Capt. Pete Rapps
The past two years we have been hearing about it. Local fishermen in the 10,000 islands and the Everglades National Park have been reporting record catches of small “Rat Reds” in the 12”-20” range. It’s not unusual to hear of catches of 15 or 20…… or even more in a single morning. They are hitting everything from artificials like DOA 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 honestly 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. They all make sense and I certainly believe that this is all working. But to have so many little reds appear in last few years, something else must be happening.
I recently spoke with a long time resident of EvergladesCity that relates it to the freeze we had in January, 2010. A freeze could produce more Redfish you ask? How is that possible? Well here is a piece of the theory floating around… we had below freezing temperatures in January, 2010, that resulted in one of the largest fish kills the area has ever experienced. Ten days in January went below 32 degrees each night. There were shallow bays down here in the Everglades National Park that were exterminated of 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 was 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 Redfish fry after that freeze of 2010, there could be a boom in the Redfish population.
So how old is a 12” redfish? Well it is known that Redfish typically spawnfrom 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 12”-14” at the age of 12 months. Now those “Rat Reds” we were catching last fall, are in the slot range of 18”-27” and producing eggs of their own. It’s an awesome situation for the Redfish population.
This is an interesting theory that makes sense to me. It sounds like we could be catching more and more slot size redfish over the next few years. Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.
Capt. Pete Rapps
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