Targeting Redfish in the Northeast Region with Capt Tommy Derringer

Early April is a great time for chasing redfish in my region. The fish have been schooled up all winter and those schools are breaking apart and the fish spreading out, which makes for a great scenario for topwater plug fishing. I like topwater lures because they cover a lot of water—they’re a search lure that helps you find the fish when they’re distributed out over a large area.

At the same time, the finger mullet are pouring out of the creeks and backwaters where they’ve been all winter and with all that bait schooling up on the flats and in the Intracoastal Waterway, there’s sure to be redfish around. I like the larger topwaters like the larger Rapala Skitterwalks in the trout pattern or bone color. Redfish really key in on the color gold, so black and gold or anything with gold glitter in it is another good option.

In the spring, we get extreme high and low tides on the new and full moons, and since we have a fluctuation of about six feet on a normal tide, that will dictate where you start when you look for the reds. On a higher tide, the fish are going to be up in the grass, while on a lot tide the edges of the Intracoastal Waterway will hold a lot of fish on the shell bars right along the edge of the channel. If either of those places have good concentrations of finger mullet, you’ll double the odds of finding redfish.

If you get an early morning super low tide, that’s the optimum spring conditions for redfish as they’ll all be working the mullet schools and have the bait pushed up shallow. You’ll find the fish tailing and waking on occasion, but the most consistent way to find fish is to get them around the mullet schools at first light.

I really like to fish a seven foot rod with a medium-fast action. For jig fishing, I fish a seven and a half to eight foot rod, but I like the smaller seven foot rod for topwater because I think it gives the bait more action. My rods are rigged with 10-pound Suffix 832 braided line, and I like to use a 20 pound monofilament leader when fishing topwater. I like the mono over fluorocarbon because it stretches, and when you set up on a fish, that stretch compliments the braided line and keeps you from pulling hooks.

I fish a lot of soft plastics as well. The best soft plastics for redfish in my region are a three to four inch paddletail grub in watermelon or any of the mullet colors, black and white or pearl. Don’t work it with a lot of action, just cast it and reel it in slowly.

The other thing that will be happening is the larger redfish—the 20 and 30 pounders—will be around the inlets and just off the beaches in places like Mayport and St. Augustine Inlets and in the St. Johns River. The larger fish like the safety of the deeper water, so you’ll find them in 30 to 40 feet of water in places like just off the edge of the rocks at St. Augustine, around Long Island in Jacksonville and along the channels edges where it drops off from 15 to 20 feet of water into that deeper stuff. In the St. Johns River, they don’t really hang around structure, they’re looking for that deeper edge where the water drops off and the current will sweep the bait to them.

For the deep water fish, you can use a half a blue crab, a live mullet or even a chunk of mullet on a fish finger rig. Anchor up and fish the edges of the channels, and cast up into the shallow water and let the current move the rig down into the deeper stuff. You want to anchor up and fish the deeper holes and drop-offs.

For this type of fishing, you want to use 20 to 30 pound spinning gear on a 7 foot rod with a 30 pound fluorocarbon leader and just enough weight to keep the bait on the bottom. For hooks, I really like circle hooks, so a 3/0 to 5/0 VMC Tournament Circle hook works perfect, and will catch the fish right in the corner of the mouth, making it easy to remove the hook, hold the fish for a quick photo, revive it and let it go.

Captain Tips