Hernando Beach Inshore Fishing Inshore flats fishing Redfish, Snook, Trout, Snapper and Grouper


The Redfish Theory, Centipede’s Bay ConunDrum.

Redfish has been a staple around my house for many years, except for this year. This year has been the worst year I have seen in 20 years. Over that time I have grown accustom to catching redfish every trip.  While I am still catching redfish in Centipede Bay, most are over slot.

The last trip we hooked 4 redfish with the smallest coming at a solid 28 inch and the largest 32 inch. I hate to catch oversize fish, simply because I use light tackle and this puts a lot of stress on the larger fish.


31 Inch Redfish. Another over slot fish...

Many times I may spend 10 minutes reviving the fish, just to make sure it's alive and will survive. After all, the whole point of the slot limit is to allow the big females to reproduce.

The trip before this one had the same tone, 29, 28, 29, 30, 31, etc. If fact most of the trips this year was the same. The first few trip I did catch a few 27 and 26 inch fish. So I started hunting,  I searched every creek, cut and bay on all tide phases. The results where all about the same.  When I found redfish they where oversize.

So I started thinking, about 7 years ago fishing centipede bay I use to catch a lot of rat reds ( 10-12 inches ).  Sometimes catching as many as 40 fish a trip. Of course there were a some 21-22 inch fish in the mix, which made me happy. Then I started catching more and more 21 inch fish. Then the next year 21 to 23 inch fish. Then a few years ago almost every fish I caught was 24 inch.  Which turns out to be a perfect size fish. Dinner for two with a redfish sandwich for lunch. What more could you want. That was the year I fished almost every day that summer.  The following year the fish where a little big. Then last year I caught a few oversize fish and lots of 27 inch fish.

You can see where I am going with this. This year most of the fish are oversize. When you think about it, every year the fish grow and every year the fish I caught on average where bigger. This leads me to believe that about 6  years ago, there was a big redfish spawn in a place that would cause the  juvenile redfish ended up in centipede bay. Those juvenile fish hung around year after year eating and growing.

A brief overview of the redfish life cycle.

All large redfish are females (so much for the term bull red) and they spawn insore with the males from inshore. They can lay up to 2 million eggs per season. Once the eggs hatch the larva redfish drift with the current towards the inshore waters. For the larva that are lucky enough to find an estuary or bay, they will stay within 3 miles of that area and grow. If they change to females then they will move out to deeper and live the rest of the lives in the near shore waters. Except for the Aug-Oct when they come inshore to find some redfish love.

With that, I think what has happened, is that the area or breeding grounds that would cause the larva to end up in Centipede Bay changed about 6-8 years ago. This could mean several things:

  1. The breeding grounds have been destroyed. Which would mean Centipede Bay, would have very few redfish in the future.
  2. The area around the breeding grounds has changed such that the currents now push the larva elsewhere. Over time the spawn may occur when the currents are favorable to repopulate Centipede Bay.
  3. The food source in the breeding grounds is no longer there, forcing the spawn to move elsewhere.

Whichever the case may be, the bottom line is that the redfish population in Centipede Bay is not being replenished with larva redfish. It has been many years since I have caught an under size fish. So this leads me to believe that Centipede Bay will no longer be a hot spot for redfish. If this is a natural cycle then I would think this must be close to the bottom of that cycle and it may be a few years before we see the population start to increase.

I guess it's time to start looking in different areas. Last year I had a few trips along fiddlers  point. To my surprise, I did run across a couple of big schools of redfish. Maybe that's where the larva are landing.  I guess I will be spending the fall fishing season around fiddlers point. The upside is I rarely see anyone one in that area. And best of all no power rangers, the water is too shallow. If you decide to head over to that area I would love here how you did. Also never go there on a falling tide, unless you plan on camping. And watch for rocks there are lots of them. If you have a GPS you can mark the areas that do not have rocks, that will keep you way points to a manageable level....

Good Luck


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