The Hunt For ‘Red’ October

by Captain Terry Fisher

Now is the time! Those looking for opportunities to catch big redfish; now is the time! FWC opened redfish for harvest effective last month (September 1st). The limit is two redfish per vessel with a slot size of 18-27 inches. Big ‘bull-reds’ are everywhere in our waters, fattening up for their migration back to gulf waters. ‘Bull-reds’ spend the cooler months in deeper waters offshore leaving behind their smaller relatives (‘rat-reds’) to winter in the shallows, back country haunts, creeks and rivers that flow into Pine Island Sound. The ‘bull-reds’ will not return to spawn and eat again until late next summer or early fall. They won’t stay here much later than mid-to-late November, so now is the time for a ‘redfish of a lifetime’!

These big fish are hungry and will eat artificial presentations as well as live and dead baits. I use artificial presentations from a variety of manufacturers such as, Mirr-O-Lure, Bomber and Rapala for top water, twitch and crank baits. I prefer Gulp and Zman for soft plastics, scented or unscented. Gold spoons are very effective. Some anglers have their favorites, but the truth of the matter is, they all work. However, ‘tenacity’ is the most effective ‘lure’ on the market. I prefer live or cut presentations such as larger shrimp, cut pinfish and ladyfish on the bottom. I also free-line live pilchards and pinfish.

The strategies to find and catch these fish rarely change. On high tides they will congregate in schools and will move into shallows around, in and under mangrove roots offering protection while providing oyster clusters housing supplies of food, including small shrimp and crabs. On low tides, look for them just off the mangroves in deeper water holes in the bed of the estuary. It will not take long to figure out if the fish are in the area, as they will be aggressive this month with cooler temperatures.


1)     Work the top half of the incoming and outgoing tides. Fish the higher monthly tides on both sides of a new or full moon cycle.

2)     Be very quiet when moving into a spot you choose to fish, as bigger fish spook easily (they did not get big by being lucky). Do not hesitate to change locations after 15 minutes or so in an effort to locate fish.

3)     Fish the point(s) of spoil islands and oyster beds. Fish the edges of and under the mangroves for results.

4)     Fish when wind direction if from the south when possible. Water levels will be higher than when winds are out of the north or east.

5)     Utilize both artificial, live and cut bait presentations mentioned above. However, one will need to have a trolling motor or kayak when using artificial presentations. More than two or three casts in the same area will wear out an angler’s welcome.

6)     Do not hesitate to re-visit previous stops (spots) at different times and stages of the incoming and outgoing tides, as these fish will be on the move.

7)     Do not arrive at a location too late during a new moon phase that will produce higher and stronger tides, as these fish will position themselves far back into the mangroves preventing an effective presentation getting close enough to them to attract a strike. A presentation over 6 feet from where they are, may be too far. On the other hand, do not arrive too late to fish on an outgoing tide when the water column will be too low as the fish will have moved out to the deeper water holes as the water retreats.

8)     Use light spinning tackle (but not too light) with comparable rod strength for these fighting fish. 3500-4000 series reels with 15 to 20lb line text should do the job.

9)     I suggest attaching a 2-3 ft. Fluorocarbon leader (25-30lb) to reduce chance of a cut or break off from a mangrove/oyster cluster while hooking and landing the fish. Size of hooks can range from 1/0 to 4/0.

10)  Snook harvest will not open until December 1, but anglers are still allowed to fish for them for sport. Snook will be found in the same locations as redfish and the tackle specifications remain the same.

Come visit with me at the Fort Myers Boat Show next month as Coastal Angler and I will be sponsoring the fishing seminars!