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Christmas Redfish

Capt. Alex Crawford
December 23, 2009
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

Every year when the inshore water temperature cools in December, the Forgotten Coast becomes one of the best venues in the state to target giant bull reds. Packs of ravenous redfish are in a pre-spawn mode and they will eagerly take a properly presented lure or bait. These are not the summer rat reds we see tailing for crustaceans in the creeks, rivers and bays. These are mature fish at the top of the slot (18-27 inches) that weigh 8 pounds plus. Generally, a 30 inch redfish is going about 10 pounds and capable of pulling your shoulders out of joint, hence the moniker, BULL reds.

Reds in Florida are the greatest success story, given the over fished condition of the fishery back in the mid eighties. Today, reds are our most prolific and dependable inshore fishery, right up there with trout in most parts of the sunshine state. This is a terrific catch and release challenge, where success is measured by how big a fish the angler can release, not how many pounds of fillets can go in the frying oil.

Redfish orient to healthy oyster bars because their primary forage lives there. Reds love crustaceans that live in and around oyster bars. Small blue crabs, shrimp, oyster crabs, fiddler crabs and crayfish are excellent baits for reds, especially livies. Even frozen crayfish are fabulous mini-lobster baits for reds, plus you can cook the leftover bait for dinner. Finfish baits that are excellent for redfish include all of the prevalent seasonal species like pogies, pinfish, pigfish, finger mullet and croakers. If you can capture and keep these baits frisky, you increase your odds of scoring high quality fish.

For the artificial boys who enjoy the sporting challenge, try the old standby artificial lures. Gold spoons always take their fair share of reds, as do jigs and an assortment of swimming lures like Rapalas and Mirrorlures. Just try to "match the hatch."

This year we have had an unseasonably warm fall and the water inshore remained above normal temperatures. Having said that, the last two weeks of the year promise to provide the best action of the year around the Forgotten Coast. If you can find some time to fish between Christmas and the New Year, you could hit it just right i.e. show up at the right time, right place with a wide-open redfish bite. Last year we lucked into the above scenario and experienced the very best redfish trip EVER. You can do it too!

Ground zero for hot Christmas redfish action has been the Government Cut, the barrier island pass located 7 miles south of the mouth of the Apalachicola River. Hurricane Dennis "rearranged" the Cut on July 10th and safety is now an even higher priority. The East granite jetty boulders were moved around like pebbles from the east/southeast storm surge. Be very careful motoring around the jetties and don't drop you anchor arbitrarily or risk having to cut the anchor line. No telling how many anchors over the years have been lost in the Cut.

Granted, the Cut can become a very busy place to fish with boats attempting to catch an anchor in fast current, but with some common courtesy, everyone can get along and catch some fish. There are just a couple important considerations/common courtesies: have enough anchor line, a sufficient anchor and watch your wake and respect your fellow anglers that may have a big fish running wild. Anchoring directly behind another vessel is a real no-no, basically you should do unto others and be a common sense, ethical angler.

Since this is a catch and release endeavor with most fish above the 27" slot, use at least 30 pound class tackle to minimize the fight time and stress on the fish. Heavier gear will allow you to control the fish more easily and accomplish a successful release. Bring some heavy lead to enable you to fish your bait on bottom in fast current.

Another favorite winter hot spot for bull reds is in the East Pass that separates Dog Island from Saint George Island. My best success has been along the beach on the southeast corner of Dog Island. Or try, the area along the beach on the northwest corner of SGI. Dress comfortably, get outdoors and enjoy the reds of December.

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,
Captain Alex Crawford
email: [email protected]
call (850) 697-8946

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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