Although redfish can be caught year-round in Southwest Florida, the cooler winter months offer particularly good sight fishing opportunities for this popular copper-colored inshore game fish due to higher levels of water clarity. I can tell you from first-hand experience that there’s nothing quite like the excitement of scouting for a school, spotting the fish, and then challenging yourself to get the lure presentation just right.
Of course, before you go, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tackle set up, keep an eye on the weather forecast, review a local tide chart, and make plans to go on a sunny day with low wind. These tips will help increase your chances of sight fishing success when targeting winter redfish in Southwest Florida.
Sight Fishing Tackle
For small to medium-sized redfish, a 7-foot medium action spinning rod or nine-weight fly rod will work well. If you know you’ll be fishing around oyster bars or rocky shorelines, use 25 to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader that will hold up to the abrasion in these types of areas.
Two of the best types of lures to use when sight fishing for redfish are 3 to 4-inch soft plastic jerkbaits on a jig head or an artificial shrimp. If you plan to fly fish, really any streamer-type fly will work. Just remember that with any type of lure or fly, once you spot a school, your goal is to cast past the fish and then work the lure or fly until it is presented right in front of the feeding fish.
Best Time to Sight Fish for Winter Redfish
While tidal movement doesn’t make as much of a difference on the East Coast of Florida, sight fishing on the West Coast of the state is largely dictated by the tide tables. Moving water increases crustacean and baitfish activity, which also increases redfish feeding activity. Plan to go when the tide is either incoming or outgoing and you’ll have a greater chance of success.
Where to Look for Winter Redfish
The shallow-water bays and grass flats from Pine Island Sound down through the Ten Thousand Islands are considered to be prime redfish habitat. The eastern side of Pine Island Sound is shallow with numerous areas that contain potholes, oyster bars and grass flats. During the winter months, large schools of fish in the 18 to 27-inch regulation range can be spotted tailing with their noses down in the grass or oysters as they eagerly feed on shrimp, crabs or baitfish.
Now that you know more about sight fishing for winter redfish in Southwest Florida, keep this redfish gumbo recipe handy in case you decide to bring one home that is within the legal slot limit of 18 to 27-inches.