Cold weather has redfish schooling in huge numbers in the inshore waters around Charleston, and while these fish are wary at times, they will bite throughout the day if anglers offer them the right baits and don't disturb them too much. Capt. Geoff Bennett of Charleston Charter Fishing advises fishermen to tackle these schools with a mixture of natural bait and artificial lures.

Bennett (843-324-3332) said the weather has made it difficult to get on the water and find fish, but when there has been a break in the rain and wind, finding the schools has not been difficult, especially on bright sunny days. The secret to catching these fish, according to Bennett, is to use a stake-out pole to keep the boat anchored, then pitch cut mullet or cracked blue crab ahead of the cruising fish. When using artificial lures, Bennett poles along the banks, quietly looking for schools, then casting artificial lures like plastic shrimp and grubs to the leading fish.

And how do anglers know when to use natural bait or artificial lures? Bennett said you just have to let the fish tell you. On a recent trip, he said, "We found groups of reds literally a hundred strong who wanted nothing to do with our artificial lures. Once we staked up and put out cut mullet, it was a different story, as we would hook into a redfish every time the school drifted over our way."

Bennett said as long as water temperature hovers in the mid-40s, redfish are prone to finicky behavior, resulting in a lot of very subtle bites, followed by the line going immediately slack. Some anglers get discouraged and think the fish has left, but that's not always the case. Some days, that's just how the bite goes. Bennett said reds are just inhaling the bait and sitting still, so the rod bounces slightly, the line goes slack and appears empty, but when the angler picks up the rod, the fight is on.