Fishing for Redfish

Captain Rick with a nice Redfish catchRed Drum are a dark red color on the back, which fades into white on the belly. The red drum have a characteristic eyespot near the tail and are somewhat streamlined. Three year-old red drum typically weigh six to eight pounds. When they are near or over twenty-seven inches, they are called “bull reds”. The largest red drum on record weighed just over 94 pounds and was caught in 1984 on Hatteras Island. Red drum are relatives of the black drum and both make a croaking or drumming sound when distressed.

The most distinguishing mark on the red drum is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon for this fish but having no spots is extremely rare. As the fish with multiple spots grow older they seem to lose their excess spots. Scientists believe that the black spot near their tail helps fool predators into attacking the red drum's tail instead of their head, allowing the red drum to escape. The red drum uses its senses of sight and touch and its down turned mouth to locate forage on the bottom through vacuuming or biting the bottom. On the top and middle of the water column, it uses changes in the light that might look like food. In the summer and fall, adult red drum feed on crabs, shrimp, and sand dollars, in the spring and winter, adults primarily feed on menhaden, mullet, pinfish, sea robin, lizardfish, spot, Atlantic croaker, and flounder.

Red drum are often found over sand and sandy mud bottoms in coastal waters and estuaries. They feed mainly on crustaceans, mollusks and fishes. They will readily accept any bait, but adults prefer menhaden (a small bait fish), shrimp, mud minnows and crabs. Since they are bottom feeders, they are commonly caught with bait either on the bottom or suspended within a couple feet of the bottom. Shrimp is a typical bait that works well; squid can also be used and is less subject to bait stealing by hardhead catfish and Atlantic croakers which often frequent the same waters. There are times when the older, larger fish are more readily caught on a half or a quarter of a blue crab with the top shell removed and cut or broken to fit on a 4/0 to 9/0 hook. Baitfish such as pinfish can also be effective, along with a variety of other techniques.

Large, adult red drum grab the bait with a high amount of speed, keep going with a good amount of speed, and can put up a fight. An unsecured rod may easily be pulled into the water. Landing these big fish on light tackle can be challenging, and since drum are primarily scent-based feeders, there is little disadvantage in using heavier line and tackle, especially in stained or deeper water. A 40-lb braided line with a comparable weight fluorocarbon leader is a good compromise between castability and strength. However, big drum are frequently caught with everything from 8-lb monofilament to 100-lb braided lines with heavy steel leaders.

E-mail: captain@ospreyguides.com