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Five Tips to Catch Flood Tide Redfish

The sun came up early. After a long drive from the North Carolina mountains to the beaches of north Florida, I was dog tired.

But I got up to go fishing anyway. The allure of tailing redfish on the marsh is intoxicating. Sleep would have to wait.

I arrived at my favorite marsh in time. The sun was up and the tide was trickling in. After 30 minutes of walking, I arrived at my favorite spot and looked for fish. The water was shin deep, and I waited for it to reach the bottom of my knee caps. And I waited and waited and waited.

The projected flood tide never arrived. And neither did the tailing redfish.

The culprit was Hurricane Florence, which was several days away, but close enough to yield a west breeze, which stymied the tidal flow. There just wasn’t enough water for the fish to feel comfortable enough to feed.

So I trudged back home. I knew the west wind might be an issue, but I fished anyway. I have a soft spot for tailing reds. The mere sight of a spotted tail in the grass takes my breath away.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina or North Carolina. Where there’s a marsh, there’s usually a tailing redfish. And I will go to just about any extreme to find them.

Below are a few flood-tide tips that I learned along the way.

The Tides For REDFISH

Tidal flow is huge when it comes to flood-tide redfish. You need enough water to reach the dry areas of the marsh, so the big reds can feed on fiddler crabs. Each area has its required tidal flow to entice tailing fish. In Northeast Florida, for instance, you generally need a high tide of at least 5.2, but that designation is a mere guideline. Flats near Jacksonville don’t need as much water to flood; flats near St. Augustine and points south need a tide of 5.4, 5.5. In short, each area, each flat, has different tidal requirements. Local knowledge is key to ferreting out these nuances.

The Wind FOR REDFISH

Wind is a big factor in tidal flow. In north Florida, north or east wind pushes water on to the flat. That means you can fish longer, because you’ll have ample water. By contrast, a south or west wind pushes water off the flat, which means you’ll have less time to fish, or even worse, not enough water to cover the flat.

If you have a big tide, a southwest wind may not ruin your fishing, depending on the strength of the wind. However, if your tide is borderline with a southwest wind, the fish might not have enough water to tail, which is exactly what happened on my most recent trip.

Timing for REDFISH

Once high tide arrives, you generally have about an hour or so of good fishing before the water will recede and the fish will leave. It’s important to prepare the night before. Get up early and be on the flat well before high tide, so you can be in position before the water rises and the fish move in. If you cut it too close, you might miss opportunities. If you’re late, head to the next flat.

Mobility FOR REDFISH

Wading is a possibility and has its benefits. You don’t have to prep a boat or a kayak. All you need is a rod, reel, a sling pack and a pair of flats boots. In a matter of minutes, you can be on the water and fishing — before or after work or on your lunch break.

A boat or kayak/paddleboard requires more preparation, but offers the advantage of mobility. You can cover more ground and potentially reach more fish. Boats need a two-person approach. One fishes; the other poles. Kayaks and paddleboards are solo affairs. Kayaks are more stable; paddleboards have a better casting platform, but require above-average balance and core strength. I’ve used both. For longer trips, I use a kayak. For shorter, quick trips, I use the paddleboard.

The Equipment for REDFISH

An 8-weight Temple Fork Axiom II with a Power reel is the ticket. The Axiom will punch through the wind and the Power will handle any flood-tide red with ease. As for fly lines, I use a weight-forward line. The Rio Redfish or Cortland Liquid Crystal Guide are both good options. Rio’s lines tend to be heavier. Cortland’s lines, in my opinion, are lighter and easier to cast.

With flies, you can’t go wrong with a crab pattern. The primary food source on the marsh are fiddlers. I load up my fly boxes with EP crabs in black and tan, toad style. It doesn’t hurt to have a Gurgler or two. When fish are feeding intensely with their nose in the muck, I will cast a popper in their general vicinity to get their attention. Though counter intuitive, this approach sometimes works.

Any other advice or questions, feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

Life Lessons from Hurricane Irma

It was late last week, three days after Hurricane Irma had lashed much of Florida. There was a knock at my door. Outside were two local firefighters.

Thoughts filled my tired mind. Death of a loved one? Wrong house? Or was it because I had dodged a roadblock in town?

“We have a mandatory evacuation,” one of the men in blue said.

The river behind my house, they warned, was ready to flood. Everyone in the neighborhood was told to leave by daybreak.

Irma’s winds were long gone, but remnants of her wrath remained. The choices were obvious: To stay or leave? I wasn’t sure what to do. What would you do?

Two hurricanes in a less than a year

I’m a fifth-generation native Floridian and have lived in North Florida much of my adult life and never felt the threat of a hurricane. For 50 or so years, I felt safe and secure. That all changed during the past year, when Hurricane Matthew rolled up the east coast into St. Augustine in October of 2016 and Irma surged up the middle of the state 11 months later.

As I pick up bits of debris and reorganize my life once again, it’s time to reflect on lessons learned, what I did right, what I did wrong, what I’ll do better.

 Judging the Forecast

I live in High Springs, Fla. which is about as inland as you can get in the Sunshine State. Irma’s forecast consistently called for hurricane winds in Alachua County. It never happened.

Once on land, Irma lost steam. A monster hurricane became a mere tropical storm. Matthew was different. The St. Augustine-area beaches endured wind gusts of nearly 90 miles an hour. My beach cottage lost part of a roof and a screen door. The surf never reached my door. Those on the intracoastal weren’t as fortunate. The inland water had no place to go, resulting in massive flooding in the marsh.

Had Matthew cut a few more miles east, as predicted, the winds could have easily leveled my house. Fortunately for me, both forecasts were wrong.

Meteorology is not an exact science. No one knows exactly where hurricanes are going to go until they get there.

 Getting Ready

As far as preparation, the earlier you start, the better. I started getting organized for Irma nearly a week ahead of time with sand bags, extra water, gasoline and propane. The last day or two, I organized the garage to move the boat indoors and moved the outdoor furniture inside.

I thought I was done, but it turns out, I wasn’t. I had planned on doing laundry and paying bills the day before Irma’s expected arrival, but inexplicably lost power 12, 14 hours before the winds and rains came. In retrospect, I should have done more, because when you lose power, you’re limited in your prep.

 Power, Who Needs It?

We went a week without electricity or water. We use a well. No power, no water. No problem, right?

Wrong.

The first three days were manageable. Day four, I came to my senses and coughed up $900 bucks for a generator.

Portable generators are not a cure-all. You can power the AC or the fridge, but not both. To make do, we powered a few lights and the TV while alternating with the well, when we needed water.

The generator made daily life more bearable without power, but it’s not a substitute for it. Am I glad I bought one? Yes. Running water is a must.

 Don’t Panic

Be smart. In my haste I tried to save three coolers worth of food. The reality is ice only lasts so long, regardless if you replenish daily. You can’t save as much food as you want. Put the essentials — milk, juice and a few condiments — in one cooler. Focus on keeping the basics cool. It’s more efficient. And if you’re really thinking ahead, it doesn’t hurt to cut back on what you stock in the fridge during hurricane season, so when a storm does come you’re not throwing away enough food to feed a third-world country.

The Rest of the Story

As for the expected flood, we never left our house. We thought long and hard about it, but reasoned that our home had survived the 100-year flood with room to spare, so the risk was worth it.

The waters in the Santa Fe River never reached our porch. In fact, it was never even close. Nearby houses on lower ground flooded. The home across from us (in the photo) lost everything.

Finally, the river has started its descent. As I stand on dry ground, I sometimes whine about the cleanup and the fatigue that often accompanies life after a storm, but, given what Houston and the Florida Keys endured, I now realize the obvious: It could be worse. A lot worse. At least I have a house to clean up.