I’ve had a few special trips this year and a few opportunities to show others how to stalk redfish. It’s often called “sight fishing” or “sight casting” but the truth is there is, all of your senses are involved. So here’s a primer on stalking redfish by using your sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste:
First of all, I have to say that the secret to stalking successfully is a willingness to make mistakes. If you stalk redfish, you are going to: paddle right up on top of some, miss casts, and you are going to make a noise at the wrong moment. It’s all ok – enjoy the whole experience, not just the moment of landing the fish which is only one part of the whole.
That being said, let’s hit the big sense first.
There are four key elements of sight when stalking Redfish.
- You can see redfish if you do a few things right. First of all you, you need the right color sunglasses. These must be polarized and I prefer copper/brown lenses. Some like red, but I’m happiest with copper. The other is getting tall. You’ve got to be able to stand in your boat. If your boat isn’t stable enough, then paddle the bow or stern into the grass for stability and then stand up. But if you can learn to look through the water, you will begin to see fish.
- Looking at the “hydrology” of the environment. What are you seeing in the water? Broken up clams, grass mats, channels in the mud, any pattern might reveal something you need to know. Predator 101: bait is lazy and drifts with the water flow. Predators of lazy bait will find an obstruction near that water flow so they can ambush the bait. Paying attention to the visual clues in the water can pay off big time.
- Surface action. Ripples, ripples everywhere! But, which one is a fish? It’s so hard to talk about this, when you just have to see it. ,a few things you can build on: Small darting wakes are almost certainly mullet. Bigger wakes that zig zag a lot are most likely sheep’s head. Large straight line runs – just might be a redfish. But some of those little stirs on the surface… if you can imagine a big tail gently drifting back and forth underneath it – that just might be a redfish. Keep trying, keep watching, log in the information. You WILL get better.
- The whole environment. What’s the bank look like? Is there deep water right up to the bank? Fish closer to shore. If the water has a slow sloping bank or even a “mud flat” fish further out. Look for the fish where they will be.
*** bonus tip – OK, no science here, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught redfish right next to a stingray. You see a stingray – get your head on a swivel.
Do not underrate how important listening is to stalking reds. Keep your ears open. Short quick plopping noises are almost certainly a mullet. Small slurping noises are likely sheep’s head grabbing snails off the grass. But big crashing noises? Either a bird just flew over baitfish (I look up first) or a big red just smashed something on the bank. Next, look for bubbles around the bank – “there he is, go get him”. Really loud slurping noises? Look for that red again. Don’t be afraid to chase around a point to find out what you just heard. I’ve had some very successful days fishing by ear.
Also if you really pay attention, you will learn why reds are in the drum family. Reds make a drumming noise. Just one and you may be able to catch them. It’s sort of a “What’s up?” I’ve heard it often and looked up to see a red slowly swimming away. Not really upset, I give him a few seconds before I throw a bait. And sometimes they’ll still hit.
Two or more drums? That’s usually when you get to look up in time to see them swim away. But maybe there are some that didn’t spook yet – get ready to fish!
Really? Yes, really. Late to midsummer, the grass starts to die off – it stinks. But that doesn’t bother the reds. The more it stinks, the closer you are getting to the reds. I’m telling you, it’s come into play.
Also keep that line smelling right. Use a reel oil that doesn’t smell adverse to fish (reel magic is one). Don’t mess up your baits with contaminants. Keep the bug spray away. Remember these fish hunt by smell too. When times are tough use an attractant but don’t expect miracles.
Touch on the line is incredibly important. Use braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. Learn to know the difference between bumping shells, pulling up grass, and running into mullet so you know the feel of a redfish grabbing your line. They’ll miss several times on some attacks so you have to keep calm and fish on. Only time can develop this skill. Be patient, you will get it.
By identifying the feel of grass, you can learn to wriggle your bait through without snagging and float your lure over the top of a matt of grass The key, is to keep that bait moving and not jerking it out of the strike zone by over reacting to every little thing.
Nah I have no secrets here. Just the sweet taste of success and a perfectly cooked fish!
Nothing can replace time on the water, but I hope I’ve given you a few things to concentrate on. I wish I could run video through my eyes. The things I’ve seen on the water are just amazing. Just this week I had one red on the line and watched as two other redfish repeatedly tried to take my black spoon out of his mouth! I was really worried they would wind up breaking my lure. Simply amazing.
Immerse yourself in the experience of your environment for success fishing for Reds.
Article by Reverend Bill Crawford of Team Backpacker and Wilderness Systems Fishing Team Ambassador.
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