With water temperatures in the low 60s, now is not the ideal time to wade while fishing. But sometimes the question, "You want to catch redfish?" is answered "yes" in spite of my best judgment.
That was nearly the text I got from Geoff Szymanski earlier last week, asking me "Do you have a kayak? Want to catch reds today?" I was ready to catch a few of the fish he found a week prior.
With a strong northeast wind and low afternoon tide, he was confident the lack of water on the flats would expose areas of shallow water that would have redfish in a small area and willing to eat. So I bit. It wasn't a hard decision as I love the wintertime low tide fishing, and for that reason I should probably pick up a pair of waders for the future.
Szymanski was equipped with a Dragonfly paddleboard, while I loaded up my Native Manta Ray 12-foot kayak. We were going to be fishing water not accessible to boats. I brought light tackle with a 6- to 12-pound rated MHX rod, 2500 inshore Fin-nor reel rigged to one of my favorite lures, a white Love's Lure slugger tails on an 1/8-ounce jig head for the clear water and sandy bottom.
As we kayaked to the flats of southeast Tampa Bay, Geoff explained what we would be looking for. "There's deeper troughs surrounded by shallow water," he said. "The redfish will be in the troughs about knee deep, and typically mullet are giving away their location."
So I hopped out of the kayak into shin-deep water, spotting a school of mullet jumping just off in the distance. The cold shock didn't last long as my focus was on fishing. The first set of mullet produced one flounder, so we moved to a larger, more active school of mullet about a quarter mile away.
The mullet milled in front of me, and I casted into them. I popped once, popped twice, and my Slugger was eaten, producing a 21-inch redfish that looked more like a whiting due to its light color and lack of a spot on its tail.
We stayed in that general area over the next hour, only moving slightly as the mullet school would shift closer to shore as the tide came in. By the end, we landed about a dozen redfish to 26 inches. The shallow and clean water meant we were able to spot fish allowing a cast at them. The adrenaline of sight-fishing seemingly warmed the water to a respectable temperature. Or my legs were numb at that point, probably a little of both.
Szymanski says the sight-fishing will remain good, if not better, as water temperatures warm when snook and trout also get back onto the flats. It's a change of pace from the typical live bait chumming and exciting to say the least.
This week's huge morning low tides should provide plenty of this shallow-water action. Even if you don't have a boat, look for areas near flats where there are deeper holes and mullet, and you can get in on the catching!