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Weedon Island Reds

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On: Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 10:43AM | By: Captain Sergio Atanes

Carl Windel landed this fine Snook

October is a great month for catching large Redfish in Tampa Bay; although Redfish are yearlong residents of the bay the large breeders prefer the mangrove shore line. October water temperatures are a welcome relief after the long hot summer months and a turn on for the big bruisers.

A short trip to catch bait at my secret spot and from there it was off to Weedon Island, one of my favorite spots for large Redfish this time of year. Once we reached the ‘no motor zone,’ I lowered the trolling motor and, with a push of a button, 103 pounds of thrust came to life propelling my 24-ft Sheaffer bay boat in the direction of Weedon Island. Many islands and keys in Tampa Bay are protected areas and one must use either a trolling motor or a push pole. So be aware and obey the rules; FWC keeps a good eye on these areas.

We slowly worked our way to the southeast point of the key and here we anchored and waited for the school to appear. Patience is important since the school can appear in a moment’s notice.

We were prepared for action: one rod with live pinfish suspended just below the surface of the water using float, the other one with greenbacks free-lined just beyond our float, and one with cut pinfish using a small split shot to keep the cut bait on the bottom.

The sun’s rays were slowly breaking into the crystal clear water and you could see small pinfish darting in and out of the grass and mullet starting to jump. I could tell by my clients’ look they were ready for action, and so was I. Just beyond our reach we could see a small wake, as if a small boat had buzzed by. We looked at each other and without a word prepared for an attack. The Reds were coming; Doug drew first blood and within a split second mine was next. Three hook-ups and no one around to see it. We had them all to ourselves for over three hours. We battled Reds, winning some fights and losing others.

Large schools of Reds will congregate around mangrove islands; some schools are so large they form a red wave as they push through the shallow waters of the flats. My favorite baits for these large bruisers are 3 to 5-inch pinfish, cut fresh dead pinfish, and dollar-size pass crabs. Casting distance is a must, and medium tackle works best. I prefer to use 15-pound test braided line, 7.6 medium action fast taper rod, and 3000 to 3500 reel for best casting distance.

Reds in shallow waters will spook easily and the stealth system works best; this means keeping a safe distance from the school and being quiet. Remember, sound travels seven times faster through water and the slightest noise can break up schooling fish.

I prefer to fish the start of an outgoing tide for Reds, because as the tide drops they are forced into the cuts and potholes around the mangrove island, creating a private casting pond for my clients. First, get there early ahead of the tide change. I have sat and waited for an hour for fish to move in and it has been well worth it. While other boats are trying to follow the fish, let the fish come to you. Never cast into a school of fish. Always cast ahead of them and let them come toward your bait. On days with strong currents, I will use a float and let the current drift my bait towards the fish. My clients had a great day, one they will never forget.

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