Menhaden have a habit of flipping their tails right on the surface of the water, and on a calm morning like this, the size of the entire school can be estimated by watching the surface. This was a good school of bait.
Schooling bait will act and react in unison to an intrusion. They school together for safety and when attacked by a predator fish, they react as a single unit in an attempt to confuse the attacker and to appear to be a single large fish.
I was watching for the school to react to an attacker from below. With a live pogie swimming at the surface on the end of my line, I was ready to cast to anything unusual.
Its springtime up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and redfish are migrating from their winter haunts on near shore wrecks and reefs. They are moving into the passes and inlets after their offshore spawning, and they are hungry. These big reds work the beach under a school of menhaden, feeding at will.
As I continued watching, a big swirl of water appeared in front of me and two or three pogies went skyward. I carefully pitched my live pogie bait to the swirl and waited. The pogie was on a single 7/0 circle hook tied to a six-foot fluorocarbon leader, and this rig, although allowing the pogie to swim, made the pogie appear to be wounded something a feeding fish cant resist.
It took about thirty seconds for my line to start moving. Because I was freelining, I could not feel the bite. In situations like this, an angler has to be a line watcher.
I reeled down to the line and when it tightened slightly, I reeled faster. The fish was going the other direction, and the circle hook did its job, hooking this big red in the corner of the mouth.
This type of fishing is ideal for light tackle, given that the beach is relatively free of obstructions. If you want a long battle on light tackle, this type of fishing is where its at!
Big reds, in the thirty and forty pound range are common this time of year along the beaches. Some over fifty pounds are caught each year. These are trophy fish that must be released because they are way over the slot size limit.
Considered a bonus by some anglers and an aggravation by others, sharks, bluefish and big jack crevalle also follow the pogie pods. For those anglers looking for other species, they provide a great fight and some awesome pictures!
Flounder are also in the mix, but you will need a different bait. Swimming along the bottom, they follow the bait pods looking to feed on small chunks of bait that sink to the bottom under the bait school and under the feeding fish above. If the bluefish are around, the flounder will most certainly be on the bottom under them.
Flounder can be taken with smaller live bait, but the best method I have found is a plastic grub tailed jig. Root beer or shrimp colors seem to work the best. Simple work the jig slowly along the bottom.
We fished about four hours that morning, catching a number of reds, but nothing over about twenty pounds. Perhaps we are a week or two early for the bigger fish. Time will tell, because we will be back!
This action is currently happening in North Florida, South Georgia, and all along the Gulf coast states. As the water warms over the next few weeks, the action will move north along the Atlantic coast as the bigger fish follow the bait pods north.