Landing a Redfish

By: Daniel Eggertsen

The redfish (also known as the red drum) has become one of the most sought after fish in along the Gulf and Atlantic shores. It is primarily an inshore fish and became popular as a food fish after being served in New Orleans restaurants. When anglers became enthused about inshore saltwater fishing, the redfish then became popular as a game fish. Now it is the target of numerous professional redfish tournaments and of anglers from across the country.

Redfish can grow to almost 100 pounds, though most state records are actually smaller than that. Most states regulate the size limits of keepers (which typically must be between 14 and 27 inches long). Redfish have blunt noses, a chin without barbells, and a wide undercut mouth.

The color of a redfish is traditionally a blend of copper and red colors in the dark water, though in clear waters they appear to be lighter. The underside and the belly of the redfish is pure white. They typically have a variety of spots at the base of their tail - ranging from just a handful to as many as 50.

One thing to remember when fishing for redfish is that they tend to prefer shallow waters, specifically water that is too skinny to cover them completely (which exposes their dorsal fins and even part of their backs). One way to search for these areas is through seeking out more "dusty" areas. These areas are often created during a low tide alongside grass shorelines that have been eroded by wave action, which ultimately leaves a sort of shelves. This type of structure extends from the present grassline to a dropoff in the slightly deeper waters.

Redfish are commonly found moving from the adjacent deeper water to the top of such shelves to feed. As a result, their dorsal fins typically become exposed in environments such as these. It's important to keep in mind that these type of redfish (that are found in such "dusty" areas) tend to be somewhat skittish.

The pulses emitted by a boat moving along a little too fast may not necessarily cause them to flee, but it will certainly send them warnings. In addition, carelessly casting heavy lures into the area where the redfish is serves as another surefire way to put the redfish on guard. As a result, stealth and caution become critical factors in approaching near enough to the redfish to have a fair shot at landing one.

Another reason redfish tend to stick closer to shore is because of the incoming tides. These tides bring with them food, bait fish, etc. that the redfish will feed on. Also, small crabs and shrimp become more active on the incoming tide, enticing the redfish to feed at those locations.

The opposite is true for those outgoing tides - as the water withdraws, the redfish will wait and feed on whatever bait is carried back out with the tide. On an outgoing tide, channels and deeper areas (still near the shore) are good places to find redfish.

As far as tackle is concerned, light to medium spinning or casting tackle with 15 to 20 pound test line is sufficient for most redfish expeditions. Redfish will readily hit artificial lures such as plastic grubs and topwaters, but are most frequently caught by using live or dead bait. Those anglers who choose to go with artificial bait should use lures similar to Bass Assassin swim-tail grubs in chartreuse or electric chicken colors. Any small to medium topwater plug that causes a stir will attract redfish early and late in the day.

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