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Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Red fishing has picked up on the flats

This year continues to bring some crazy weather. From late cold fronts in May to our first named storm at the beginning of June, it's just been weird. In all my years of fishing, I've learned that the weather is going to do what it does and all we can do is adapt our fishing plan accordingly. As we enter the hot month of July, we've seen a ton of rain, and with any extreme change you can expect to see fish change their patterns. Some areas have seen a ton of fresh water run-off, which changes the salinity levels and dropped the water temperature down about 9 degrees. While this can be bad for some species of fish, it can turn on another. Redfish are among them. I like to think it's due to the change in water temperature on the shallow flats.
On recent charters I've caught slot-sized reds in areas around Joe's Island and Cockroach Bay. I believe these same fish stay in those areas but seem to move out from the trees a bit when the weather is cooler. This makes them an easier target. My bait of choice has been smaller greenbacks hooked with a Daiichi Nickel Black No. 1 circle hook. I also use new Cajun Thunder Back Bay floats to keep the bait out of the grass. The bait of the flats has been really small this year, but don't be afraid to use it. That's what the reds are eating this time of year. Cajun Thunder floats will also give you some added weight to cast the small greenbacks. Remember to bring along your Calusa ¼-inch mesh net. I've had the best luck fishing the top of outgoing tides; the stronger the tide, the better. If you can't find greenbacks, shrimp also will work well. Cut bait soaked on the bottom is great for reds too, but be prepared to catch a ton of catfish. I also like to get out and throw some artificial bait this time of year. If this is something you want to try, my suggestion would be to get out early and tie on a Z man 5-inch Pearl White JerkZ Texas rig to reduce your grass tangles and start working your favorite shore line. Fishing around oyster bar points, cuts and creeks has been very productive, and on lower-tide days I've dropped off to the shallow water potholes. 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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