By Captain Travis Yaeckel
Well, we are finally nearing the end of summer. The past few weeks have been incredibly hot and humid, but we have seen plenty of sunshine and clear skies mixed in with afternoon thunderstorms. As we transition toward fall and cooler weather on the horizon, fishing will get better inshore. September marks the beginning of the redfish spawn and large schools of these fish can be found in spots throughout Tampa Bay.
Hard bottom mangrove shorelines, sandbars, and wide open grass flats that have been vacant since spring will be invaded by armies of redfish from now until November. The first element to being successful in catching these fish is patience. At times, hundreds of fish can gather in tight schools and occupy large areas of water; sometimes impossible to find. The old saying 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the area couldn’t be truer when targeting redfish in the fall. They are often on the move and swimming about. A great technique for finding them is anchoring up and studying the patterns of the mullet. The mullet schools will often lead you in the right direction for the reds. On the lower tides, they will move off the deeper edges and troughs on the flats. On the higher water, they will move toward mangrove islands and shorelines. During the transition periods, look for schools roaming open flats and foraging in the direction of the tide.
Once you locate a school of fish, there are a few methods for catching them. The best is to already have a pattern established and setup in the target area and chum/fish in the vicinity.
Normally, this is the case when you have previously been successful on a certain tide or weather condition and have confidence that the fish will be in the area. The other is to approach the school while on the move. A lot of times this happens when you are searching for fish on the trolling motor and suddenly they appear. In this case, I recommend taking the time to get ahead of the moving fish and present your baits as they move through. If they are not spooked, having a load of live chum ready for an approaching school can sometimes get them to settle down and stop to feed.