Redfish make excellent targets for sight fishing due to their feeding behavior. When they dig in the grass or mud for crabs and shrimp, their tails come out of the water. Some days may see just a tiny tip of a tail breaking the surface. You might see the whole tail sticking out of the water waving at you. Other times, you see half of their body out of the water while the fish stands on its head sometimes flipping itself over. The tail my pop up for just a brief second and disappear. On other occasions, it will stay up for quite some time. Whatever the case may be, seeing tails is always a good thing because there is one thing you know for certain, tailing fish are hungry feeding fish.
While tailing fish are always great to see, they can sometimes be frustrating. These fish are rooting on the bottom in the grass and mud searching for small crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans. They are willing to eat but the challenge is getting them to see your lure or fly. Some tailing fish are so oblivious to their surroundings you can touch them with your rod tip. Others will bolt off the flat at with the sound of your fly line touching down on the water. In any case, it is best to approach slowly and quietly. Light tackle anglers should cast at least ten feet past the target so the sound of the lure landing does not spook the fish. Drag your lure along the surface until you are 8-10 inches in front of the fish and let it drop to the bottom. Keeping your lure on top allows you to know exactly where it is at all times. Once you bait is in position, a very slight twitch or two should get their attention. If it does not, reel in and try again. Fly anglers have even more of a challenge. Tailing fish have a very small zone of interest. To get a bite, you may sometimes need to put a fly smaller than a dime in a target the size of a coffee can. Add to this a fish which is constantly changing directions and multiple casts can be the norm.
Giving your fly or lure some sound will help tailing fish find your lure. Woodies Rattles can be put into most soft plastics or tied on the hook shank when building flies. I have seen many occasions where casts made behind tailing fish caused them to turn around and charge the bait when they heard the rattle.
At all cost, avoid casting your bait into the middle of a school of tailing fish. While you can occasionally get lucky and have a fish bite, more times than not, the entire school will spook off. Similarly, if a school is generally facing in one direction, take care not to have you bait approach the fish from behind. This is another sure way to spook them off.
Since tailing fish are definitely eating small baits, it is usually best to tie on the smallest lure you can cast effectively. Fly fishermen have the advantage of being able to use things that are much smaller than those using conventional gear. Small crab, shrimp, and bendback patterns will all work well for the fly anglers. For those using spinning gear, ten pound braid will allow you to cast light lures a significant distance. The ľ ounce DOA shrimp, three inch CAL tail or crab are my go to lures for tailing reds. While many anglers like to use live shrimp, the plastic varieties cast farther, donít fly off the hook, and can be used multiple times. With the proper presentation, they are every bit as effective as the real thing.
Capt. Chris Myers
Daytona Beach Fishing Charters