Remember work your bait or plastic at a realistic pace. SLOW! For best result fish close to structure and on lower tide stages. When the drop you’re fishing fails to produce try drifting a bank. When someone is hooked into a “good fish”, ease your anchor over. The fish will often give themselves by push of water, a wake, jumping shrimp or you might see all or part of the fish. Spooking fish isn’t the kiss of death often fish will return to the same area. Allow for everything to settle down and you might be surprised! My belief is there is good noise and bad noise a thrashing redfish might turn other fish instead of scattering them. Tossing an anchor over or running your boat in shallow water will definitely spook fish.
Enough taking about reds let’s go fishing!
Capt. Jack McGowan
Tackle and fishing update Chuck King landed 6 redfish bewteen 4 and 6 1/2 pounds on live shrimp with me on 10.13.03 using a low country poping float. Light tackle is effective.