How To Find Redfish In A New Area (Crystal River Fishing Report)

By: Luke Simonds on February 8, 2020
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how to catch redfish in a new area

It’s redfish exploration time!!

We are all born with an itch to explore new horizons and to be curious about what’s around the next corner.

A simple example is that most of us anglers can’t help but to think things like this while out on the water:

  • What’s around that next point?
  • What’s under that mangrove overhang?
  • What’s behind that oyster bar?

But sadly, many anglers do get intimidated about visiting new regions to fish because it’s human nature to feel more secure in catching fish in the waters that we’re very familiar with…

And it can be nerve-racking to go to completely foreign waters because we get worried that we’ll not be able to find fish or that our friends we take out will think less of us if they don’t catch anything…

This presents a problem because the act of traveling to an area you’ve never been to before and catching quality fish is one of the most rewarding things you can do as an angler.

But the good news is that there are free tools online that can significantly help you find fish in entirely new regions than what you’re used to fishing.

The even better news is that you don’t need to waste time and money on live bait or having a store-full of lures on hand.

In fact, my results in consistently catching big redfish and gator trout got better and better as I completely stopped using live bait and shrunk my tackle box to carry only a few lure options (it’s better to master a couple of lures than to be decent at a store full of them).

Let me share with you some of my tips on finding (and catching) inshore fish in a new area based on a recent trip.

Here’s what happened when I explored the unique fishery of Crystal River, FL earlier this month for my very first time…

crystal river overview map

Crystal River Fishing Report

For many years, I’ve heard about the great inshore fishing that the Crystal River area has to offer. It is well known for an abundance of oyster bars, uninhabited marsh islands, and a vast expanse of healthy grass flats that hold an assortment of popular fish species like redfish, trout, flounder, snook, tarpon, tripletail, and many other inshore species.

And let’s certainly not forget to mention that it’s an awesome place to go scalloping.

But my desire has been to explore the vast expanse of oyster bars and uninhabited islands that are scattered around the region to search for redfish, trout, and snook.

So I made plans about a month ago with Salt Strong Plus member Mike Simek to fish together for a half day session of exploration to test out the strategies described in our online fishing Inshore Slammer course in his region.

Crystal River Overview

What was not planned when we agreed on the day was a strong cold front that pushed in at the same time as our trip, so we were left with very tough conditions that required attention while planning the course for the day.

Since we were faced with strong winds from the northeast (started NE, then turned mostly from the East), I had to factor in the temperature drop as well as the strong winds in planning which areas to fish.

First Step: Pre-Planning For Redfish

Here’s what I did the night before our trip to plan the fishing spots we’d target:

  1. Checked weather forecast (www.weather.com)
  2. Checked tides (AyeTides app)
  3. Used Google Maps to scan the area for prime fishing grounds based on weather and tides

Weather

The temperature was dropping from the couple days before and the wind was supposed to be mild in the 5 mph to 7 mph in the morning with a gradual increase to the 10 mph to 15 mph range in the afternoon… starting from the NE and then straight from the E around noon.

Tides

The tide was close to it’s max peak when we met at the ramp and was going to be falling hard the entire time we were fishing.

Tides during Crystal River trip

Map Tips

Since the water was going to be falling, I knew that the fish would likely be holding close to the shorelines at first and then would gradually be moving out with the tide to the potholes and cuts around the grass flats and oyster bars.

And since the temps were dropping, I focused on areas that provided shelter from an easterly wind because the calm areas would be slightly warmer than wind-blown spots.

Here’s a look at the key items that I searched for when selecting the spots to fish:

Google map view of crystal river

  • Mud flat – holds heat better than sand or grass
  • Potholes & Troughs – great spots to target when the water is low
  • Oyster bars – great structure for catching fish throughout the tidal swings (also a hazard for boats when going between spots)

Based on the weather, tides, and map features, I chose 5 spots to fish that day and had a couple back-up spots that could come into play if one of the earlier spots were an absolute bust or extremely good.

Since this was my first time going up there and the fact that there are a ton of oyster beds and rocky bottom area that can significantly damage a boat, I went ahead and printed an areal map of the area from Google maps and marked the spots I wanted to fish on it.

Next Step – Go Catch The Redfish!!!

how to catch redfish in new areas

I began getting very nervous as soon when I opened my car door after parking by the ramp to check it out…

The wind was 2x stronger than the forecast and the temperature was colder than I was expecting too (both of which are not the best news when fishing foreign waters).

Also, it was then that I realized I forgot to bring my map of the area with the planned spots and hazard oyster bars displayed on it, so I had to go completely from memory… yikes!

And this was my first chance to meet Mike, a Salt Strong member who joined me for the trip… so I was very worried that I’d let him down given the map debacle along with the poor weather conditions we faced.

Fortunately, I had set a plan for the day and stuck with it (to the best of my memory at least)…

Spot #1 was a complete bust because I couldn’t control the boat with the trolling motor because the high winds and strong outgoing current double-teamed us at an area with some great looking oyster bars near an island point that caught my attention on Google maps… so we left after around 20 minutes of fishing time since it was too difficult to fish and didn’t seem promising.

Next, we found quick success at spot #2 with a solid first fish of the day…

Effect_20151118_133110.jpg

The first red of the day caught by Mike Simek on a Gulp Shrimp

And we continued to hone in on the bite trend throughout the day which resulted in us catching 7 redfish, 3 trout, a small grouper, and a couple of sea bass… all on artificial lures at spots that neither of us had ever fished before.

Watch the video below to see the exact location of the boat ramp along with footage from the top catches:

How To Find Redfish In A New Area [VIDEO]

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Top Lures For The Day

I began the trip using my favorite weedless spoon (1/4 oz gold spoon made by Johnson called the Silver Minnow) because it’s an awesome lure for fishing oyster bars and other hard structure since it’s prone to simply bounce right off without getting stuck.

Mike stuck with a 3″ Gulp shrimp rigged weedless, which is another great option for heavy cover.

After we started finding the majority of fish up in the shallows on mud/grass flats, I switched to a Gulp jerk shad rigged on a weighted hook.

Conclusion

how to find redfish in new areas

Exploring new fishing grounds is an incredibly rewarding and fun way to spend a day. And with proper planning, there will be plenty of fish-catching to ensure that everyone has a great time.

Hopefully, you have learned that it isn’t as hard to find redfish in a brand new area as many anglers believe that it is.

I certainly had a blast that day showing Mike where to find fish, and I am very glad to have had the opportunity to gain a new fishing friend while exploring the awesome fishery that the Crystal River region has to offer.

And it was a great reminder for me to not stress about cold fronts and/or foreign territory because they’re not as daunting as they at first seem… just requires being aware of the conditions along with some planning.

Want to learn how to catch more inshore fish in less time guaranteed?

For serious inshore anglers only, all of my detailed strategies, lures, equipment, and tips on how to use it all is fully explained in our Inshore Slammer package.

It’s the only online inshore fishing course that is guaranteed to help you catch more inshore fish in the next 7 days or you don’t pay.

This online course consists of a network of organized video tutorials showing how to consistently catch quality redfish, snook, and trout without wasting time on live bait or money on a bulky and overloaded tackle box.

slammer-box

P.S. – If you think your angler friends would like to see this post, please Tag them or Share this with them. It would mean a lot to me.

P.P.S. – If you are serious about catching more inshore fish in less time, I highly encourage you to check out my Inshore Slammer Course. I have taken 100% of the risk off of you by guaranteeing you get value or you don’t pay. Click here to find out more.

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Gary Rankel

Hey Luke……looks like you guys made the best out of a challenging day on the water. Hope the next time you’re up here, you have calmer winds and warmer temps. You may not know that the area you were fishing has been proposed to be added as the 42nd preserve under the Florida Preserve Act of 1975. If the introduced legislation is approved, a new Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve will extend all the way from Yankeetown to Anclote, thereby preserving an awesome array of inshore habitat for future generations to enjoy. Fingers crossed.

Roy Noblin

luke as always a good report and thanks to you i gave up hunting and bought a yak in 2015. off to crystal river i headed and thanks to you i found out tides mater but only to get you in the right spot depending on tide flow. this is true for time of day and very seldom do i get there before 10am. you launched at ft island beach ramp and this time of year it is almost safe if you know the paths to get around in. i have seen those oyster bars west of your path be only a couple inches below the surface at high tide and at lease two foot above at low and boats sitting on them. yes there is good fishing there and you were more in the ozello area and not in where the big fish hang out. those bars east of your path are even harder to see and in the summer right next to where salt river comes out it may only be 6″. so i highly recommend all join the insiders and not only read but pay attention to what you say and do. i did and now pretty much leave everything alone but trout. they are good eating cooked many ways where others are ok but fun to catch so i put them back
so to wrap up i would like to warn everyone most people will not go back in the ozello area except in a yak or air boat, even the charter captains do not go back there. winter is better due to higher tides but summer can tear up you boat in a heartbeat. the circle you drew has some good fish but be sure to have a GPS to find your way out and in a yak you can paddle in wind and at places very strong current. from the ramp you launched from to the north is crystal river channel but you better know how to get to it and if you head out due west i hope you have good insurance because there are a couple paths you can get through if tide is right. so to wrap up i love ozello but i have learned the area and hope all who want to fish there do the same. if i may i would like to highly recommend letting jacinda take you out. she now charters and the girl knows the area well. i do NOT recommend anyone go back in there in any boat . as luke says there are many many bars with good fish BUT you can not see them if just a little wind until you hit it. and again thank you luke for chaining my life from hunting that i stared about 8 years old and lived for the next season to a life of salt water fishing i do when ever i feel like it

Roger Bonifield

Can’t find the insider video you mentioned that shows specific spots where you found fish. Also wanted to know if you have any videos from the Yankee Town or Ozella areas.

Roy Noblin

if i may add- you do not need to know the exact spots and chances are good you will find someone there or coming there. from yankeetown to homosasa river is great fishing and take the insider course so you will know when and where to fish it. just be real careful and learn the bars and how to stay safe getting around them. when i first fished the area in 2015 i went home with no supper about as often as i did with supper. once you learn how to fish tides and where the fish will be you can wear out your arms catching them. yes i see boats there but mostly fish where i see no one and just set my rod down to relax. i have not fished other areas but feel sure the tips in the book work everywhere

Rod Watkins

So I’m having a hard time reading the tide, I assume the fish are heading to deeper water during high tide..
Correct?

Neil Lamont

A nice video, you caught more Reds than I have in my life. Of course I have only been fishing for less than 2 years. Started at age 69 because I didn’t want to move up a set of tees at the golf course. If you come to Naples Ill be glad to take you out on the boat but I don’t think you will be catching Reds like that

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Anonymous

i started at 70 and watching luke and reading his books i started catching reds in that area in a couple months. back then 2 reds were legal as 5 trout and very seldom did i not catch my limit and days i had to stop due to my arms gave out. they key is pay attention to all he says and does. luke does like to talk but in there is the tips you need to learn. tight line my friend