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Alabama Outdoors

Putting a spin on coastal Alabama fishing By John N. Felsher

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unlight glints off the wobbling gold blade flashed in the dingy water, attracting the attention of the marsh marauder with the black spot on its tail. The enraged redfish broke from its weedy shoreline lair and bolted toward the vibrating bait, creating a discernible veeshaped wake. With a quick lunge, the beast smashed into the lure, mangling the dangling wires and stripping line from the reel. As temperatures cool in the fall, redfish turn more aggressive. Prowling shorelines, sandbars and reefs, they smash whatever they can grab in their powerful jaws. Redfish prey heavily upon shrimp, mullets, menhaden, minnows and other morsels, but above all, they relish crunching crabs. “Redfish eat anything, but they love crabs,” says Bobby Abruscato, a professional redfish angler and guide with A-Team Fishing Adventures (www.ateamfishing. com/251-661-7696) in Mobile. “I’ve probably caught more redfish on spinnerbaits than any other bait. With the blades spinning, I believe redfish think a spinnerbait is a crab. The flash from the blades might also produce some reaction bites.” John N. Felsher is a professional freelance writer and photographer who lives in Semmes, Ala. He’s written more than 1,700 articles for more than 117 magazines. He co-hosts a weekly outdoors radio show. Contact him through his website at www. JohnNFelsher.com.

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Anglers use a variety of spinnerbaits to tempt redfish. Safety-pin spinners, the kind most commonly used by bass anglers, employ bent “arms” that suspend one or more blades over a usually skirt-tipped head. An in-line spinner consists of a straight wire extending from the head with a blade rotating around the wire. Many saltwater anglers throw beetle or harness spinners, also called jighead spinnerbaits. This type resembles a safety-pin spinnerbait, but the wire harness temporarily attaches to a jighead tipped with a soft plastic minnow or shrimp imitation. Because the components separate, a harness spinner gives anglers considerable flexibility to switch blades, jigheads or trailers easily as conditions change. Among the most versatile lures on the market, spinnerbaits work well around thick cover. In dense grass, buzz spinnerbaits

Lisa Snuggs shows off a redfish she caught. Photo by John N. Felsher

along the surface or “wake” them just below the surface. In areas with submerged grass, run spinners just over the tops of grass tips, barely touching them. Pause occasionally to let the bait helicopter down into the cover with the blades whirling. Redfish often strike falling baits. Although frequently used in shallow water or around thick cover, spinnerbaits also work in deeper water. In deeper water, “slow-roll” spinners just off the bottom, barely turning the blades. Let the blades plink against oyster shells. Occasionally hit the bottom to make mud trails. Anglers can also “yo-yo” baits up and down. Alabama anglers may keep up to three redfish per day all year long, each between 16 and 26 inches long with one oversized fish. Most reds run about four to 15 pounds, but these spot-tailed predators may exceed

70 pounds. Eric Easley holds the state record with a 45.25-pounder he caught near the mouth of the Mobile River in 2007. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta feeds a vast estuary that provides abundant places to catch redfish. The line of demarcation between fresh and salt water blurs daily so anglers frequently catch redfish and freshwater species in the same areas at the same time. Highly tolerant of fresh water, reds often swim quite far up the coastal rivers in the fall. “Late fall is a great time to catch redfish on spinnerbaits in the delta by Mobile,” Abruscato advises. “After the first freeze, fish go to the river deltas to seek out the deepest water they can find. The delta has some 20 to 30 foot depths. The Fowl River is the shallowest of the rivers. It runs about 12 feet deep. The Grand Bay area is another good area for redfish in the fall.” The fourth largest estuary in the United States, Mobile Bay covers 413 square miles of southern Alabama and measures about 31 miles long by 24 miles at its maximum width. One of the richest and most diverse delta ecosystems in the nation, it averages about 10 feet deep, but several deep rivers feed into the system. The Alabama and Tombigbee rivers merge to form the Mobile River near Mount Vernon. The Tensaw River branches off the Mobile River. Together, these and several smaller streams feed into Mobile Bay. The Dog, Deer and Fowl rivers enter the western side of Mobile Bay. The Fish and Bon Secour rivers flow into the eastern side of Mobile Bay. The Spanish, Appalachee and Blakely rivers also feed the system. “The Mobile Bay area offers a variety of fishing opportunities,” says Capt. Lynn Pridgen of Captain Lynn’s Inshore Adventures (Captlynnsinshoreadventures.com/251214-5196). “Even on a bad day, there are unlimited places where we can fish. Fowl River is a hot spot during the winter. The Dog River can produce some decent fish. Redfish move along the banks of those rivers chasing bait.” As the temperatures cool down, coastal fishing usually heats up! With so much water available, anglers should find many places to toss spinnerbaits or other lures at redfish this fall. A www.alabamaliving.coop

Alabama Living SMEC October 2012  
Alabama Living SMEC October 2012  

Alabama Living SMEC October 2012