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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Prieto: Redfish are taking over South Shore waters

Winter has finally passed and those dreaded cold fronts that kept us land locked for days are gone. Water temperatures soon should hit the magical 70-degree mark and that, mixed with a live well full of greenbacks, is something fish just can’t resist this time of year.

Lately I’ve seen and caught a ton of redfish. We’ve been able to find them on just about every flat along South Shore, both in schools of a couple hundred and singles running the mangroves with the tides. It’s been truly amazing the past few weeks.

Having a bunch of bait has been key to catching a ton of fish especially when fishing the schools. Chumming the schools enables you to keep them biting and within casting distance so they don’t just move on after catching a bait.

Catching bait has also become a bit easier and schools of these fish are starting to show on the flats. This means you can put away that big, heavy bridge net and get out the 10-foot, 3⁄8-mesh Calusa cast net to give your shoulders and back a break.

Using chum helps get the live well full. I’ve really taken to a new product called M-80 chum. It makes catching bait in the morning easier and requires fewer throws of the cast net.

If you’re looking to catch some redfish, fishing around the tides is very productive. I’ve had success with redfish fishing at the last hour of the high tide and the start of the outgoing tide in shallow water. Once the tides start to drop, fish head for the deeper flats and so should you.

On lower tides, fish the potholes and troughs on the outer flats and you should be consistently on the fish. The key is to adjust your fishing methods to what the tide charts tell you.

If you’re in too shallow water, even if you find fish typically they will not eat. They have to get in their comfort zone. If you’re an artificial bait person, using MirrOlure Lil John soft plastic will be a very productive bait to start with. You also can’t go wrong with the MirrOdine lures.

Another productive technique for reds is to use a Cajun Thunder Back Bay Float matched with a large, live shrimp. Redfish love to eat crustaceans and shrimp are one of their favorites.

As a reminder, there’s a new bait shop in town — Shell Point Bait and Tackle at the Shell Point Marina. You can pick up your live shrimp there by land or by boat. It also carries basic tackle for those who forget theirs. It’s located at 3340 W. Shell Point Road in Ruskin. Call ahead to reserve your next shrimp order at (813) 546-0002.

Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or [email protected]

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