Winter Redfish - William Toney

January 07, 2019
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Winter days on the Nature Coast in Florida are ideal for sighting cast redfish. Live shrimp is the best bait, but placement and presentation are crucial. Nose-hooked jerk baits and soft landings near stationary fish are effective. Using easy-to-hand equipment and a good fly rod is essential.

A January day on the west side of Florida, particularly in the Nature Coast area, can offer ideal conditions for redfish sight casting. The clear, calm, and cold waters create an environment where visibility is enhanced, and the quietness of the vessel only adds to the serene experience.

Optimal Weather Conditions

  • Clear and Calm Waters: These conditions are perfect for sight casting, as they allow for better visibility into the water. You can spot redfish more easily, making it possible to target them with greater precision.
  • Cold Days: The cold north winds are blocked by the east-west running keys, while these areas absorb the warmth of the midday sun, especially on black mud bottoms which retain heat. This creates a more comfortable environment for both the angler and the redfish.

Boat Handling

  • Polling the Boat: In these conditions, polling the boat is the most effective way to approach redfish. It allows for a stealthy approach, essential for getting within casting range without spooking the fish.

Bait and Lure Selection

  • Live Shrimp: This is a top bait choice for winter redfish. The natural movement and scent of live shrimp are almost irresistible to redfish, making it a reliable option.
  • Soft Plastics and Flies: To increase the challenge and skill level, using soft plastics or flies can be very rewarding. Opt for nose-hooked jerk baits in colors like glow or watermelon red flake. Shrimp or crab patterns with brown and crystal flash are also effective.
  • Presentation: The key to success with these lures is in the presentation. Casting softly near a stationary redfish, or leading a cruising fish by 4 to 6 feet, can make the difference between a strike and scaring the fish away.

Tide Influence

  • Incoming Tide: An incoming tide is particularly beneficial as it concentrates redfish and other inshore species towards the mangrove keys, where the bait and structure are located. This tide movement brings food closer to where the redfish are holding, increasing your chances of a successful catch.

Equipment Recommendations

  • Rod and Reel: A G-Loomis E6X 7' 6" rod paired with 10lb braid and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader is recommended for its ease of handling and suitability for these conditions.
  • Fly Fishing: For fly anglers, an eight-weight fly rod is standard. This setup provides the right balance of power and sensitivity for casting flies effectively.

The Experience

  • Visual Aspect: One of the most gratifying parts of this type of fishing is the visual experience of watching the fish take the bait. The clarity of the water and the calm conditions make it possible to see the fish's behavior in response to your bait or lure.
  • The Fight: While the fight with a redfish is always exhilarating, the anticipation and the visual experience of the initial strike are often what stay with anglers the longest. The vision of a redfish falling for a well-placed cast is a memory that can indeed last a lifetime.

Fishing for redfish in the clear, calm waters of Florida's west coast during winter offers a unique and rewarding experience. By combining the right conditions, careful approach, precise bait and lure presentation, and appropriate equipment, anglers can enjoy both the challenge and beauty of this type of fishing.

Captain William Toney

Homosassa Inshore Fishing

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Captain William Toney In The Spread, Instructor
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