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Sightcasting For December Redfish

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On: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 2:58PM | By: Capt Gregg McKee

December is here and, like it or not, so are the cold fronts that come with it. For anglers in Southwest Florida it means adding those extra layers each morning and gritting your teeth against wind chills that can dip into the low 30s. Here around Pine Island it also means some of the best redfishing conditions of the entire year. 

The most notable thing that these temperature drops do to our water is increase its clarity. Tannin-stained water is the norm from Charlotte Harbor down to Estero Bay for most of the year. Matlacha Pass, in particular, can be remarkably dark and almost looks like coffee during the warmest months of the summer. Right now these same waters, especially those closest to the open Gulf, are almost as clear as the Keys and sight casting to redfish, even when they are not tailing, is as good as it gets.

Anglers with shallow-drafting flats boats obviously have the most flexibility when it comes to chasing redfish in these conditions. Having a spotter on the poling platform is ideal, but fishing from the bow while running the trolling motor is equally effective. Many of our mangroves have a perfectly clear strip of sand where no grass grows that runs their length. Laid-up redfish love to hang here and these areas are easy to work from a small skiff. A great example of this is the very long shoreline running south from the Burnt Store Marina towards Matlacha Pass. Polarized sunglasses are a must for fishing like this and amber lenses work best. A big redfish will actually look almost jet-black in the bright sun when they’re sitting over these sand strips.

Tackle choices for shore-hugging redfish run the gamut but smaller topwater lures, such as the Zara Spook Jr., are the go-to choice for many anglers. The rattling surface noise that the proven Zara Spook produces is a perfect imitation of a struggling mullet, and that’s usually all it takes to trigger an attack. The real trick when sight casting with a topwater is hitting the fish’s strike zone. For shoreline redfish this is usually between one to three feet in front of their nose. Any closer and the fish will spook, any further and they might not make the effort to chase the lure. If the waters are especially grassy, then it’s time to switch to something that runs just below the surface. Plastic jerk-baits, such as an all white Exude or Strike King rigged weedless, are also proven choices in these waters. A three-foot fluorocarbon leader of at least twenty pound test should be used for any of these lures.

Sight casting the shorelines is the best of all worlds for redfish anglers right now. As an added bonus, some really big snook are lurking right alongside the reds and they’ll smash every bait mentioned here just as quickly. Hugging the mangroves is also an excellent way to stay warm on a windy morning. So don’t let our unseasonably cool temperatures keep you off the water right now. Pine Island and all of Southwest Florida is actually just getting warmed up.


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