The most sought after fish species by clients visiting central Florida is the redfish. In other regions of the country, they are known by their more proper name, red drum. Most people around here refer to them simply as "reds". They are indeed a red to copper color. Their colors can change depending on their surroundings with some redfish being very dark copper and others a light red almost pink and silver color. Redfish are easily identified by their black spot near their tail. Most fish only have a single spot, which serves as a false eye to distract predators when they are young. Some fish have multiple spots than can cover most of their body. Along the end of the tail, there will often be a blue tint.
The Indian River Lagoon system, which includes the Mosquito Lagoon, is the only place where redfish live their entire lives inshore. In other locations, redfish live inshore until around three years of age, or about 27 inches long and then they move out into the open ocean. With our unique population of redfish, it is possible to catch full grown "bull reds" all year long. Some of our largest fish are over 20 years in age and top 40 pounds on the scales. See pictures of them in my redfish photo gallery.
The majority of redfish in central Florida are caught while "flats fishing" which is a general term for fishing in shallow water. While some redfish are caught in deeper basins, canals, and near bridges, most of them are caught on grass flats in less than two feet of water. Because of the depth of the water, it is possible to see these fish before casting to them. The dream of most flats fishing anglers in this region is to come upon a school of "tailing" redfish. When redfish are eating crabs, shrimp, marine worms, snails, clams, or other shellfish, they will tilt their nose down into the grass or mud in an attempt to dig out the targeted prey. If fish is longer than the water is deep, a portion of or its entire tail may break the surface of the water. This gives attentive anglers a definite target to cast at. Almost every well placed offering will immediately get eaten. See some tailing action in this redfish video.
Redfish will eat a wide variety of natural, baits, artificial lures, and flies. The simplest method to catch redfish involves putting chunks of cut bait such as mullet, pinfish, or ladyfish on a hook and letting it sit still on the bottom. At the opposite end of the spectrum is casting a plastic shrimp or fly to an individual fish in 18" of water. Other anglers prefer to blind cast likely flats using spoons, jerkbaits, surface plugs, and even spinnerbaits. I most commonly use a variety of soft platic baits such as the CAL jerkbaits and shad tails and DOA Shrimp or DOA Baitbuster. Redfish are known for their hard fighting and long drag pulling runs. Once out of the water, however, they usually are very cooperative while having their picture taken.
Redfish will gather in schools all year round, however, the number of schooling fish generally increases in the winter and spring. Some schools may have 10 fish while others can have over 500. Encountering these schools can quickly result in double hookups. Tailing fish are usually most active at dawn, dusk, and periods of low winds but they can be found at any time during any conditions. The average redfish in the areas I fish is around 22-27 inches which is normally 4-8 pounds. Using 10 pound braided line on light tackle spinning rods and reels, or 5-7 weight flyrods they put up quite a battle. Check out the fishing tackle I use here.
My favorite place to fish for redfish is the Mosquito Lagoon. It usually holds the most fish per acre and provides the most shots per day. Mosquito Lagoon fish, however, can get highly pressured and boat wary. On some occasions, a better chance of success can be had fishing for them in the Indian or Banana Rivers. All of redfish charters are done out of my Hewes flats skiff. While it is possible to catch fish while wading, it is not necessary as I will be pushing the boat into the shallow waters getting close enough for you to make the cast.
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