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Redfish go shallow in the winter

Redfish have gathered in schools on the grass flats inside Honeymoon and Caladesi islands. Most of these are in zones off limits to combustion motors, so a push pole or an electric trolling motor is a must for anglers who don't feel like wading in cold water.

The cold has taken a toll, and these fish haven't eaten as willingly as they did a couple weeks ago. The upside is they've schooled in decent numbers, some schools holding as many as 50 fish, and the average size has been 23 to 27 inches.

Redfish seem to prefer shallow water, especially when the sun is out, so expect to see these fish in 1 to 3 feet.

Redfish in clear, shallow water are easily spooked, and a stealthy approach and plenty of patience are necessary. Because the fish are lethargic, a fast-moving offering such as an artificial lure most likely will fail.

Try a live or fresh shrimp. Breaking off the fan portion of the shrimp's tail and hooking it in this spot can double your casting distance. It also helps put extra scent into the water, which could make difference in getting a bite or getting passed up.

Try to determine the path of the fish and lead them. Casting too close spooks them, so casting past the fish is almost always a better option. You can slowly reel in the bait until it's in the proper position.

After you have the bait where you want it, be patient. It may take a redfish a minute or more to sniff out a shrimp. Sometimes giving the shrimp a subtle twitch also helps get the fish's attention.

_ Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or by e-mail at pkatsarehelios.acomp.usf.edu.

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