This time of year is perfect for targeting tailing redfish in Tampa Bay. Of all of the methods utilized to target reds, sight fishing ‘tailers is arguably the global favorite. It provides a picturesque method of targeting this species in a way that is one of the main reasons fishing for reds is so popular.
Why Winter Is Awesome For Tailing Red’s
Wintertime, in particular, is considered the peak season for finding tailing reds. While the flag waiving tail of a redfish can be found nearly any time of the year, this season is the peak of it. Reds are built to bottom-feed. They pick through seagrass, mud, sand, and oyster beds looking for crustaceans and easy to target baitfish.
So, why does winter cause more tails to fly? It’s food supply.
In the warmer months in Tampa Bay, this massive estuary system gets flooded with schools of baitfish. Redfish, alongside most other inshore species, spend their days smashing this easy-to-find food source. That’s why summer is so great to catch reds on topwater lures and things of that nature.
Well, as things cool these baitfish move out. Reds don’t follow, they just switch gears to the food that remains in winter; shrimp, small crabs, shellfish, and any baitfish stragglers that stay in the area. When they do, their head goes to the bottom and their tail goes straight up. In shallow water what you’ll see is a sea of slowly waving and moving tails – these are ‘tailers.
Alongside, winter is also when the size of your average red gets a little bigger. This is because big breeding females enter the estuary (starting in Fall) looking for food energy to sustain them through their nearshore spawning activities.
Methods For Sight Fishing Tailing Redfish
Seems simple enough, find tails and cast at them. Well, sort of – but there are some methodologies to the process that increase your odds of success.
Tailing reds in cool water act far differently than they do in the summer. This species can be known to aggressively attack baits and lures after flying across the flats to get it- during the peak of warm weather activity. The winter brings a more “chill” version of the species. In other words, you’ll need to lead the fish and finesse your actions.
Whether laying out a fly with a fly rod or throwing cut bait – the approach is the same. Try not to spook the fish when your offering hits the water. You want to be just out of range for the impact to cause a ruckus, but close enough to garner the fish’s attention.
Once you’ve successfully done that, act like what they are eating. Slow movements, along the bottom. Whether a slow drag or a slight bounce across the bottom, the key here is to slow it all down – at least to bring the fish in. Then the next flick of the wrist or lack thereof will be the final deciding factor. Each red can react differently, with mood and temps being the conversion formula to figure out. But that’s the fun part, the skill-building in the process.
Every picture in this article is of the quality reds that we are landing right now. Captain Bucky just stated, “Sight fishing redfish on the flats has been great, the fish are tailing and schooling up.” This is the time for your shot at a tailing red. There is no better place than Tampa Bay to do it, and no better guide than Captain Bucky.