Redfish in the Lower Florida Keys

The Lower Florida Keys have never been known as a hotspot for redfish, but some careful hunting in the right places can give you opportunities. I particularly like to fly fish for them since they are generally willing to respond to a well-presented fly.

For reasons I have yet to figure out, almost all of our redfish are about the same size, around 25 inches in length. An 8wt fly rod provides great sport and a delicate presentation, though on a windy day, I might go with a 9wt to have a little more casting punch in the breeze. Shrimp patterns and crab patterns with medium to heavy weight seem to get the best play around here. Other parts of Florida dictate baitfish patterns at times, but down here, go with the crunchy flies.

Standing and poling my Kraken 13.5, I can usually see the fish at a 30 foot distance, sometimes much more. After stopping the kayak and setting down the pole, I’ll pick up my fly rod and lay the fly within a few feet of the fish’s head, looking for a response. If Mr. Red turns on the fly, then a slow to medium retrieve with short strips will most often get an eat. A quick strip strike will set the hook, and then the fun really starts! Reds don’t run long distances, but they will bulldog all the way back to the boat.

For anyone new to the salt, these members of the drum family are terrific targets, and will help you hone your fly rod skills before tackling the notoriously challenging bonefish, tarpon and permit species of the Keys. Redfish generally move slowly when not alerted to your presence, making it much easier to get accurate shots at them. And being bulkier than bonefish, they are usually easier to see. These factors can be a real confidence booster if bonefishing seems difficult. The other thing I like about reds is they are normally in quiet, secluded water with little traffic from other boats, so you can fish the best areas with no competition.

Check out the photos of this gorgeous Keys red I got on a butterscotch colored crab fly! Notice the coloration. Our reds are more of a pinkish silver, rather than the dark bronze fish you see in other locales.

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