People asked, AJ answered. Here’s how he catches red in the autumn.

The fall redfish bite is on fire. They are everywhere, and they are chewing, getting ready to school and move for the winter.


I hear a lot of people asking how to find and catch reds in cooler water. It also doesn’t help around the Panhandle the word is that reds migrate in the winter and you won’t find or catch them. Since I didn’t go fishing last weekend due to working on the property and the new house being built, I am going to take this time to share how to find and catch the fall and winter reds.


In the late spring to early fall, everywhere you have been catching reds — usually on the shallow flats — you will start noticing there are less and less to catch. You will usually find one to four reds pushing the shallow flats feeding and can almost always catch one out of the four.


Once the water temps hit mid to lower 70s, redfish will push off the flats and head for protected river and creek mouths, channels, points and deep cuts. They will school up impending the spawn, which means more fish in a smaller area. The best areas I have found for winter reds are dark shallow muddy flats, deep holes, or cuts and ledges with strong tidal flow.


When you locate the bigger schools of reds, the number one mistake I have seen is people casting into the middle of them and the splash scaring them, or throwing behind them and hitting the tail or fins of the fish with your line and scaring them. When they are schooled up for spawn, I have found they are usually extra nervous, and everything spooks them.


Cast around the perimeter and work the bait normally. Just remember, the colder the water the more lethargic they are. When you hook one, try to lead it away from the school, as the fish running into or through the school hooked will cause the rest of the school to spook.


I don’t fish live bait just artificial, but have some friends who fish live and have informed me live shrimp and bull minnows work well in the colder waters. Makes sense to me since shrimp are shallow in the winter before the spring migration, and the mud crabs are held up in and around oysters. I forgot to ask but assume you can buy bull minnows just like shrimp at one of the bait and tackle stores since you probably won’t find them in the cold waters.


As for artificial baits: In the late fall, winter and early spring, I use a variety of baits. I prefer to use Zman Pre-rigged EZ shrimp or Gulp 3-inch shrimp on a 1/8th-ounce 3/0 jig head. If not throwing one of those, I throw a paddle tail or a stick bait on a 3/16th Eyestrike Weedless. My last bait to throw is a MirroLure Mirrodine slow deep suspending for the deep holes.


Remember, the colder the water, the more lethargic they are and the slower you work the bait.


Cold fronts and heavy winds change things a little. The fronts change the pressure and will cause fish to move or lockjaw. Most of the time, the two days leading up to the front are fire with the prefrontal bite as it drops the pressure before arrival. Once the front is here, the pressure is up for a day or two and the fish quit biting. If the front brings heavy wind, it will chill the surface waters and the shallows, and cause the reds to move to the deeper holes and ledges.


Locate areas of strong tidal flow. This requires being alert to tide tables and knowing when water will be moving at its strongest. Locate holes. Use depth finders to mark holes along your route. Even a minor depression of 2 or 3 feet in an area of consistent depth provides reds with the warmer temperatures they seek. Reds will look for holes that range from 2-10 feet in fall to winter months.


Work the inside of structure. Even when the tide is flowing out, reds want to stay on the inside of bars, shorelines and rock formations. Look for warmer water. Use thermometers and electronics to find warmer holes and currents. Even a degree or two fluctuation affects whether fish are feeding or not.


Anthony "AJ" Watson shares his fishing adventures each week in the Entertainer.