Are you seeing red yet? With the summer heat in full swing and afternoon storms providing a refreshing cool-down, big schools of breeder-sized redfish have begun their yearly migration inshore from the Gulf of Mexico.
These schools can range from 50 fish to more than 500, most fish over the 27-inch slot.
As summer pushes on, there should be even more schools filling up the bay. Last August and September were exceptional months with the amount redfish that were around, the best I’ve seen in my lifetime. When finding a hungry school, it wasn’t uncommon to catch upwards of 60 fish in a day then leaving them feeding.
But it isn’t always that easy. These schools love to move and can disappear as soon as you find them. The trick to getting them settled down is stealth, patience and chum.
Being stealthy is an art. Personally, I use a trolling motor when targeting summertime redfish. Many others use a push pole to get their boats in position as not to spook redfish schools.
In a school of hundreds of fish, it only takes one spooked fish to scatter the school. If you see mullet or fishy water off in the distance, take your time to approach. If you don’t have a trolling motor or push pole, go upwind 100 yards and drift to where you want to fish. Anchor quietly. You can always hop out of the boat to cool down and wade toward the schools.
Look for a nearby pothole that you can chum; a sandy area surrounded by grass flats is best. If you get them chummed in a hole, the fish will feed very well. On a shoreline at high tide, look for a deep point where you can cast close to shore. This will keep the fish comfortable where they are located.
When you get set up in a good position, be patient if you have a good feeling. This may sound weird, but pretend you want to catch catfish or sharks. Start chumming with dead bait. Cut ladyfish or mullet, as well as sliced threadfins, whitebait and pinfish all provide a good scent in the water.
Redfish have a great sense of smell and are lazy in the heat. If you have dead bait in your livewell, don’t just dump them out, put it in a bucket for chum. It may be tricky to get them to start feeding, and dead bait is a great choice often overlooked by anglers.
Big redfish will be the main target during the next few months. Large schools will be roaming local flats everywhere in our area. If you catch one, you most likely will catch many more. Just remember: Be safe in the heat, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated.