By Captain Brian Lemelin, Optimus Fishing Charters

We all love this time of year (minus these crazy winds, of course) when the temperatures in the air and in the water starts to drop. The water temperature has dropped around 10 degrees over the last three weeks.

This changes the fishing up a bit. We’ll start fishing more on the flats, along the mangroves and testing out the rivers.

It’s definitely time to start seeking out redfish. Redfish are one of the best fighting fish in Tampa Bay. They will pull your line and test your reel’s drag. They are a main target to knock off the bucket list, and this is one of the best times of year to target them as they are here in large schools.

On high tides, fish are in the mangroves and edges on the cuts. As the tide moves out, they move out with it 50-100 yards off the shoreline. Redfish readily take live bait, including whitebait, threadfins, pinfish and shrimp. Sometimes I’ll trim the tail of the live bait to slow the bait down a bit.

This works particularly well under the mangroves. Redfish will also readily take cut bait. In fact, many times we’ll chum cut bait to draw the redfish to our baits.

To me, redfish fishing is all about patience. Start by fishing where you see them or have known them to be located. Approach with stealth and refrain from making any noise that would reverberate in the water. Chum the water with live bait or chum. Cast to the area you chummed and wait.

Sometimes ‘rod holder’ is the best fisherman in the boat and is a great technique to use. There will be no doubt when a redfish is on, as it will bend the rod and rip drag. Equipment-wise, we like to use 4000-size reels with a medium to medium heavy rod. A 15 to 20-pound braided line is plenty and fluorocarbon leaders are good for matching the bite and environment. Anywhere from a 15 to 40-pound leader is good as well.

The only downside to fishing for redfish this year is that you can’t harvest any of them until June 1, 2021. The FWC has closed redfish, snook and trout until then for our area.

The bite in the bay is still on for mangrove snappers, mackerel, jack crevalle, grouper and sharks. The snook bite is only going to get better over the next few months.

Tight lines and we’ll see you out there.