Let the fish tell you what they want
A pair of 10 pound redfish slid down the shoreline of a grassy bank with theirbacks and tails exposed for all to see, shrimp and little baitfish showered across the surface hoping not to be the last one in line or the first one on the menu. As I stood on the poling platform and watched these fish going about the business of finding something to eat it was easy to tell they were almost oblivious to anything else but their next meal. My fishing partner for the day, Ray Johnson, readied his 8 weight fly rod for a cast as the boat eased into position. Ray placed the fly a couple of feet in front of the pair and began an erratic retrieve as they closed the gap, in a flash they both charged the fly like two second graders fighting for the last ice cream at lunch. The commotion they caused was insane and more than Ray could take as he pulled the fly away from the redfish in a reaction strike instead of waiting for the fish to actually eat the fly. “That was incredible” said Johnson, “they were so aggressive”. Aggressive doesn’t do those fish justice, when they really want to eat there is just about nothing you can do to stop them.
The “aggressive” mentality is probably the one most fishermen associate with redfish and they certainly deserve that distinction, but that’s not the only facet of their personality. As aggressive as these fish can be they can be equally skittish and spooky, these attributes are what make this fish so appealing because you never know which redfish is going to show up. I have seen fishermen make absolutely perfect casts to cruising redfish only to have the fish break and swim off like lightning just struck beside them. They many different actions of redfish and their body movements will often tell you exactly what kind of mood they are in and even what they are feeding on. Just like the two big fish mentioned earlier, the cruising fish tend to be eating baitfish or shrimp while fish that stay in one stationary spot and “root” in the bottom are likely to be eating crabs. The stationary fish will often stick their tails completely out of the water and look like flags, waving and tempting fishermen to try their luck. The sight of redfish tails in the air is one of the ultimate thrills for shallow water anglers, the stalk and the presentation are just icing on the cake once you find the fish.
Now redfish aren’t the only fish that offer up visible clues to their personality, speckled trout will give you some clues as well. Unlike down south where anglers often get opportunities to sight cast to trout, fishermen on the upper coast seldom are lucky enough to see fish in our bays. Trout on the other hand don’t have to be seen in order to be read, easily the most obvious sign trout give is the “slick”. A “slick” is a shiny spot on the surface of the water caused from the oils of baitfish that trout feed on. A speckled trout is a voracious feeder and will often regurgitate bits and pieces of what they are feeding on, at that point is when the slick appears. Not only can fishermen see slicks they can also smell them, they typically smell sweet and really similar to the pogey that crabbers use to bait there traps. If you see or smell a slick you can often get upwind or up current from the area and locate fish. A word of wisdom on the subject of slicks, don’t be fooled by slicks that originate from crab traps. When you locate a slick be sure to check the area for crab traps, if none are present then it’s a good idea to investigate. Also when fishing these slicks it’s better to fish the smaller ones because they are the freshest.
This pattern is particularly good in the summer, especially on calm days. If there is any draw back to fishing slicks its got be that gafftop can make slicks as well and will often fool even the most veteran fishermen. Regardless of the risk of catfish it’s always worth checking a fresh slick because you may just find a really good concentration of fish.
By reading the signs that redfish and speckled trout give off you can understand what they may be feeding on or where they may be located. The visual keys are there for all fishermen who take the time to look and judge what they have seen.
Take initiative to read your fish next time out on the water and catch more fish.