Crab Flies: How to Catch Winter Redfish

Photo by Travis Rathbone

The river may be frigid, but if you can get to (or live in) one of the warmer coastal areas from South Carolina to Florida to Texas, winter offers some of the year's best shots at skinny-water redfish that are quick to eat a crab. When temps dip, these crustaceans can be more abundant than shrimp, but the trick to hooking up with one is understanding when each unique pattern works best.

Hover Craft
Lightly belly weighted and created with foam, Simon's HoverCrab is designed to suspend in the strike zone. This makes it a deadly choice when reds are rooting in weeds or submerged grass that is too thick for a dumbbell-weighted fly. Get this pattern hovering just above the grass tops with sink help from a fluorocarbon leader and get ready for the slurp.

Mow the lawn

Illustration by Mike Sudal

Presenting a fly to a tailing redfish 40 feet away when a mass of protruding grass separates you and your target is not easy. First, figure out which way the fish is moving and aim 2 feet ahead of its course. Your line will likely land across the grass tops, and your fly will get stuck on the grass above the surface. Next, instead of trying to strip the fly, wiggle the line with your wrist when the fish is close. The fly may plop into the water and get hit. If not, the wiggling grass will draw the red's attention, and it'll strike the dangling crab.

Ripple Effect
Fish this fly on a mono leader dressed with a smear of floatant, and you can swim this crab right across the surface. Make the tasty morsel ripple and wake, and any redfish looking up to feed will crush it with the same conviction as a summer largemouth smashing a foam popper.

Three more killer claws:

King crab

Photos by Luke Nilsson

The Merkin Crab's sparse, fluttering body and wiggling red-and-white legs are irresistible to reds. It has a natural sink rate, and it works well on hard and soft bottom.

Fighting form

The Defiant Crab shines on hard sand or mud bottoms where weeds aren't thick. Its weighted rear and short legs give it the look of a crab ready to fend off an attack.

Get going

Cathy's Fleeing Crab has long legs and a soft marabou tail to provide extra action on the strip and is intended—as the name suggests—to imitate a panicked crab.