redfish

WaterLine photo by Capt. Karl Butigian

Robert Lugiewicz with a Southwest Florida fall pumpkin. Our dark water really brings out a rich, deep orange in these redfish.

It’s starting to cool down, and Gulf water temperatures are dropping more and more every day. That temperature drop is going to make some changes to the fishing. Some will be unwelcome (for example, our bait is going to leave). Others are worth getting excited about, like the redfish that are going to be everywhere schooled up getting ready to breed.

This can be a great time of the year for fishermen, but it can also be a huge pain in the butt. The reason I say that is sometimes fishing schools of redfish gets very, very tough. Many anglers always go to the same redfish spot or target the same school every time they go out on the water. Heavy pressure will often shut those fish down. They may not leave, but they sure won’t act right.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of fish out there, and no need to keep hammering the same ones all the time. Those big schools move a lot. When there are that many fish in a school, they have to keep moving to find enough food for all of them.

This time of year we see a lot of tower boats are running our flats trying to find the redfish. That puts a lot of pressure on them, and can force them to move out of places where they would really like to be but they keep getting run over. To be honest, I wish it were against the law for tower boats to run the shallow water. If we didn’t allow boats to run areas like on the inside of the bar, that would help both our grass and our fish.

If you want to go out looking for redfish schools, here are a few areas that seem to always get them: Whidden Creek, Catfish Creek, the Turtle Bay bar, the Burnt Store bar, the Bokeelia bar, Cayo Pelau, and all the docks near the passes.

To understand why (and to identify some areas that I left out), look at what all these areas have in common: They are all open-water areas that have deep water near them, and they all hold a lot of redfish food.


Adult redfish usually live in deep water offshore, until this time of year when they come in to “collect” newly matured redfish for the spawn. So they prefer to be near deep water and sometimes even just hang out in deeper water. When they’re feeding in shallow areas, it makes them feel more comfortable to know that there’s deeper water nearby.

To actually catch a redfish in one of these spots, most of the time I am going to have pinfish, ladyfish, mullet, crabs or something else I can cut up. I have more success sitting in one spot and not moving around — I want those schools to come to me. Cut bait puts a lot of scent in the water, which means I don’t have to move around scaring them and probably just pushing them all over the place.

Now I do like to throw lures at them sometimes, usually when I’m by myself or with just one other person. My go-to lure is a single-hook weedless gold spoon. You can cover a lot of water with it and the redfish love it.

I also throw a lot of soft plastic paddletails of all different sizes and colors, but I always put them on a Rockport Rattler jighead. I wish I could tell you to just go pick some up at Fishin’ Frank’s, but since that’s not possible right now I’ve been going to ChickyTackle.com.

If we don’t end with a hurricane on top of us, the redfish action ought to be really good out there. Check the types of places they like, look for mullet schools, don’t do anything to scare them away, and you should do great.

Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.

Capt. Karl Butigian lives, breathes and eats Florida fishing. He owns and operates KB Back Country Charters (KBBackCountryChartersFishing.com) on the waters of Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. To book a trip or for info, call him at 941-565-7325.

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