A while back I got the chance to talk all things redfish with Captain Ryan in Folly Beach, South Carolina. He shared a ton of the insight on gear, tactics, and seasonal changes when targeting redfish. Our conversation was a blast and his knowledge about these fish is incredible. Here’s the first part of our conversation.
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Joseph: Hey Ryan, how are you?
Ryan: Hey man, good how are you?
Joseph: I’m pretty good. I’ve got some questions for you about catching redfish.
Ryan: Sounds good.
Joseph: Alright, so when did you first start targeting redfish and how long have you been guiding?
Ryan: I've probably been targeting redfish since, gosh maybe even with my grandfather, so super young. Age let's say like five or six. And then and then I’ve been full-time guiding for three and a half years now.
Joseph: That’s great. So other than your home waters in South Carolina, what are the best places in the country to catch redfish?
Ryan: Um, that's tough man. I really do feel like South Carolina's a pretty killer spot. I mean you got the Everglades down in Florida and things like that. In my opinion they don't hold the largest numbers of redfish but it's just a different style of fishing. I've done it in the mangroves several times and I just think that's a really cool place. The Everglades and Marco Island area, that South Florida and the Florida West Coast Area, it’s just such a cool place to fish. You're essentially just poling mangrove edges which is pretty cool. You might not want to put this in the article but I know that Texas has really good red fishery. I've only fished it once and it wasn't super epic as far as conditions so I didn't have the most success. But, from what I hear, it's really good. I think another super low key spot that you don't hear much about is the coastal waters in North Carolina, they have massive schools and a lot of fish some of the guys that I know that live up there, the pictures I see them post and talk to me about, sheesh. So I would say anywhere in this Coastal Carolina section from Savannah up North Carolina is just a phenomenal red fishery. I was just talking to a client the other day on the boat. I think that almost all redfish world records have come from the inlets of North Carolina. I'm talking like 80 90 pound redfish.
Joseph: Wow, thats wild.
Ryan: We don't see stuff like that here. I mean, we can get a 50 pounder or something in that realm. Back in the tidal creeks and areas that I fish it’s not the same, I mean they have larger bays up there. They get redfish schools in the thousands. I think that's a place that I'd like to fish. I haven't fished it, but I'd like to.
Joseph: Yeah it sure looks like a great spot to fish.
Ryan: You know, a lot of people don't realize that in the winter months here we get actually pretty clear water. Now, I'm not talking like the Keys or anything but when you get back in the creeks, it's almost gin clear man. When there’s a school of fish, there's times that you can't even tell there's water. It just looks like they're on top of the mud. But, in the dead of the summer the water is brown and hot. That fall, spring, winter time we get some pretty clear water.
Joseph: Wow I bet that’s beautiful.
Ryan: yeah, it's not bad! In North Carolina It's the same thing. Those months when the red fish are schooled up, they get some really awesome opportunities out there.
Joseph: Absolutely that sounds like the ideal conditions.
Ryan: I'd say that the Everglades area and then North Carolina would be my two places other than here. In a nutshell, pretty much from Savannah to North Carolina is probably it. killer area.
Joseph: Sweet, so I've read and heard countless times that fall is the best time to go after red fish because they're getting ready for their spawn. Are there other good times or better times to catch redfish?
Ryan: Man, you know I have this conversation almost daily. People ask me when the best time of year to come catch redfish, we have a year-round fishery. We have a genuine 365 day fishery. It's just how you target them. In the summer months right now you throw a piece of cut bait in the creeks, you can certainly get good numbers of fish and good size of fish too in the backs of these Creeks. 27 to 29 inch, seven, to ten, and 12 pound red fish. Later in the year you get a ball. Fall and coming into winter, fish start to school up. So now instead of going in a creek and seeing, you know, 200 fish within the whole Creek you're now seeing 200 fish and one tight Ball. So it just changes the way that you fish, you work stuff differently. My point is it's an incredible fishery year round. Now, if I had to pin down my favorite two months it would be for sure October and November. The reason October is awesome is you get some of those larger fish. I find them in the main river system. You don't necessarily have to go off the beach or go out in the main channels or out to the Jetties. Also we have a lot of really big flood times that time of year and that's when you get some of those mature fish in the grass. In the summer months you can get decent fish anywhere from four to six pounds. When you get into the fall, around September, October, November range, you can catch ten, twelve pound 28 inch redfish tailing in the grass. That's probably tips it over to make it my favorite two months out of the year.
Joseph: Sweet, that's awesome.
Ryan: yeah, and then in November when you start getting into some colder days, the fish start schooling up pretty thick and one of my best days on the water we caught 80 something redfish, which is incredible. All on artificials with three Anglers.
Joseph: Sounds like y’all could just fish until you get tired.
Ryan: Yeah, I had bloodied up hands from taking jig heads out of mouths.
Joseph: That's a lot of action.
Ryan: A majority of these fish came off of a cluster of docks. It was literally every cast and my clients were throwing back out as soon as the fish was unhooked.
Joseph: That’s a great day of fishing that'll wear anybody out.
Joseph: Well, I know that you also do fly trips but, what are the best tactics or tips for catching redfish for someone just starting out?
Ryan: That's a tough question because there are so many variables, you know like do you have a boat? Are you in a kayak? What kind of spots are available? All of these things can dictate where you go if you're specifically targeting redfish. I would say, definitely live bait and cut bait is probably the most entry level way of fishing. Also, like I explained earlier, It depends on the time of year. If it's December, you're not throwing cut bait, but let's just for the sake of sunshine and rainbows. Let's say it May or June and you got that guy visiting from out of town that wants to catch a redfish. I can tell you gear man. I'm super into gear, but I'm very keen on matching things to the proper size fish and stuff. A good 2,500 to 3,000 class reel, that 3,000 is a little big but a 2500 can handle 10 to 15 pound braid on a medium-light rod. There are so many different kinds of rigs that you could use. Typically that Carolina rig is what you mostly see people using because it's pretty straightforward and then just get some cut bait and launch it basically on oyster shell points.
If you can find good cean moving water over some oyster beds and can throw around that. There’s a pretty good chance of catching a redfish. The other way would be like a popping cork with a little circle hook or a small j-hook with a shrimp, finger mullet, or mud minnow. That's also another really easy way. What's good about that is there's a lot of sight fishing involved in that. You’re watching the cork and for new anglers it keeps them busy, so they're not getting bored.
Captain Ryan Shared more information and insight than I could fit in one blog. Stay tuned for the next part of our conversation.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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