There are plenty redfish south of Venice right now, but if you want to catch them, you’d better ignore the calendar and pretend it’s April. That’s the word from Capt. Dustin Bounds, owner of Garden Bay Charters.
“We’ve been fishing a spring pattern,” he said. “The river’s up around 11 feet, so our fall pattern is shot. Everywhere we caught fish in the spring is where we’re fishing now.”
That high river has filled the passes, and the ponds adjacent to them, with filthy, fish-less water, so Bounds has been running away from all the main outflows.
“You’ve got to get out away from the river, on the outer edges along the points and in the pockets,” he said. “You just want to get away from that muddy water.”
The areas Bounds has been fishing — Blind Bay and around Yuritich — aren’t exactly pristine and clear. But the water there is slightly better than what’s in the river and passes.
“It’s just OK,” he said about water clarity. “It’s a little bit muddier than you’d expect, probably because we’ve been getting such strong winds coming from every different direction. It’s swirled that water around, so it’s a little more stained in the areas we’ve been fishing, but the fish don’t care. They’re there.”
Bounds has been running to the edge of the coast since the river jumped in September. The fishing remained good then despite the high river, but it hit a nadir in late October and early November. The action has really picked up, however, in recent days.
“It’s gotten good here in the past couple weeks,” Bounds said. “The fronts were coming through every other day, but since they’ve spaced out a little bit, it’s gotten a lot better.”
To catch the fish, Bounds has been rigging his clients with either dead shrimp or Gulp soft-plastics rigged 2 feet under popping corks. He’s instructed them to be patient on the hooksets.
“We had been having to work it really slow, almost like a catfish bite,” he said. “You’d have to let them take it and run with it, but now that the fronts have spaced out, they’re being a little more aggressive with it.”
They’ve had many opportunities to get the hang of it.
“The fish are definitely more schooled up now,” Bounds said. “We’ve been catching 30, 40, 50 fish before moving on.”
Most of those fish are between the 16- to 27-inch slot, but Bounds said there are also some undersized throwbacks mixed in.
He suspects similarly sized fish are also thick on the west side of the river right now, but with recent wind patterns, they might as well be on the moon.
“We’ve been having to stick to the east side just because we can’t get to the west side because of all the northwest and west winds,” he said. “Our spots over there that hold fish this time of year, we can’t get to.”
That’s OK. Bounds and his clients have been doing just fine on the east side, ignoring their overcoats and pretending that spring has sprung.