Sunday, November 28, 2021

What’s up with all the Rat Reds?

How old do you think this Red Fish is? Submitted

How old do you think this Red Fish is? Submitted

Lately I have been hearing about it everywhere I go. Local fishermen in the 10,000 islands have been reporting abundant catches of small “Rat Reds” in the 10”-14” range. It’s not unusual to hear of catches of 15 or more in a single morning. They are hitting everything from artificials like DOA Shrimp or Gulp Shrimp, to natural baits like live or frozen shrimp, cut mullet, or cut ladyfish. You can usually find them on the last part of the incoming tide around the barrier island mangrove roots and oyster bars. I can’t remember a time when we had so many of these little guys around.

The question here is “why are there so many more around now than in previous years?”

Well, there are a few theories floating around that could make sense. Some mention ideas like tighter regulations by Florida Fish and Wildlife, net bans, more anglers practicing “Catch and release”, and the list goes on.

I recently spoke with a long time resident of Everglades City at relates it to the freeze we had last January. A freeze could produce more Redfish? How is that possible? Well here is the theory…….. As many of you know we had below freezing temperatures last January that resulted in one of the largest fish kills the area has ever experienced. 10 days in January went below 32 degrees each night. There were bays down here in the Everglades National Park that were full of dead Snook, Goliath Grouper, Snapper, Ladyfish, Jacks, Catfish, and many other species that could not survive in such cold water.

One species



that I did not see dead anywhere from the freeze were Redfish. They can take cold water for longer periods of time than most other local fish. Because of this the species survived and is now thriving….. but that’s not the complete theory. The theory is that all fish eat fish to survive. Some more than others. Without all of those big mouth Snook, Goliath Grouper, and Catfish prowling around eating all the small fry and baby fish, there could be a boom in the Redfish population.

So how old is a 12” redfish? Well it is know that Redfish typically spawn from Mid August through Mid October. Each female can lay 20 – 40 million eggs in just one season! They are aggressive eaters and experience their most rapid rate of growth during their first year, which puts them right around 13” at the age of 12 months.

This is an interesting theory that makes sense to me. It sounds like we should be catching more and more legal size redfish over the next few years. Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.

Tight Lines, and remember to make someone giggle today!

Capt Pete Rapps

Hailing out of Chokoloskee Island Park Marina, Chokoloskee, FL, Capt Rapps has been fishing the Chokoloskee area for just over 20 years. He offers expert guided, light tackle, near shore, and backwater fishing trips in the Everglades National Park, and is happy to accommodate anyone from novice to hardcore seasoned pro. Pete is extremely patient and loves to teach. You can book a charter right online 24/7. See his online availability calendar, booking info, videos, recipes, seasonings, and first class web site at

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