Hunting Crooked River Redfish & Trout

Bassmaster Kayak Series angler Tyler Bean says November is when a hunting mentality comes into play for fishing the salt.

Craig James | October 30, 2023

Tyler Bean outlines a great November plan for catching reds and trout.

With deer season in full swing this month, many anglers trade rods for rifles in hopes of killing a big-horned buck… maybe even one that might end up getting them in the GON Truck-Buck Shoot-Out.

However, when the crisp November fog clears each morning, you won’t find Tyler Bean in a deer stand. As a matter of fact, if he isn’t working, you can almost bet he’s going to be somewhere in the Crooked River “hunting” fish.

Tyler, a resident of Woodbine, has been fishing the Crooked River for more than 20 years, and he says that how you approach the river this month can make all the difference in how often you set the hook.

“It’s a hunting mentality. When I’m on the river, I’m thinking about covering water, and I’m constantly asking myself where are the fish going to be and why? I’m hunting, not fishing,” said Tyler.

This approach to fishing comes natural for Tyler, as he has spent the last several years fishing various lakes and rivers across the country in high-stakes kayak fishing tournaments. Just before going to press, he had an impressive finish in a Bassmaster Kayak Series tournament on a Pennsylvania river he had never laid eyes on.

“If you ask yourself why, what, when and where, you will put more fish in the boat, whether it’s smallmouth in Pennsylvania or redfish in the Crooked River,” said Tyler.

If you’re willing to pass on a trip to the tree stand, and you’re looking for some red-hot inshore action, here’s a breakdown of how Tyler likes to fish the Crooked River this month.

Tide: Unlike many other coastal anglers, Tyler doesn’t like to fish the four-hour window surrounding the low tide.

“I know a bunch of folks like that last two hours of the outgoing and first two hours of the incoming when water is pulling off the shells, and then pushing back on, but that can put the fish a bunch of different places and can make them hard to find, especially if they pull off into deeper water,” said Tyler.

Tyler prefers to fish the period after high tide when the water is starting to pull out of the flooded marsh as it retracts to the grassline.

“When the water is about even with the edge of the grass, that’s going to put about 3 to 5 feet of water over the oyster beds, and fish are going to be actively feeding over them,” said Tyler.

Tyler pointed out that anglers with a hunting mentality need to put in the work and do some low-tide scouting on the river to locate areas with shellbeds that will be submerged later in the tide cycle.

“The reason you catch reds and trout near shellbeds on low tide is because that’s where they’re wanting and waiting to feed. When the water covers those shells, you can bet it’s going to be a feeding frenzy,” said Tyler.

Tyler prefers to fish the period after high tide when the water is starting to pull out of the flooded marsh as it retracts to the grassline.

Where: Though anglers will do well up and down the river this month, here are a few areas where Tyler recommends to get on a good bite.

The mouth of the Mud River is a good place to start your search, and Tyler says that even though it’s a good ride to get there, the burnt fuel is well worth it.

“It will take you 45 minutes or so (by boat, not kayak) from the Crooked River State Park Boat Ramp to get to the Mud River, but the bite there can be really good for reds and trout for the duration of the falling tide,” said Tyler.

Tyler recommends focusing your efforts around creek mouths and points, being sure to pay close attention to how the water is moving around them.

“What you’re looking for in this area is those little swirls and breaks in the current. Usually at a creek mouth on the edges there’s gonna be that little spot where the current breaks and moves slower, and that’s where you’re going to get bit,” Tyler said.

If you take a look at your map, the area just to the east of Crooked River State Park is another of Tyler’s favorite places to fish this month, and it’s a great option, especially if you’re a kayak angler. Numerous shellbeds dot the river, and there are also several sandbars and other structure just a short paddle away.

“This is one of those places where you don’t have to have a big fancy boat to get on the fish. A kayak offers a real stealth advantage fishing around all of the shallow structure in this area of the river,” said Tyler.

Tyler says that if you do have a trolling motor on your kayak, this is a place to pull it out of the water and go into stealth hunting mode by using gentle strokes of the paddle to move around quietly.

“I like my Bending Branches paddle I purchased from Westbrook Supply Co. for this kind of fishing. It’s super light and after hours of paddling around the marsh, my arms are thankful for it,” Tyler said.

Another place to look at on the map is the west side of Stafford Island. The tiny finger creeks littered around it can be dynamite during November.

“You’re not going to pull up to a spot here typically and load up the cooler, but you can pick up a fish or two at the mouth of each one, and that can add up by the end of your trip,” said Tyler.

Tyler recommends using the tide to your advantage in this area by bouncing from creek to creek, making sure to use long casts to avoid spooking fish that are holding in the mouths of the creeks.

Water Clarity & Bait: This topic doesn’t require much in depth discussion, but Tyler does recommend paying attention to the water visibility, as well as how much bait is present in the area you are fishing.

“When I pull up to a spot, the first two things I’m looking at are how clear the water is and how much food is present. When I drop my bait off the side of the boat, I want to be able to see it from at least 6 inches to hopefully 18 or so. The more visibility, the better. Be sure to pay attention to the bait situation, too. I don’t want to see 10 million shrimp or baitfish getting hammered because I feel like my lure is not going to get noticed,” said Tyler.

On the flip side of that, Tyler recommends not spending too much time in an area where you are seeing no bait activity in the water.

His baits are simple but effective (from top): a Heddon One Knocker, a Rapala Skitterwalk and an Egret Wedgetail Mullet swimbait on weighted hook.

Lure Selection: Tyler doesn’t need a very big tackle box to handle business on the river, opting for a few lures to get the job done.

“I’m a topwater fisherman at heart, and whether I’m fishing freshwater or saltwater, I’m coming out first thing swinging, and I’m looking for a big topwater bite,” said Tyler.

Tyler mentioned that this also aids in hunting fish, because even if a fish doesn’t want to totally commit to eating your lure, it will often make a move toward a topwater lure, in turn revealing its location.

Tyler sticks to two basic topwater offerings in November. He alternates between a Rapala Skitter Walk (redfish color) and a Heddon One Knocker Spook (pearl melon), depending on what fish want that day.

Tyler says that though color is important, it’s not nearly as important as how you bring the bait back to the boat. Though he uses the tried-and-true walk-the-dog retrieve, he says it’s how you walk it that really makes the difference.

You’ve got to make that thing pop when you’re walking it. If you make really sharp twitches with your wrist, it will help give you that sudden erratic action that’s going to get you bit more often,” said Tyler.

Tyler uses various retrieval speeds until he has honed in on what the fish want that particular day, citing that some days they don’t want the lure to ever stop moving, and sometimes he will let it sit three to five seconds before bringing it back to life again with another erratic twitch.

Tyler pointed out a major key to having success with this lure is to be sure to fish it on braided line with a monofilament leader. Tyler says the braid enables you to walk the bait, and the mono leader will help keep the hooks from fouling and getting tangled on the line.

Once the topwater bite has died, Tyler reaches for a plastic swimbait for success, a traditional offering in the salt. What’s not traditional is how he serves it up.

While most anglers reach for the standard jig head with a plastic swimbait threaded onto it, Tyler once again, takes a page out of his bass fishing playbook and uses a weighted swimbait hook to present his offering to the fish.

“When you rig your swimbait like this, you can swim it right over the top of the shells without getting hung up. That weight on the bottom of the hook will bounce right over the top of the shells and you won’t get hung up nearly as much as you will with a traditional jig head,” said Tyler.

Tyler says when shopping for the right hook, be sure to find one in the 3/16- to 5/16-oz. size range, and a critical component is one with a screw for attaching your swimbait.

Tyler’s go-to swimbait is an Egret Wedgetail Mullet in the 3.5-inch size. He throws a bunch of different colors but says his favorite three are opening night, purple chartreuse tail and cajun pepper.

“What I like about the Wedgetail Mullet is all the feedback you get from the thumping of the tail. As you bring it across those shellbeds, you can really stay in tune with what your lure is doing under the water,” said Tyler.

Kayak/Boat: Tyler says that you can fish the Crooked River effectively out of just about anything that will float. He alternates between his Ranger bass boat equipped with a 115-hp motor and his Crescent CREW kayak.

“Regardless of whether I’m fishing from my boat or kayak, I feel like I can catch fish either way. They both have their advantages and disadvantages,” said Tyler.

Tyler recommends for anglers going the kayak route, to be sure and wear a PFD and be confident of your abilities and your kayak’s abilities before taking on the river.

“The folks at Westbrook Supply Co. in Atlanta have really got me set up for taking on big water. I have a Crescent CREW and a Crescent Shoalie kayak that I purchased from there, and every accessory on my kayak all the way down to my PFD has come from them. If you’re near Atlanta, check them out, but if not, check them out online,” said Tyler.

With deer season in full swing, there’s no better time to be out on the water. For those who bring Tyler’s hunting mentality to the river, a successful trip is surely in their future!

Editors Note: To connect with Tyler, subscribe to his YouTube channel. You can find it by searching Tyler Bean. He has a variety of both saltwater and freshwater videos and says that readers can expect a bunch of new content in the near future.

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