There's No Place Like Home

I apologize to my Tampa friends for my rant about Tampa Bay fishing in my last blog post. You all have a phenomenal fishery that is doing quite well despite the number of anglers out on the water. As a sight fishermen, it’s just not the ideal area to fish…For me, there’s no place like home!

The past few weeks, my good friend Pat Rickert AKA The Most Interesting Fisherman in the World, had been calling me looking for info on tailing redfish. He assumed I had some super secret knowledge about the patterns of tailing redfish in Pine Island Sound. In all honesty, I pick a day with good tides and stalk the flats until I find them, but he doesn’t need to know that. I told him all about how more bananas are better and slapping the water attracts them to where he’s at on the flat, and sent him on his way. While he was having some success with sight casting some smaller reds and snook on the shorelines, my tactics didn’t seem to help him with finding the tailing redfish he sought.

As Thanksgiving break rolled around, I jumped at the chance to head back home to Southwest Florida and fish the Sound with Pat. Confident as every fisherman with an over inflated ego is, I told him I’d teach him a thing or two about the elusive, Pine Island Sound, tailing redfish. This was Pat’s first time fishing our new reel, the Osprey. Or as he likes to call it, the Ostrich. Gotta love childhood friends, am I right?

The tide was still slowly trickling its way out as we left the launch around 2 P.M., so we decided we’d get a quick warm up in and began working some potholes to see if anybody was home. I quickly found myself hooked into a nice surprise for Pine Island Sound, a decent sized barracuda. Then came the trout. If you’ve ever fished Pine Island Sound, you’ve probably caught more seatrout than you ever want to see in your life. I believe trout are highly underrated gamefish, but nonetheless they do become a nuisance at times when you’re on the hunt for gold!

As the tide hit its bottom, we started poling towards some more promising water. Pat had told me the fish had been acting funky lately, and I told him he just forgot how to wiggle his worm! He was right. The water temps had recently dropped, it was gin clear, and the bait had vanished. The fish definitely weren’t in their happiest of states.

Three hours of poling with little to show but a few more trout, and multiple spooked redfish. They were lying low in small potholes in less than 12” of water. My guess was they were trying to warm up due to the recent temp changes. Regardless of their rhyme or reason, they had no intentions of cooperating with us. Pat was beginning to get that “I told you so” attitude with me. Patience young Patty-Wan. The sun was beginning to set, and the tide was getting right.

Maybe I stretched the truth a bit when I said that I just pick a day with good tides, eat ten bananas, and slap the water to attract the reds to me. I do pay close attention to a few different indicators, one of the main ones being water depth. If you watched my most recent Florida Fishing Tip of the Week, I talked about how redfish have their comfort zone in about 18” to 24” of water. This is one of the things I key in on when fishing the flats for tailing redfish. If the water depth is right and the tide is moving, you’re likely to find fish.

Once the conditions were right, it didn’t take long for my old friends to show up. They began waving us down as if they missed me as much as I had missed them. There’s just something about watching them happily feed in their environment that I just can’t get enough of. In that moment, you leave this crazy world behind and are fully embraced by nature and all of its magnificence. If you haven’t had the opportunity, I highly recommend chasing some tail. You’ll understand what I mean!

While the photographer in me is content with just watching and documenting the redfish doing their tail dances on the flat, the fisherman in me can only gaze from a distance for so long before the hunt is on! We quietly began working our way towards the first few fish. Pat was playing some voodoo magic with his new Slayer Inc. Lures, and the fish weren’t quite having it. I have been working on some new tricks to stealthily feed fish by shifting around the little bit of weight I use on my soft plastic lures, and managed to smack a red in the head. I’m not fully convinced it was the adjustment I made that did it, but the fish ate immediately! And a good one it was.

After blowing out a few more fish, it was redemption time for Pat. Amongst a flat full of mullet, a not so sneaky 30” red began tail walking off the bow of the Gheenoe. Pat placed his cast perfectly, and it was game on! If you’re struggling to to learn to sight fish, I have found these fish to be some of the easiest to catch. They slowly cruise in one direction pushing a strong wake with their tail wagging partially out of the water. Simply lead the fish by a couple feet and intersect your bait into its line of sight. It’s the closest thing to a guarantee when sight fishing for tailing redfish. After a quick photoshoot, Pat sent his red on its way.

I put one more slot fish in the boat, and then we began working our way back to the launch. The sun had long set, and there was just a glimmer of orange on the horizon which left a perfect reflection on the water. Off in the distance you could see tails dancing happy as could be. The timing was impeccable for a Nat Geo award winning pic. Pat makes a cast, and hooks…another trout!? Of course the reds went shooting off, but that’s what keeps us coming back. What a perfect way to end the trip.