Over the next couple of hours, we caught more than two dozen redfish pushing 30 inches and 12 pounds before the bite finally slowed and we headed back to the ramp for a late lunch. While we were running, Wagner summarized the Low Country fishery.
“There are no secret spots anymore,” Wagner said. “Anywhere there’s shallow water, from Savannah north to Hilton Head, you’ll find schools of redfish in the winter months. Look for flats with mud bottom, hop up and pole. You’ll find ’em. And if you’re quiet and make good casts, you’ll catch ’em too.”
Is it any wonder why more and more snowbirds are flocking to Savannah every winter? They’re not going on a Polar Bear Club outing — that’s for sure. Nope, skinny-dipping reds are the latest Low Country craze.
“I like sinking flies, mainly shrimp and crab patterns in brown, tan and copper,” Wagner says. “Topwater Crease and Gurgler flies work well too. These reds like fast, long strips. They’re keying in on the bait and moving on. But they’ll eat almost anything as long as they don’t know you’re there. If they see something, they strike.”
Rods: 7-foot medium- to light-action for spinning; 9-foot 8-weight for fly-fishing.
Reels: 2500-class spinning reels; large-arbor medium fly reels with 20-pound backing.
Lines: 20-pound braid for spinning; weight-forward floating 8-weight fly line.
Leaders: 112 to 2 feet of 20-pound monofilament leader.
Lures: White or muted natural-color soft-plastic jerkbaits rigged with a 18- to 14-ounce bullet weight and a 5/0 weedless worm hook.
Flies: Sinking crustacean patterns in brown-and-copper tied on with a cinch knot; Crease and Gurgler flies for topwater action.
“You find these fish in the low-tide sloughs from November through February,” says Wagner. “The water temperatures then are normally 45 to 50 degrees. The last two years have been especially cold, so the mullet haven’t been as thick, which keeps the water clearer. Once the water starts warming up in March, these reds will swim around and check out the neighborhood.”
Moon phases and barometric pressure have little bearing on shallow-water reds as long as tide, wind and sun are favorable. At times, Wagner finds schools of big trout — up to 5 pounds — sunning on the mudflats in four to six inches of water on the first warm day after an extended cold front. But that’s not consistent, he says, plus the harsh winters the last two years killed a lot of them. The redfish seem to have tolerated the cold much better.
When: November through February.
Where: Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, marshes and estuaries.
Capt. Scott Wagner
Capt. Greg Davis
November 28, 2011
Low Country Reds
Hunt for redfish in the Low Country marshes of Georgia and South Carolina this winter.