“The tide is almost where I need it to be now,” I told my recent fishing charter clients, “so let’s run over to the edge of this flat and get in position before the water gets too low. These fish are going to push a mean wake when they start to move off.”
We started working the deeper edge of this lush grassflat with the trolling motor until we could see the fish push. I got about halfway into position and we could already see the fish balled up and pushing toward the edge of the flat. We staked off the boat and got ready as this massive school of redfish moving water and wakes came into range.
“OK, just lead the fish by 10 feet or so and give it a twitch or two,” I told them. “Go ahead, they’re close enough!”
The cast ends up in the middle of the pack instead of in front, but the reds end up fighting over it like a pack of piranha and we are on! Another quick cast and we’re doubled up on two great upper slot redfish peeling drag and throwing mud — they’re in such shallow water.
A few minutes later, we are icing down two perfect upper slot redfish and getting in position to catch two more. The pack of reds were all between 26 and 32 inches or so and were ready to eat. We stuck with the school and caught 17 fish before they turned off and settled into deeper water off the channel somewhere.
We were just using a couple of 7-foot rods with 10-pound braid, a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a jighead with a plastic jerkbait on the end and the reds were all over it. They probably would have eaten just about anything you threw at them, but a shallow running plug or jerkbait works great in these conditions. These fish will school up at times and are amazing to watch when they are ready to eat.
Work the edge of the flat on a good falling tide and look for the wakes. When you find the wakes, slowly and quietly position yourself in front of the moving school and wait for them to push to you. Do not push the school from behind and try to push pole in front rather than use your trolling motor. If your boat drafts a bit too much then get out and wade to the fish. Wading is actually the best way to catch loads of reds without spooking them too badly.
The next couple of months will be prime time for this type of fishing and is fairly easy to figure out. So grab your rod and a few shallow water lures and get on the grass and find a redfish or more for this month’s Snookin ‘N Cookin recipe!
Redfish cakes with jalapeño remoulade
For the remoulade:
2 tablespoons of capers
2 rough cut celery stalks
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 lemon squeezed
2 chopped green onions
2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños
Splash of worcestershire
Splash of Tabasco
3 tablespoons Creole mustard
½ cup ketchup
1 cup mayo
Salt and pepper to taste
Puree all of these ingredients in a blender until smooth. Adjust to your liking and set aside. This sauce keeps well and can be used for many other items.
For the redfish cakes:
Fillets from one 26 ½ inch redfish (or any slot red)
½ of a Spanish onion, diced small
2-3 celery stalks, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
2 fresh jalapeños seeded and chopped fine
½ of a medium red bell pepper, diced small
2 tablespoons Creole mustard
2 tablespoons Mayo
1 egg beaten
¾ cup butter crackers crushed (Ritz or similar)
¾ cup panko bread crumbs (finely crush in processor)
Splash of worcestershire
Splash of tabasco
1 ½ tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter or olive oil for sautéing and grilling
Start by grilling off the redfish fillets with just olive oil, salt and pepper until just barely done. Set aside.
Next, grab a sauté pan and place on medium heat. Sweat off the onion, celery, jalapeño, bell pepper and garlic with a touch of olive oil or butter until tender. Set this mixture aside for a few minutes and break up the redfish by hand in small pieces while waiting on your items from the sauté pan to cool. Add all of the ingredients except the fish and the breadcrumbs and mix lightly. Next add the fish and the crumbs to the mixture and mix gently until evenly incorporated.
I feel that it is best from this point to cover this mixture and place it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes or so to help cool and set up a bit. The mixture should be moist and a bit sticky to the touch, but should hold its form when formed. I take them and form small ½ - ¾ inch thick cakes with my hand and set aside for cooking. Then I simply sauté them with a butter and olive oil mixture on medium heat until brown on both sides. This will take about three to four minutes aside and should be nicely brown and cooked through.
All of the ingredients are pretty much cooked except for the egg that is the binder so do not over cook them. Just brown them off nicely and slightly drain them on a paper towel. These are amazing with the remoulade and I guarantee will be a hit in your home as well. We paired ours up with some fresh baby greens and a summertime grilled corn and black bean relish along with the remoulade and couldn’t get enough. This can be done with loads of other types of local fish so get out there and catch the flavor of Southwest Florida!
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Seth and Astrid Hayes run Snookin ‘N Cookin, a Naples-based fishing charter company that also offers private dinners and parties. They can be reached at either (239) 994-1593, (239) 994-3253, via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at www.snookinncookin.com.