5 Redfish are one of the most popular game fish in southern estuaries.


red drum

The Redfish or Red Drum is one of the most sought after game fish in the south.  Red Drum are aggressive feeders, very strong fighters, and are excellent as a meal.  This popularity also means they are heavily regulated by states and they need to be.  The Red Drum take about 4 years to reach a length of 30 inches.  These juvenile Reds live in the brackish estuaries feeding on shrimp, crabs, mollusks, small fish, or just about anything else they can catch.  At around 4 years of age however, the Red Drum migrate offshore and join the spawning populations where they continue to grow to more than 30 pounds while surviving 20 years or more.  It is these spawning adults that most states aim to protect from being harvested.

Most state regulations generally use a slot sizing scale to determine which Refish may be kept.  For example, at the time of this writing Florida allows only two Red Drum not less than 18 inches and no longer that 27 inches in length to be harvested.  Still, as long as catch and release is the plan of the day, catching an over size Red Drum can be a load of fun.  The catch can be memorialized by take a quick picture then gently easing the fish back into the water facing the current.  Allow the Red Drum to “ catch its breathe” a few moments, then the fish will slowly swim away.  Be sure and check your state’s fishing regulations before handling any fish.  Red Drum are very easy to recognize because of their copper to bronze color and distinctive dark spots near the base of their tail.  Redfish like warm water and can often be sighted in shallow flats, feeding along grassy shoreline, rocky covered banks, and oyster beds or shell bars.  Live shrimp, mud minnows and finger mullet are the best baits to use.  These baits can be fished on the bottom or floated along shallows using a bobber.

large red drum

Sight fishing along oyster beds and in clear water shallows for Redfish has become popular as well.  This most often requires a flats boat capable of floating in only a few inches of water where the boat is most often slowly maneuvered by a push pole.  Still, wade fishing can be just as effective as long as care is taken not to spook the fish.  Reds, like most fish, seek out structure and shelter that hold bait.  Under water structures, bridges, piers, and jetties will all hold schools of Reds.  Medium weight tackle offer the most enjoyment when landing these fish.  Generally, 2/0 to 5/0 hook will suffice and if using live bait a circle hook is recommended.  Most often getting the bait to the bottom is a function of how swift the water currents flow.  When fishing under water structure out of a boat, try to fish almost directly beneath the boat if possible.  Allow the sinker to barely touch the bottom, this will help prevent you from getting hung up on the structure.  In areas where strong tidal water exist, several ounces of weight may be required especially around jetties.  So, adjust tackle requirement as necessary which means you may need a stronger rod and reel with at least 30 pound test line.

In the cooler months of winter look for Reds in the shallows when the afternoon sun is the warmest.  Baitfish will often become active in the shallow waters warmed by the sun and Reds move into these flats in search of them especially at higher tides.  Additionally, Reds tend to school together in winter so do not be in a hurry to move away from an area if one or two fish are caught.

As the water temperature rise with the onset of summer, the Reds seek zones which provides them the most comfort.  This may be under bridges, piers, or other structure that hold bait.  Early mornings and late evenings become the best periods for fishing the flats however bottom fishing near by drop offs should produce fish any time of day.

jonny's red

Another aspect that makes the Redfish so popular is their eagerness to attack artificial lures such as gold spoons, soft plastics, top water lures that resemble mullet like the Storm Topwater series and assorted jigs tipped with live shrimp.  These are generally more effective in shallows and near drop offs.  Look for schooling bait and cast near these schools.  The typical bait caster or medium open-faced reel work well when using artificial lures.  Also, fly fishing for Reds is very effective and loads of fun.

Reds are excellent as a meal.  They can be a little difficult to fillet because their scales are large and tough, but a good sharp Rapala fillet knife will always do the job.  Once the fillet has been detached, cut out the red fleshy line that runs down the center of the filet.  Removing this red fleshy line improves the taste.  Cook these fillet using your favorite method however, blacken redfish is hard to beat.

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