On the Net since 1997
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You are poling along in ten inches of water, being as quiet as humanly possible. The angler on the deck has twenty feet of line outside of his rod tip and his favorite fly in the other hand ready to cast at the first sign of redfish. You look to the east and the sun is just peaking the horizon, shadowed by a few cumulous clouds that greet the Space Coast each summer morning. You think to yourself, "Can it get any better than this?" Seventy feet off the port bow, you spot nervous water that eventually produces a coppery figure one can only recognize as a redfish tail. As you ease the boat in their direction, another tail appears, then another. You are on a school of reds this is what you came for.
The sun is rising fast behind the boat and the light illuminates the coppery mass of fish. At sixty feet, the angler begins his cast and lays his chartreuse and white #2 Clouser Minnow on the edge of piscatorial bliss. One strip, two stripsâ¦the line goes tight and the school of fish erupts causing the slick calm surface to come to life. The school of redfish is on alert and aware of their hooked friend.
What do you do now? Your buddy has hooked a single redfish from a school of nearly fifty. You can see the school motoring away from the boat like there is no tomorrow. After congratulating your buddy and reviving the tired friend from the lagoon, your thoughts turn to that school of reds that is now gone.
Redfish, as most lagoon anglers know, are somewhat territorial. Recent studies have shown that redfish can spend their entire life span within six miles of their birthplace. What some anglers don't realize, is that schools of reds will often "double back" to the original location after being spooked. While fishing the Mosquito Lagoon this spring, I encountered two large schools of slot sized fish- approximately 75-100 fish in all. These fish were holding in slightly deeper water adjacent to very skinny flats. The first hook-up of the morning was almost a sure thing. The fish were tailing and very aggressive to anything that landed within their lair. As the morning wore on, and sun warmed the flats, the fish stopped tailing and simply laid-up.
The sun shone bright and I could only marvel at the fact that I could track this school of fish from 100 feet or more away from the boat. Careful approaches to the same school of fish produced strike after strike from one of the Indian River's most opportunistic feeders. After a couple of hours of constant action, I took notice that this same school of reds had taken me in a complete circle-twice! On each pass, the reds settled back down into the same exact spot I found them at sun-up. In fact, this school of fish never moved more than 100 yards for the four-hour period they were fished. Granted, the results may not have been the same if there were other boats in the area, but they were definitely setting a pattern for me to key in on for the next day's trip. Weeks went by and the same school of reds was located each morning. They liked this area and were determined not to leave.
This same scenario has played out time and time again on the Mosquito Lagoon over the years. It makes me wonder how many anglers acted in haste to find the next "hot spot" for reds.
Wintertime on the Space Coast encourages schooling of slot to just over slot-sized redfish that stay together through the Spring. As the retched heat of July approaches, these schools of redfish tend to break up into pods of two and three. You may encounter more singles than anything in the summer heat. There are too many variables to be absolutely sure of when reds will school and when they will not. However, the next time you are on a school of reds and they spook, chances are they won't go very far! Be patient, keep the trolling motor off and marvel at what the Space Coast has to offer.
Captain Rob specializes in targeting
redfish and other flats species with a fly rod. His web site is