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May 08, 2014

All About Redfish

The basics on how to catch redfish, from tackle to techniques.

With heads like football helmets and hunter instincts, redfish remain a favorite among inshore anglers. They often travel in pods, creating wakes that announces their presence, and attack with bulldog abandon. When you’re hooked up, straddle in and ride it out: these bulls put up a fight and not just for 8 seconds. A basic understanding of their biology, habitat and their weakness for certain baits and lures helps you rope in some fatboy reds.

Species: Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) sport the trademark “eyespot” at the base of the tail, sometimes several of them. The most popular theory for the presence of these spots is they serve as a decoy, fooling predators into thinking its tail is its head. It is cousins with the black drum. Distinguish the black drum by the barbels under the chin. Red drum often have a coppery tone, generally inshore, while others, usually in the ocean, are more silvery. They reach maturity after three years. Red drum are also known as redfish, puppy drum, channel bass, bull red and rat red. They can live up to 40 years. They produce a distressed, drumming sound, usually when taken out of the water or during spawning. Muscles rubbing against the air bladder create the sound.

Locations: This fish keeps a tight route along the Western Atlantic down to the Gulf of Mexico, from Massachusetts to the northern Mexico. Zoning in the habitats, look near grassy shorelines, in and in brackish water over shallows. They’re found in salt marsh creeks and rivers, over oyster bars and backwater flats. During the fall they migrate toward the ocean and to deep channels. In the warm months, inshore is the place to be —when bait is ample, reds are abundant.

Techniques: The redfish is the “Baby Huey” of game fish. Big and intimidating at first glance, but easily spooked. Walk on eggshells in the boat and quietly use the push pole, otherwise say goodbye to these scardey-cats.

The redfish tide debate has been around for ages. Some anglers suggest a high, outgoing tide. Others recommend a dead low, incoming tide. It depends on the habitat. High, outgoing tides allow navigation for boats and reds move back into creeks and pools. During low, incoming tides, redfish are hungry and sight fishing becomes the go-to method.

Tackle: Fishing near offshore wrecks and reefs, wintertime baits like pogies, mullet and greenies do the trick. When the sun hits, summer baits like shrimp and small crabs are the bait du jour. For artificial setups, there are a gang of them. Some particulars: the tried and true weedless gold spoon, topwater plugs, plastic tails with jigheads, crank and spinner baits and shallow divers. Try to avoid weights and floats, maybe a small split shot — freelining creates the most natural presentation.

The IGFA All-Tackle Record: In 1984, North Carolina angler Dave Deuel brought in the beast weighing 94.2-pounds and 57-inches, caught on a mullet.

Read our story on best Louisiana redfish action.