It’s back to school this month, but not just for kids after Christmas break. Redfish are in tight schools this time of year, and that makes them pretty easy for inshore anglers to find. While that doesn’t always mean they’re easy to catch, anglers can catch their share if they follow a few tips.
Charlie Beadon of Hilton Head Fishing Adventures said fishing this month for Lowcountry reds is world class. One of his favorite things about chasing redfish schools is the clear water, which allows anglers to see what’s about to bite.
“This time of year, we see schools of redfish numbering in the hundreds as they cruise through crystal-clear water,” he said. “The best part of the experience is that you get to see the fish take the bait before you set up for the fight.”
The clear water makes it easier for fish to see anglers, too, but Beadon said as long as you keep the sun in your face, your profile is far less noticeable to them.
The Broad River near Hilton Head, S.C., is one of Beadon’s favorite spots. The redfish stay in as shallow water as they can fit; they are a primary source of food for porpoises this time of year, so they follow the “safety in numbers” mentality, while trying to stay too shallow for Flipper to follow.
“When you spot a school, you want to keep a good cast’s distance between you,” said Beadon (843-592-0897). “You can spook them if you get too close. You want to cast to the front of the school, hoping for one of the lead fish to pick up your lure or bait. If you throw into the middle of the school, they’ll scatter and the school will break up, making it harder to find them. They’ll also get even more cautious when that happens.”
Jigheads with soft plastic Gulp! lures are tough to beat, he said.
“When you see the direction the school is heading, you want to cast out in front of the lead fish. Let it settle on the bottom, then give it a twitch or two,” he said.
At high tide, these fish will move as far into the grass as possible, so Beadon likes the lower end of the tide cycle best, and he finds most of the redfish schools on mud flats.
“Once you catch two or three from a school, they will sometimes break up and scatter, and it’s best to look for another school; they aren’t hard to find. After 30 minutes or so, they’ll all settle back down, and you can hit that same school again.
“People sitting home because it’s cold are missing out on some of the most-exciting fishing you’ll ever experience. There is nothing like watching fish pick up your lure as you get a hard hookup.”