Some of the abundant shallow bays and creeks along the Intracoastal Waterway between Surf City and Swansboro are holding big schools of winter redfish. Many of them are also too shallow to move about except at high tide, so timing is very important to get in as soon as there is enough water and to get out before the tide gets too low.  

Capt. Allen Jernigan of Breadman Ventures in Sneads Ferry said, “Finding the fish hasn’t been that difficult. Sometimes from a distance, you see them waking or the nervous water where they are milling about. When you get close you can not only see the school, but right now you can see individual fish. 

“The water is cold, and all the suspended sediment has fallen out of it,” Jernigan said. “In many of the bays, the water is crystal clear. Unfortunately, that is both the positive and the negative, as they can see you just as well or maybe even better than you see them and are extremely spooky in the, shallow clear water. You can’t do anything quickly or erratically.”

Jernigan (910-467-1482) is finding schools of a hundred to several hundred redfish in the bays. He said the schools aren’t as big as the ones he fished before the latest winter storm, but there are fish to catch as long as you can convince them to bite.

Jernigan said the constant up-and-down temperatures has been playing havoc with the redfish. He said has found a few things that helped convince at least a few fish to bite on those slow days. 

“I like to throw Texas Tackle Factory baits, as they are softer and fish tend to hold onto them a little better,” Jernigan said. “The bites are rather weak right now, and anything that gets the fish to hold on until my fishermen feel them and set the hook is good. I have been using the Mrs. Trout Killer because it has a slot for rigging weedless, and I’m doing that because these bays are filled with oysters, a few stumps and all kinds of other snags.

“One of the good things with clear water is you can see how fish react to your baits,” Jernigan said. “Of course, if a fish moves to attack aggressively, you have to control yourself and wait until you feel him to set the hook. Some fishermen have difficulty adjusting to this and jerk the bait away before the fish actually gets it.”  

Jernigan said if the fish attack your bait, you know all is well, but if they ignore it, it’s time for a change. One of the baits he switches to is the Saltwater Assassin Sea Shad. This bait is smaller, and sometimes a smaller bait moved really slowly will draw strikes from wary fish.