The Menhaden – A Prime Summer Bait

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Fishing Apalachicola Bay From A Kayak

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Nutrient rich freshwater from a 20,000 square-mile drainage flows south through west Georgia and across the Florida Panhandle. It flushes out at the mouth of the Apalachicola River, where, guarded by a series of slim barrier islands, it churns with waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the fecund, brackish stew that is Apalachicola Bay.

Vast grass flats and long sandy points on the backsides of the barrier islands give way to deeper channels and strong tidal currents. It is the perfect habitat for some of the world’s finest oysters. And where there are oyster bars, grass flats and tidally influenced creeks, there are redfish. Apalachicola Bay has redfish in abundance, and plenty of trout to go along with them.

Even in less than 3 feet of water, the 200 square-mile expanse of the bay left me feeling alone and exposed, an insignificant speck in a 12-foot kayak. The flurry of action and diving birds that coincided with daybreak and an outgoing tide had slowed an hour ago. So I sat in the boat looking for some sign of life. A platform for viewing would have been very handy.

Then they appeared only 50 yards away, little translucent triangles darting on the surface. The school of reds appeared frantic as they fed in shallow water, skittering back and forth but ever closer to where I waited.

Apalachicola Bay01

A few quiet paddle strokes were enough to put me in position. With probably 30 fish less than 50 feet away, I cast with a 7-weight fly rod. When my polar fiber minnow plopped down in the school, they jumped on it. One strip: a hard bump, but no hook-up. Second, third, fourth strip: they kicked up a wake behind the fly. Then a jarring thump ran up my arm as one took the bait and began a series of blistering runs.

It was a 28-inch red that I eventually brought to hand and released, one of many I tangled with over a week spent exploring the bay. Local guide Capt. Randy Peart said the fishing is always this good. He admitted, however, that sight fishing is not usually feasible. Most of the time the water is stained brown from tons of sediment washing in from the river, and a steady wind makes it tough to search out surface activity.

So the angler is left probing structure like docks, oyster bars and changes in bottom composition with spoons, jigs, soft plastics or live bait for conventional anglers, or obnoxious, loud flies like Rattle Rousers for the fly anglers.

An added bonus to targeting reds is you’ll occasionally hook up with big trout that hang in the same areas. If you want to specifically target trout, they school up in the spring and fall on the oyster bars and on the first drops off the flats.

Although trout and slot reds can be the year-round main event, Spanish mackerel, silver trout, giant 37-inch bull reds and tarpon show up in the bay at different times of the year.

Hot Summer Redfish

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Wading The Flats For Summer Redfish

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Special Correspondent Tobin Strickland

The Desperado 22’ chewed up waves like nobody’s business. We can all agree that this spring, in addition to being cooler, has been windier and longer. We set our course for the grass flats and let the Desperado take care of business while cranking tunes on the Rockford Fosgate stereo system.

We were wading a grass flat for redfish looking for flags to tell us where they were going to show up today. Many times we talk about winter and cold-weather wading gear, but warm-water wading gear gets overlooked. Protecting our feet and skin are of the highest safety priorities during wet wading.

In the past it was thought OK to wade with high-top tennis shoes and cotton socks. One or two wades on sand flats with degraded shell will quickly change your mind. Those tiny shell fragments easily rub your skin raw and allow the flesh-eating bacteria vibrio vulnificus an open sore to enter. The Gaurd Socks made by Simms Fishing are 4mm neoprene socks designed to protect your skin in your wading boot.

redfish heating up (1)

Choosing a quality well-designed wading boot is also essential to protect your feet and ankles from scrapes and cuts as well as from that redfish hooked with multiple trebles as it runs between your feet. Wear long pants to protect from stinking jelly fish, and wear a quality wicking long-sleeve shirt with a sun collar to keep the sun off your neck and face. Follow these simple summer wade-fishing rules, and you’ll certainly have many more days on the water ahead of you.

As July heats up, so will the redfish action. Increasing water temperatures will increase the metabolism of redfish in the afternoons, causing them to surge the flats and shallow oyster reefs in small schools from 10 to 15 fish ranging in size from the lower to upper end of the slot. They tend to run in packs of similar age.

Find a flat with fish. An area with 20- to 22-inch redfish will likely have you repeating the scenario over and over. Generally, the larger redfish are going to found on main bay and secondary bay shoreline structure nearer deeper water. These are fish that have moved away from the juvenile baitfish of the marsh and are looking for bigger meals, mullet, menhaden and an occasional crab. These will all be upper-slot reds, and in the summer they’ll have ravenous appetites.

Probably the biggest learning factor to this style of fishing can be the speed at which the schools can move. These fish aren’t tailing for shrimp and crabs in the grass. They are aggressive and charge schools of baitfish and white shrimp utilizing their large tails and forceful surges to concentrate their quarry. The angler in search of these fish will have to be ready to be on the move as well. Top lure choices will be plastic baits on a ¼- to 3/8-ounce jig head, as well as ½-ounce gold spoons. The redfish will eat practically anything that gets in their way. The key is hunting them aggressively in the right areas and boat positioning. No one does this better than Capt Brent Juarez of Galveston, Texas.

Double Hook Up

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Jace Concepcion caught this 27 and 25 inches Redfish in Delacroix, LA.


Left: Jace Concepcion with his 27″ red
Right: Colton Schnable with his 25″ red
Taken in Delacroix, LA

Redfish Capital of the World

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Most of the readers out there have heard that Venice, La. is the redfish capitol of the world. Yes I know that there are redfish in every coastal spot in Louisiana. I have fished in most areas and caught reds in all of them. However, Venice, La. is at the mouth of the largest River in the country. This River brings tons of nutrients south and deposits them in and around the River Delta. These nutrients feed the organisms that feed the small fish. This starts the “food chain” that leads to the red fish and up to the “bull reds”.


Last month I got a call from Carey Swope from up in Maine. Now I get a lot of charters from all over the country, but Maine is a long way from here and I’ve never received a request from that state. Carey told me that he was the former Vice President of the Maine Chapter of CCA and had served on their board for over 10 years. He, also, told me that he had fished all over the world and had caught many trophy fish including tarpon, snook, steelhead, stripers, etc. However, he had not ever caught a red fish, and especially a bull red. He had heard about Venice, La., so he contacted the local state CCA and was given my name and number. He now wanted to book me with the specific intent of catching “bull reds”. I jumped at the chance to show him what a great fishery we have in south Louisiana.
Carey and his wife, Ann, spent several days in New Orleans enjoying the sites and food and then drove to Venice to meet up with me. The sport fishing in Louisiana brings many tourists down to our great state. This tourism is great for our state and our economy. We met at Venice Marina around 5:30 am and set out to try and find the fabled “bull red”.


My first stop was a bummer; very muddy water from a thunderstorm the night before. Now reds can handle muddy water, but it had moved the bait fish out. No bait, no fish. The wind was strong out of the west, so I couldn’t fish the famous rock jetties at south west pass. I had to fish the east side to try to stay out of the wind. I cranked the big Skeeter up and ran south about 12 miles. I was looking for cleaner water, calm seas, and bait. After about 2 hours, “pay dirt”. I caught the first one: a nice spotted bronze back about 35 inches long. I set up a drift along an outer bar, and before long both Carey and Ann joined in the fun. We were fishing medium spinning rods with 50 pound braid. At the terminal end I tie a “noisy” cork and then 2 feet of 30 pound mono with a very good ¼ once jig head. We found that a purple and chartreuse eel was what they wanted that day. We also encountered an occasional Jack Cravel. This brute fish just spiced up the battles we were doing with the bulls.


About 1pm the wind picked up to a point that it was unpleasant to continue fishing. We tied up the rods and headed north for an hour long ride through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. I sat there thinking how great it was for me to be able to introduce this lovely couple to the wonders of south Louisiana. All of this happened because we truly are “The Red Fish Capital of the World”.

Florida Captains Tackle Louisiana Marsh During IFA Redfish Series Championship

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Capt. Michael Manis

[slider_pro id="12" effect_type="fade" height="415px"]

For years, seven to be exact, I’ve been chasing redfish around the state. That includes both coasts and the panhandle. I’ve even ventured into Alabama and have made the run as far as the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. This was all part of fishing three different redfish tournament series with my long time tournament partner, Captain Jay Withers. Since early on, we had heard the stories of the fishery in Louisiana and never seemed able to afford or fit it into our schedule. We finally decided to make it happen this year and put together a trip scheduled around the IFA Redfish Series Championship. Although we were going to fish the event, our goal and emphasis was simply to finally explore, fish, and experience what is regarded as the best red fishing in the country. It was a full 12 hour drive from our home in south west Florida and we were on the water the very next morning to begin what would be a nine day trip. Over the course of the trip, we split our time fishing marshes and ponds in both Venice and Delacroix. Distance is a relative term; and even though either area was not all that far from New Orleans, they’re both very remote. In fact, the vast wilderness we encountered reminded me a lot of the 10,000 Islands with marsh instead of mangroves. Although tide swings were minimal, navigation was still tricky at low tide. Because of all the ground we wanted to cover, we decided to bring a 24’ Pathfinder Bay boat. However, if you stay away from open water, a small technical skiff would be just fine and if you like to pole you could also get by without a trolling motor.

Our goal was to sight fish throwing fly and soft plastics on both spin and bait casting rods. The larger breeding stock move into the marshes from the Gulf this time of year and we wanted to spend some time targeting these fish as well as trying to find some good slot size fish. We were led to believe that Louisiana reds weren’t as spooky as Charlotte Harbor fish and that there were good numbers of oversized fish. Both these assessments were correct as there’s just too much wilderness for the fish to be pressured like home and there’s definitely no shortage of oversized stock. On fly, we threw a nine weight with a floating weight forward line. Early, gurglers worked well and as the sun got high we switched to shrimp patterns. In the marsh, long casts aren’t really necessary and a 30’ cast was all that was needed. Shoreline points produced best. Throughout the day, it wasn’t unusual to see shrimp jumping out of the water up and down the shoreline. Moreover, just like anywhere, fishing was best where mullet was thickest. Close to the Mississippi, the brackish marsh can produce some cloudy water. This combined with the competitive nature of these fish makes popping corks very popular in the marsh. That’s probably why the gurgler worked so well. The popping cork imitates a fish feeding on top and it definitely drew attention when popped a couple times then left to sit. A three inch Gulp shrimp worked well with this rig. We also threw quite a few Slayer paddle tails. It has great tail action and the vibration they put out drew some aggressive strikes.

Delacroix and Venice were a bit different but both locations sat outside the protected levee systems. They were both way out in the marsh. We spent most our time fishing out of Delacroix. It’s an interesting place where just about every building is built on very high platforms or stilts. It’s mostly fishing camps and shrimp operations with only 11 families living there full time. You’re in the marsh as soon as you load the boat. We found some of our best fish at the edge of the marsh where it met the Gulf. There are no marina facilities here; Just a few small rundown ramps. Keep in mind, hurricane Isaac had gone through over the summer and the entire town suffered through a 12 foot storm surge. The entire place was in the process of rebuilding. In 2005, hurricane Katrina leveled the entire place down to only foundations. Venice, while way down south on a peninsula into the marsh, has a fairly large marina that seems to stay busy. It has some modern conveniences and sits between the Mississippi River and the outside marsh. Here, just to the west is marsh that produces the large oversize fish that has made Louisiana famous. We fished it with the same techniques and it’s probably the best place on earth to throw a fly at giant reds in shallow water. You’d think nine days is plenty; but, it’s not. This is where I’d like to head if I ever have the chance to return.

Winter Redfish on the Fly

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Wintertime is what a poet once called “the cruelest month.” This is not the case if you’re in pursuit of redfish in the fly. Wintertime is one of the finest times to target big bull reds in the Gulf of Mexico from Texas to the west coast of Florida.

Why the redfish?
Catching a redfish on the fly is one of saltwater fly-fishing greatest experiences. Not only are redfish very eager and willing to take a variety of flies and poppers, they also have a tendency to feed in very shallow water, making them the perfect saltwater fish for sight casting. There is something very special about seeing and casting to a redfish tailing along a grassy marsh bank and watching the fly disappear into its mouth and the line coming tight. For your first saltwater fly fishing experience, the redfish is the perfect fish to fine-tune your fly fishing skills.

The tackle
The redfish game is simple. All you need is a nine foot long 7 or 8 weight rod matched with a floating line and a fly reel that can carry 150 yards of backing. For the leader, a standard nine-foot leader with a tippet rating of 15 to 20-pound test works best. If fishing for tailing reds, a crab pattern or spoon fly will do the job. A good bet when surface fishing along the mangroves or grassy banks is a popper that creates surface noise and a highly-visible wake.

The set up
In your search for those areas where redfish are feeding, give special attention to oyster beds, mangrove shorelines and shallow flats, where more often than not you’ll spot redfish rooting around and kicking up bottom mud in their search for crustaceans and other food. When redfish are focused on feeding it is possible to move in very close to them, making a long cast unnecessary.

Once you’ve spotted the fish, position the fly close to its head, make a one-handed steady strip of your line and hang on!

Red Fish

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Craig Pasanen caught this 41 inches Red Fish in Blount Island Florida.


Caught on live shrimp on the bottom. First bait that was put out.

Big Bertha

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Dar darcy caught this 45 lbs Bull redfish in South Carolina.


Caught at night time on cut mullet!

Kayaking Adventure in the Chandeleur Islands

Friday, October 19th, 2012

By John Williams


The deep rumble of the engines aboard the Double Trouble made me realize that one of my long-time kayak fishing dreams was finally coming true. We were headed out for two days of kayak fishing at the Chandeleur Islands. Located 35 miles off the coast of Biloxi, Mississippi, this fast disappearing chain of barrier islands has attained an almost mythical reputation for fantastic fishing. Capt. Troy Fountain’s 65-foot trawler would serve as mother ship for us and for our kayaks as well as being our home away from home. Our group, made up of members of the Lafayette Kayak Fishing Club, cracked open cold beers on the deck and watched the sun go down as Capt. Troy navigated out to the islands.


The next morning dawned to rain pelting the top of the boat. We could smell breakfast and hot coffee brewing up in the galley. While on weather delay, we spent some time with Capt. Troy looking for advice on how to fish the area.


“We have a wind out of the south, so I would head up close to the island, then drift back downwind towards the Double Trouble,” he said. “You’re likely to find Specs, Spanish mackerel and possibly some reds on any of these drifts. Most fish plastics or topwaters. Just vary up your presentation and color until you find what they like.”

After a two-hour delay to let a squall pass, we were launched and ready to fish.


The rough weather had made the water fairly dirty, so after a couple of unsuccessful drifts, I decided to head up close to the island to see if I could find any redfish. Approaching the island, I saw several inlets that created a marsh. Soon I was working the grass lines with a ¼-ounce jighead and a black and chartreuse cocahoe. After half an hour and no bites, it was time to change tactics.
I had noticed that the bottom was firm and sandy even though I was inside the marsh. I climbed out of the kayak and into the water to wade fish. It felt very different to be wade fishing a marsh area. This allowed me to fish slowly up the grass line. When I came across a point located near a trenasse, it wasn’t long before my first Chandeleur redfish was tearing line off my reel. The fish seemed to be focused on the points and I was able to catch several more reds in this inlet. With threatening skies and a stomach that was grumbling, it was time to head back to the Double Trouble for some lunch.


Several members of our group were on board, swapping fish stories as they downed huge sandwiches in the galley of the boat. After lunch, I decided to try drifting the grass beds again throwing some top waters—hoping to catch some of the specs that the Chandeleurs are famous for. I tied on a big Chug-N-Spook since the wind had picked up pushing the chop to about 1 foot. My mind wandered as I drifted—working the big topwater across the swells. I made a long cast to the south and after a few zigzags, my lure was hit harder than anything I’ve ever caught on a topwater. A huge explosion followed by my rod being jerked parallel to the water and line tearing off the reel so fast I thought I was going to see smoke soon. This had to be either the biggest trout I’ve ever caught or a bull red. It turned out to be neither. What I was connected to was a big jack crevalle.


Over the next 45 minutes, the jack proceeded to give me a sleigh ride all over the grass flats. Each time it would tire, the fish would swim on its side near the boat for a few minutes and then take off again. A deck hand had noticed my dilemma about how to handle the big fish and came out to help in a skiff. As soon as he arrived, the jack wrapped the line around my rudder and broke it off. I had always wanted to catch a jack crevalle. Now I believe that I’m cured of this desire. My only wish is that I could have gotten a grip-n-grin picture with the fish before I released him.


After another great night of food and drink on the mother ship, it was back to fishing the next morning. I headed southwest—out to a large cove I had spotted the previous day. The wide shallow flat leading back into the island was packed with gulls. The birds turned out to be nesting in the area. Their raucous voices filled the air in a way that was inspiring and humbling at the same time. I fished my way up the flat without success. The show that the birds were putting on more than made up for the lack of fishing action. As the squalls began to move back in from the south, it was time to fish a little closer to the Double Trouble.

As I drifted past the boat, I kept an eye out for bait and for moving water. A quarter mile downwind of the boat, I noticed a current line and started working this with a Marsh Works Killa Squilla shrimp. Before long, BANG, fish on! It wasn’t huge, but when I got it to the boat it turned out to be my first Spanish mackerel. I dropped anchor and continued to fish the current line. The next fish was a nice 19-inch spec—my first of the trip. Over the next hour, I caught 10 more trout between 15 to 20 inches. The squall line got closer and the rain started to fall in buckets. Since the fish were biting, I just stayed put until the fish quit biting.


When I got back, the rest of the group had already arrived at the boat. The day was almost over as was our trip. Capt. Troy decided that we had better get back to port with the weather degrading by the hour and a four-hour boat ride ahead of us. In dry clothes and warm inside the cabin of the Double Trouble, I thought back about my adventure. Even though we had very marginal weather, the fishing was amazing. The remoteness of the area, variety of species to catch and the adventure of living aboard the mother ship with nothing to do but eat, sleep and kayak fish was something I will most definitely do again.

Proud Moment!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Andrea caught this Redfish in Mount Pleasant, SC.


My first big fish!!! I am one happy girl! My goal has been to be on this board and in the paper since I’ve moved here! This catch wore me out!

monster red

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

steve beaudet caught this red drum in granada pier, ormond beach.


Caught at the granada pier in ormond beach, fl. Only had time to snap a few photos before releasing the big guy. Wanted to get him back swimming.

Lady Angler 1st Place!

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Katina Zaros took first place in The Full of the Bull Tournament in Jacksonville, FL, with this monster 42″ redfish. She used live crab and her team caught 8 reds altogether in about 26 ft on the high slack.

Monster Redfish In Brevard’s Banana River

Thursday, September 27th, 2012
monster redfish

A true NMZ beast at over 45 inches should be to on the Bucket List of any adventurer.  Alex(dad) taking that notch here.

The concept of a bucket list is a grand idea even at a young age. With just a bit of self-reflection and a piece of paper, some of your most amazing Imaginings can start to take shape. Just the thought of all those far off lands send my brain swimming with silvery tarpon, majestic leaping sailfish, grand marlin within sight of land, or even monster redfish in the shadows of America’s space program. You see, I have a unique birthplace, which I share with a part of our nation’s history. Cape Canaveral doesn’t just come into focus in those cool looking-back-at earth pictures from launched rockets. It also comes into focus in many publications, T.V. shows, and bar stool hero stories of monster redfish. “It was the size of my boat,” they’ll say. That very well may be true in my hometown.

Many years ago NASA started collecting land in a sparsely populated and mosquito infested marshland now known as Cape Canaveral/Merritt Island. The subsequent secure areas that closed large sections of the North Banana River had an unintended consequence. In the closing of these areas our local schools of redfish were able to flourish with little to no human pressure, and the lack of development created optimum breeding grounds. A little known Space Coast fact: lagoons and rivers around here play host to special redfish that spawn inshore, and that is not commonly found in their range. Those who have seen the reds that lurk these waters year round affectionately call this amazing closed area Jurassic Park.


In the early days boats and anglers were able to ply the waters in search of fish, stopping only at the Banana River’s secure area boundary (NASA Cswy/405). But an early 90s call for manatee protection and increased security gave birth to an extension of limited access water called the Banana River No-Motor-Zone (NMZ). Access to this manatee area was limited only by one’s ability to paddle, push, or sail. The pristine waters that lined NASA’s secure zone were now free of motors and boy did the fish respond. Many types of common and not so common vessels have been poled (pushed), paddled, and sailed into the farthest reaches of the NMZ. You may see a paddleboat with so many rods it appears to be a floating porcupine, or come across four big guys in one little johnboat, and the obvious combo package of a canoe with a sail has certainly been spotted.

I cut my teeth in the NMZ with my trusty canoe. My father would drop my fishing buddies and me at KARS Park on his way to work. He worked on the Space programs my entire life, not to mention everyone else in my family— including me—we accounted for about 200 years of combined service. So this gave us access to KARS Park, the NMZ front park which only NASA employees could use. KARS, as it’s commonly called, not only has camping and a marina, it also serves as the best NMZ launch on its western shore with monster redfish caught frequently right off the camp site docks. These playful fishing missions that lasted for hours with my fish minded school friends was only the beginning of my lifelong love for the NMZ’s huge resident redfish.

Beautiful scenes that frequently get interrupted by giant redfish.

Beautiful scenes that frequently get interrupted by giant redfish.

Several years back I retired that trusty old canoe. These days my fleet of fully rigged fishing kayaks get us around the NMZ with a bit more efficiency and style. But my launch spot has remained that same old KARS Park. The stunning backdrop of tree lined shores and towering launch pads have witnessed broom sized redfish tails appearing from the mist of a foggy central Florida mornings for many a year. And countless times I can recall the heart-stopping crush of a three foot redfish eating a topwater plug on a still, predawn morning with the flash of Cape Canaveral’s famous lighthouse not yet drowned out by a stunning burst of sunrise color. Or the huge American flag and NASA logo on the side of the massive VAB building adorning the horizon while being towed off by a redfish the size of your leg that ate a mullet chunk the size of you fist. With just a bit of research you could paint yourself into one of these scenes, and KARS helped you in achieving this attainable goal by starting to allow anyone to launch in the NMZ for a $5 boat fee. So come enjoy a trip with a Florida fishing guide, or set out on your own, but this unique Florida destination should top your bucket list.

Low-Tide Redfish Ambush at St. Marks Refuge

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

By Gary Droze
[slider_pro id="7" effect_type="swipe" thumbnail_width="65"]

If there’s angling in Heaven, do you catch a stout fish on every cast there? I propose the answer is no, based on a recent fishing expedition on the Saint Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Florida’s Big Bend. Here’s my hypothesis: much of the excitement in angling derives from some element of uncertainty. If every single cast produced a fish without fail, tedium would eventually set in. And Heaven can’t be tedious, right?

I constructed this hypothesis some 45 minutes into a session on one of the ridiculously productive tidal creeks that perfuse the saltwater marsh in the St Marks Refuge. My fourteenth lobbing cast into a sandbar drop-off had instantly yielded a strike from—you guessed it—Redfish Number Fourteen. Like the baker’s dozen of reds that preceded it, this fellow was an ornery copper muscle with fins, right at two feet long. Finally, I had a confirmed response, in case anyone should ever ask “how many upper slot redfish could you catch in a row before getting just a wee bit bored?” Thirteen.

Supposing you’d like to find your own Redfish Boredom Limit (RBL), I highly encourage an outing on the tidal creeks of Apalachee Bay, which includes over 30 miles of St. Marks Refuge coastline, bookended by the Aucilla River to the east and the rustic fishing village of Panacea to the west. In this area, successful creek redfish anglers employ a variety of baits and lures, but their overall game plans typically fit into just two categories: rising tide pursuit or low tide ambush. The majority goes for a high tide approach, as a matter of practicality. Like most finny inshore predators, Apalachee Bay redfish move with the lifting tide. The rising water grants them access to forage like fiddler and blue crabs, as well as pinfish and banded killifish (although inquiring about banded killifish at local bait shops will earn you a quizzical look; ask instead for bull or tiger minnows—same thing). The other practical aspect of fishing high tide involves angler access. The mouths of these creeks are generally so shallow as to prohibit entrance for most boaters—even some kayakers—at low tides near full or new moon phases. Factor in the hull-damaging potential of oyster bars and rock-strewn bottom, and it’s easy to understand why even the veteran boaters here check the tide charts for fat water before cruising to the creeks. Boosting the economy through spending locally is admirable, but wouldn’t you prefer to apply that disposable income towards tackle, bait or ice, rather than by replacing a cracked lower unit?

A small, devoted cadre of St. Marks Refuge wade fishing anglers has developed an altogether different system for hanging redfish. These ground pounders exploit the very same low tides the boaters studiously avoid. Through seasons of trial and error, they’ve discovered that a number of tidal creeks feeding Apalachee Bay will hold reds (as well as spotted seatrout, sheepshead, and southern flounder) on sharply dropping, and even blown-out tides. The heavenly school of 24-inch reds I described earlier was holding a convention in one such creek. Many of these salty streams are too small to merit names, but the fish don’t seem to care. If you can 1) get to the creeks and 2) make an appropriate presentation, you are likely to come away with stories of world-class fishing. Now, let’s address those two “Ifs:”

Getting to the Creeks
This will be a deal-breaker for couch potatoes. The choice low tide sites all require is some mix of slogging through mud and across sand flats. Make no mistake: you will sweat. However, anyone fit enough for a roundtrip hour or so of soggy hiking (while toting a backpack for gear) will be amply rewarded, in terms of frequent rod bending. Arguably the best tidal creeks for Big Bend foot bound fishing are those reached from the levee trail system off Lighthouse Road, which runs south from the St. Marks Refuge Visitor Center. Check or call (850) 925-6121 for more information. The Visitor Center also passes out free maps which clearly show hiking routes to these creeks, all of which drain into the flats surrounding the landmark lighthouse.

Making an Appropriate Presentation
Simplicity and stealth are the rules here, mostly because you’ll be fishing in tight quarters. The only Big Bend seatrout I’ve caught over seven pounds came out of a Refuge creek that was narrower than a basketball court. Audacious popping cork rigs are unnecessary in these waters. Better to creep up, maintain a low profile, and flick a light swimming jig or freelined finger mullet crosscurrent into a gently draining creek bend. And hold on. For more up-to-the-minute reports on inshore tidal conditions, visit

Finally, note that the redfish limit hereabouts is two per person, but the Redfish Boredom Limit varies by individual. I can’t think of a better place to measure your RBL!

Check out this killer kayak fishing footage shot at St Marks from a GoPRO!