Ambushing Winter Reds
Winter fishing in Charleston means Redfish, schools of Redfish, sometimes hundreds strong just waiting to inhale our offerings. Unfortunately, it also means that schools close to boat launches or in popular fishing grounds are heavily pressured. For the most part, we have had a fairly mild fall and winter so far and the schools I have fished in the Wando, Kiawah and Stono Rivers are already showing signs of “angler fatigue”. A sure sign of this is when you have dozens of Redfish swimming around your boat and they won’t eat anything you throw at them. This causes true frustration, so let’s pick this situation apart and make it manageable.
Although schools of Redfish will be easy to spot at low tide, that is when they are most wary of intruders. A strategy I employ for these fish is to target them earlier in the outgoing tide while the water is still in the grass. This is less sight fishing and more of an ambush fishing type of approach. You are positioning yourself to take advantage of the Reds inevitable movement towards the flats. Those Redfish feel more secure at that higher tide stage and are more prone to be in “hunting mode” as they prowl newly exposed oysters and grass edges for prey. This is the perfect time to rig weedless plastics like the Z-Man paddler- Z on a flutter hook and work it through sparse grass and clear water potholes near smaller feeder creeks. Current breaks and edges where oysters or hard bank have become exposed make other good choices.
I tie the Flutter hook with 20 lb. fluorocarbon leader tied to 15 lb. braid and work it slowly through the grass. An occasional pause often helps to trigger a strike from a hesitant Red. If you prefer to use bait, cut mullet or blue crab dropped into those same areas should bring opportunity. I use a # 3 circle hook on 6 inch 30 lb. fluorocarbon leader with a ¼ oz. slip sinker tied to 40 lb. braid as the main line. I make long casts to likely targets and keep an eye and ear out for signs of Redfish activity. Be aware that those fish will likely be in water from gills deep out to 3 feet, so don’t focus all your efforts on the shallowest water. Learn to execute these tactics and you and your crew will be catching Redfish and heading home long before most flats boats even have their push poles out.