A large number of fly anglers are extremely passionate about targeting redfish on fly in the Tampa, Bradenton, and Sarasota area. A reoccurring question that I get from fly fishing clients who are planning a trip to the area is –
When is the best time of year to fly fish for redfish in this area?
This region has a robust redfish fishery and because of that we’re a bit spoiled. Summer is the worst time to target redfish in this area. Redfish aren’t the biggest fans of the warm water and they are generally more difficult to target on fly. Plus, in summer, fly anglers should be focusing on tarpon and snook. Summer is not the ideal time to target redfish on fly in this area
I’ve had some unbelievable days of fishing for redfish in this area in the fall when they really school up. We’ve had great days fishing schools of reds near the back country out of Placida. Certain parts of Sarasota Bay collect schools of reds in the fall as well. And redfish on the south shore of Tampa Bay have been really good to us over the years. Fall is a very good time for fly anglers to target redfish on fly.
Redfish can become extremely aggressive in the spring, when larger schools of baitfish return to the flats. Redfish live on a diet of mainly crabs, worms, and shrimp throughout winter, so when spring pops and fresh bait floods the flats, they tend to get pretty aggressive. We’re able to use a wider variety of flies to target these redfish including surface flies. We get some pretty cool eats from overly aggressive redfish in spring. Spring is a very good time for fly anglers to target redfish on fly
Winter brings cold fronts, negative low tides, and extremely clear water. Cooler water temperatures don’t seem to bother redfish much, but they do tend to change their habits. They begin to really key in on areas where they can find a reliable meal. Worms, crabs, and shrimp are what they are thinking about and they don’t mind working extra hard to get those meals. Winter is when we find tailing reds in this region. January and February are two of the top months to fly fish for redfish in the winter.
The incredible water clarity we enjoy in the winter is heaven for fly anglers that enjoy sight fishing for redfish. Fly fishing for redfish in the winter is so good, that the region’s premiere fly fishing tournament for redfish is held in the winter. Fly fishing for redfish in this region is prime in the winter. So, if you are planning a trip to specifically target redfish down here, then your first choice should be the winter.
If you do come down in the heart of winter, make sure to give yourself enough time if you have that luxury. The cold fronts that roll through that time of year usually foul up the weather for a day or two. Having a reasonable window of time will ensure that you enjoy some nice days on the water.
To sum it all up, winter is the best time to target redfish on fly in this area. Fall and spring are tied for a very close second, so don’t fret if you can’t make it down during the coldest months. If you’re down here in the summer, you can catch redfish, but your focus should be more on snook and tarpon.
Whenever it is that you come down to chase redfish, do your homework ahead of time. The way to feed redfish flies and the flies that they eat are area specific. Plan your trip out and do some research. You may find this to be a helpful resource to learn more about fly fishing for redfish in the West Central/South Florida area.
Captain Brian Boehm
Quiet Waters Fishing