Posts Tagged ‘shallow water fishing’

Winter Redfishing

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Winter Redfishing

Captain Charlie Beadon

During the winter months most fishing activity slows down due to cold water temperature. Fish are cold blooded animals meaning that they can not regulate their body temperature, and will take on the same temperature as the surrounding water. As the water becomes colder, a fish’s metabolism slows down and the fish become lethargic. This is where the problem comes in for fisherman; when fish eat less and becomes less active we generally get less shots at catching them. Armed with a little bit of knowledge however, you can pick the best times to go after winter redfish and have a very successful trip.

Where do you go to catch redfish in the winter?

winter redfishWhen water temperatures drop (typically below 55 degrees) redfish will start to school up on shallow water mud flats. Flats are areas that have very little bottom contour (flat bottom) over a particular area, and generally offer food and shelter for redfish. During this time it is not uncommon to see schools of 100 or more fish huddled together in a tight area. If you find a school of redfish early in the season you can go back to that same spot through out the winter and find the same group of fish lying in the same spots. When redfish are schooling on shallow mudflats they will generally move in and out with the tide trying to stay in roughly a foot of water. This is where you will want to concentrate you efforts when looking for fish, and also keep an eye on points, shell mounds or any raised structure on the flat.

Why do redfish school up on shallow mud flats in the winter?

The main reasons that redfish school up on shallow mud flats in the winter are for protection, warmth, and safety in numbers. During the winter much of the food that dolphins feed on (such as menhaden and mullet) are gone, therefore redfish become a larger part of the dolphin’s diet. To keep away from the dolphins redfish will stay in shallow water where the dolphins can’t enter. During midday mud flats also offer warmth as the sun heats up the dark mud bottom. Finally, by grouping up in a school, redfish have many eyes to look for predators; if one fish sees something out of place it will alert the rest of the school.

How do you locate Redfish in the winter?

There is no clear cut answer to this question. The best way to find these fish is by spending time on the water looking for them. The good news however, is that when you do find a school of fish you can generally go back to that same area through out the season and find the same group of fish. If you spend enough time with a particular group of fish through out a season you can learn their habits, what they do under various weather conditions and how they move with the raising and falling tide. The best way to get started is to look at a map and locate some flats. Generally, you will find that the flats are most productive when there is a foot or so of water on them. Many of the mud flats in this area will run from the shoreline outward for 150 or more yards and the fish will move in and out with the tide to stay out of reach of the dolphins. Knowing that the fish will be in this area you can use a trolling motor or push pole to ease down the shoreline and scan for redfish moving around or pushing off as you go over them. When you find a school of fish the best thing to do is to anchor or stake up near the fish and try to catch them from a stationary position.

redfishingHow do you catch a winter redfish?

Though a redfish’s metabolism slows in the winter they still have to eat. The two main things to keep in mind when presenting bait to winter reds are to make a good presentation and then work the bait slowly. It is imperative that you make a good presentation to these fish because if you spook just one fish the whole school will take off. I generally like to lead these fish by four or five feet when I cast to them. Secondly, because these fish are cold and moving slowly you have to work your bait the same way. A slow retrieve or dead bait on the bottom will generally work best for these fish.

What are the best conditions to target winter redfish?

The three main factors to consider when targeting winter reds are tide, temperature, and wind conditions. The ideal conditions would be a low tide on a warm day with very little or no wind. Unfortunately, we can’t always have these perfect conditions, but we can try to line them up as close as possible, and if you can get out on a day when conditions are ideal it will be well worth it. Since these fish school up on the shallow water flats, low tide will be the best time to target them. Generally these fish will feed on warmer days thus getting out when the temperature warms up will increase your chances of getting the fish to eat. Warmer days will also cause the fish to be more active, and allow you to see them pushing around on the flats. The main reason that you want to fish on calm days, or fish a flat that lies in the lee of the wind, is that it makes seeing the fish a whole lot easier. Good luck and “catch em up”!

Captain Charlie Beadon

Shark Fishing

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Shark Fishing in Shallow Waters

By Capt. Charlie Beadon

On the shallow water flats we often overlook one of the hardest fighting and most explosive fish…sharks. These guys may not be good for eating, but they provide great action on light tackle often making long runs and hard head shakes. The best part is that sharks are numerous on the flats and are always willing to take bait. On the shallow flats look to catch bonnet heads, black tips and duskies.

Beaufort and Hilton Head SharkTo get started let’s look at the tackle that you will need. Most of the sharks in shallow water will be 2-15 pounds so you don’t need heavy tackle. Use a 10-12 pound class spinning outfit and hang on! For fishing on the bottom I generally use a 1 ounce egg sinker on a Carolina rig, 2 foot of 40 pound monofilament leader and a 2/0 circle hook. The circle hook is great because the fish hook themselves and because they almost always get hooked in the corner of the mouth you rarely get cut off by the shark’s teeth. For sight fishing I use a straight 40 pound monofilament leader tied directly to a 2/0 circle hook.

Next let’s look at the various bait that you may use to catch sharks. For the most part sharks are scavengers. They will chase down a live fish, but prefer to take dead fish. You can use a lot of different baits to include: mullet, menhaden, shrimp, crab and squid. The key to using dead or cut bait is to allow the bait to lie naturally on the bottom or to drift it freely in the current. No self respecting shark will touch a dead bait that is moving up current along the bottom.

Shark Fishing in Beaufort, SCWhen and where do we need to go to target sharks in shallow water. The sharks are always there, but the best time to go after them is around the low tides. At this time most of the bait fish are pushed out of the marsh and concentrated around creek mouths, grass edges and oyster bars and this is where the sharks will be as well. On some flats the sharks will cruise around the shallows with the top third of their bodies exposed in search of food. This provides a great opportunity for sight fishing; simply position yourself in front of the cruising fish and pitch a bait to him. If the sharks are not cruising the shallows simply anchor up along the edge of the shore line and soak cut baits on the bottom in 2-8 feet of water.

Remember that sharks do have razor sharp teeth and are wild animals so be careful when handling them. Many times I recommend cutting the leader close to the hook rather than trying to remove the hook and take a risk of being bitten. If you take this approach ensure that you use tin hooks that will rust within a few weeks and leave the fish unharmed. Do not use treble hooks, as these can catch both the upper and lower jaw, sewing the fishes mouth shut in which case it would be unable to feed. Good luck and tight lines!

Captain Charlie Beadon

Tailing Redfish

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Tailing Redfish 

By Capt. Charlie Beadon

shallow water redfishFishing for tailing redfish has got to be one of the most exciting ways to catch fish in the Lowcountry; possibly in all of shallow water fishing. This type of fishing combines all fishing skills plus it is very similar to hunting in the way that you stalk the fish. Picture this; you’re on a pristine short grass flat, the water is rising and in the distance you hear water splashing and fish crashing around. As the water rises the splashing gets closer and closer until you look in the distance and see rings of water moving outward form a copper-blue tinged tail. Then another and another, and you realize that you’re in the middle of a hot tailing bite. The only question is can you keep a steady casting hand as your heart races harder with every tail that pops up. This is fishing for tailing reds.

tailing redfishWhat is a tailing fish? A tailing fish is a fish that exposes its tail during the course of feeding or while moving form one place to another. Other inshore fish such as bonefish and permit tail for the same reasons as redfish. Many offshore fish tail as they surf down large swells. In fact, we look for specific offshore “tailing” conditions where sailfish, cobia and even mahi-mahi will tail. In this area we have a great fishery for red drum, and reds are notorious for tailing as they feed on the bottom. If you look at the mouth of a redfish it faces downward, this is specifically for feeding on the bottom. Redfish don’t feed exclusively feed on the bottom but they do when picking up dead baits and especially crab and shrimp. The main reason that redfish push up onto our local flats is to feed on fiddler crabs, which are on the bottom, which in turn causes the fish to expose their tails as they feed in shallow water.

shallow water fishing in beaufort and hilton head, sThe equipment needed when fishing for tailing reds is a brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, a good rod and reel combo lined with 8-12 lb test monofilament line or similar braid. There are a whole host of good baits for redfish. Live shrimp and mullet work well. If you prefer lures I would go with gulp baits, screw tails, jerk baits, spoons, or even top water poppers. As with all saltwater fish I use a monofilament leader. For redfish I use either 20 or 30 lb leader joined to the main line with a bimini twist and back to back uni-knot combination. A few other items that may come in handy are a pair of wading shoes (an old pair of tennis shoes work well), a fanny-pack tackle box and a flow-well for live bait fishing.

light tackle redfishThere are very specific conditions that need to come together in order for redfish to move onto a flat and feed. First, you need to find hard sand flats that have short grass and fiddler crabs. I like to look for flats close to open water where the fish don’t have to move far from their normal activities to get onto the short grass flats. You also need to find flats where there are good numbers of fish close by to begin with. There are numerous good flats that could support redfish but don’t because there is not a local population of fish near that area. Once the fish move onto the flat I have noticed that they move in with the tide but stay relatively close to the tall grass. The fish also move off of the flat quickly when the tide starts to recede as should you to keep from getting stranded. The major factor when looking for tailing flats is the tide. You need a full or new moon high incoming tide to have enough water on the flats to support fish.

Beaufort Inshore RedfishThere are two major techniques used to fish for tailing redfish. The first is out of a boat using a poling platform and push pole and the next is wade fishing. The only advantage to using a boat here is that you don’t get your feet wet. By all means wade fishing is the way to go when fishing for tailing reds. In either case, working the tailing flats requires a good eye. This is sight fishing at its best, a good hat and polarized glasses are a must. Generally, when the fish start tailing you want to look for a fish that is actively feeding and stalk the fish. I’ve watched the same fish feed for over 15 minuets until I took the right shot. A good cast is a must; realistically you need to be able to accurately cast 40-50 feet of line to have a shot at these fish. You want to place the bait about 4-5 feet in front of the fish and move it when the fish pops its head out of the sand. These fish also respond to scent so bait such as a Berkley Gulp will increase your chances of hooking up.

Tailing conditions are prime for fly fisherman. An 8-9 wt. rod, matching reel and 150-200 yards of backing toped with floating line will be good for these fish. A few flies that I would recommend are the clouser minnow, deceivers, sliders and crab patterns. In general, redfish prefer white, brown, copper and gold. Good luck and tight lines.

Captain Charlie Beadon