January can bring blustery conditions even to the south. But that doesn’t mean the redfish won’t be biting, and the backwaters around Georgetown are ground zero for winter reds.
Matt Bellamy of Captain Matt’s Saltwater Charters said winter is prime time to slide into a skinny water creek and land double-digit reds out of the same hole.
“It’s almost not even fair this time of year,” said Bellamy (843-568-8203). “We find them ganged up in 2 feet of water, and they will hit just about anything you throw at them.”
As water temperatures fall, redfish gather in huge schools in backwaters for protection from predators and to feed. Bottlenose dolphins are the primary consumer of redfish, which can be vulnerable during the cold months, but dolphins can’t venture back into shallow creeks. Since redfish are cold-blooded creatures, they must seek out warm areas to survive winter water temperatures.
“We find the reds in the warm waters up the creeks,” he said.
As the water retreats on a falling tide, the sun heats up the dark mud and oyster bars. And as the tide slowly rolls back, the solar-heated structure raises the water temperature, providing a warm haven for any baitfish and wintering school of reds.
Bellamy will target reds on the last part of the falling tide and most of the rising tide.
“We get them near the hot mud and oyster bars mostly, but you can normally see them rolling down the creeks, too,” he said.
Bellamy will use both natural baits and artificial lures.
“There isn’t much bait around this time of year, and they will hit about anything you have,” said Bellamy, who will net a couple of dozen finger mullet if he can find them or just bring a bag of frozen shrimp and thread them on a ¼-ounce jighead. He will also use Gulp swimming mullet in white or electric chicken or a D.O.A. shrimp under a popping cork. And in clearer water, he will switch to clearer baits like the Z-man Trout Trick in shrimp po-boy color.
Bellamy will vary his retrieves on the day and conditions.
“They are usually still very aggressive in January, and they will crush it,” he said. “But I will work it at different speeds until I figure out what works the best,” he said.
However, the most important tactic Bellamy mentions is where the anglers are casting.
“Don’t cast in the middle of the school,” he said. “Pick out the edge of the school or cast to a fish off the center of the main school.”