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Tempting redfish out of hiding
By ED WALKER
Published June 30, 2007
Fishing has been good both inshore and offshore this week. In shallow water, anglers have reported great catches of redfish and speckled trout. Full moon tides this weekend will bring the tides up higher than normal.
While high water usually causes redfish to move up close to the edge of the shoreline, extreme high tides can allow the fish to get too far up into the spartina and juncus marsh grasses. Too far in this case means behind the grass and into inaccessible spots for fishermen.
Targeting redfish in these spots takes some experimentation and ingenuity. A key item is braided line. Since your line will come in contact with the rough edges of the grass when you hook a fish, monofilament line can be easily cut. Using braided line in the 15- to 20-pound class allows you to battle a fish through a fair amount of grass.
The key to hauling a good-sized red out of this type of grass is a tight drag. As long as you pull hard and keep the distance between you and the fish minimal you have a shot. If the fish pulls out your drag and takes line, it likely will wrap you around more grass than your line can take. In some cases the fish may tie itself around the base of the plants and as you keep the line pulled tight you may be able get to it with a dip net or wade in and grab it.
In some instances the fish will be in pools or creeks behind a stand of grass, which is challenging. Getting a shot means you have to cast over the grass to the water beyond. The only chances you have to pull a fish in this way is to pull as hard as possible and get its head above water and try to drag through or over the cover. It is a long shot but on occasion it does produce quality fish.
Another way to catch fish deep in the cover is to draw them out before hooking them. Cut baits or the new, scented soft plastic lures are ideal. If you know where the fish are holding in the plants, you can place these baits close to the edge and use the scent to bring them out.
This usually takes patience since the fish will be wary and not come right out, but if you are quiet and leave the bait sitting on the bottom without moving it or casting it too much, they will come out.
A few years ago, while fishing at Anclote Key on a very high tide, we noticed several redfish moving deep beneath a mangrove tree. We anchored within casting range and cast live shrimp with their tails cut off as close to the tree as we could. It took a while but the reds started coming out.
As each fish struggled during the fight, it seemed to draw the curiosity of others hiding even farther back in the shadows. We ended up catching 15 redfish from beneath that single bush.
The same program can be used when fishing dock structures with pilings that are close together, and even on large oyster bars. Redfish have a remarkable sense of smell that can be used to an angler's advantage.