You all know the drill. Its go time, there’s an upper slot red fish pursuing some bait on the mud bank, and your buddy on the poling platform yell’s out “here we go! Right at 1 o’clock”. All of a sudden immediate panic sets in, your eyes must be deceiving you, it’s probably a mullet...Guys. Its okay if you don’t see the fish, don’t panic, I’m here to give you a few visual cues to read the water and get a shot at that stud.
Honestly, it's not always obvious what were looking at. I’ve been there hundreds of times...and most of the time I’ll tell a white lie and say “ oh yeah, I’ve got him”...when I don’t. Redfish and many other species of fish feed in a variety of ways and it’s not always as easy as spotting a tail in the middle of a windless flat. Conditions, tidal activity, and a little bit of luck all play a big role in locating your target.
Sight fishing is obviously the ideal choice but what happens when that summertime water is all murked up with less than an inch of viz? Now we’re reading the water, scanning the surface for subtle movements. When a redfish is swimming casually (not to be confused with the “flying v” of a spooked or heavily feeding fish) there is the slightest lapping on the water’s surface. It may not be consistent or in a straight line, but you will notice the delicate tail beats just barely making a wake. You may even catch a quick glimpse of the tip of tail. This is strictly in low water situations, if you want to catch fish off the bottom or something you’re in the wrong place..Anyway, I’ve caught more unseeming redfish this way as these fish are generally cruising around looking for trouble.
What about when that wind is blowing the surface to s**t? In these circumstances I’m looking for fish feeding. It’s not easy to orient your cast on a fish that swarms the mudbank and disappears in the abyss of the creek channel. I will offer this advice in these situations...lead that cast further than you think. That fish was up there like a bat out of hell and he’s leaving the same way, a drive by if you will. Heavily waking fish are also still an option if you have a keen eye.
The last indicator is not of the visual sort. In some situations (wind, low light, and long distance) your ears can be your best friend. The distinct sound of a redfish or snook blowing up bait on the surface is hard to miss and using this cue has connected me with more fish I can count. There’s been flood tides we’ve basically had no sunlight and caught fish because of their ambitious slurping.
So, its okay if you don’t see the fish right away. There’s many of us out there lying straight to our pusherman’s face.
Written and Photography by Ty Duplaga
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