Redfish, also called reds, red drum, and
channel bass have rapidly become one of the most
popular gamefish in the country. They are widely
fished throughout Florida and many guides have
come to specialize in fishing them. The Redfish
Tour has taken off and seems well established as
a serious tournament trail now, which will only
continue to add to the popularity of redfish as a
gamefish species. Like seatrout, their range
covers the entire coast of Florida and all the way
around the U.S. coastal Gulf of Mexico,
however, they are also very popular with anglers in
the estuaries and along the beaches of the
Carolinas and Georgia. Redfish lend themselves
well to being a shallow water star, as they feed
actively in the shallows and are a reliable
sightfishing quarry. However, since they feed with
their noses so much, they are also a good fish to
chase with bait in deeper water in and around the
flats or in nearby channels and passes.

Most inshore redfish top out somewhere in the
30+-” range before they begin to join the ranks of
the big spawners that migrate along the beaches
into the passes and inlets, residing in coastal
waters rather than inshore waters. The exception
to this general rule is the northern portion of the
IndianRiver/BananaRiver/Mosquito Lagoon
estuary system on Florida’s east coast. There
are multiple schools of the huge 40-60 inch adult
redfish there making a very stable and healthy
resident population of spawners. These fish
make no move to the passes and inlets. They stay
in the same general waters year round. The result
is a year round fishery for them there in the same
shallows where you encounter the usual sub-35”
fish. I fished the north end of the Indian River and
Mosquito Lagoon as my home water for a number
of years and it is a rewarding and beautiful place
to fish, albeit very crowded now with company
compared to when I first began fishing it.

Here on the west coast, we have no such resident
big spawners, though we do get the spawning runs
in the fall when the bigger coastal fish congregate
in the
passes and inlets here. The majority of our
redfish are the ideal light tackle size ranging from
18” up to the aforementioned 30” range. They put
up a strong, dogged fight with steady runs and firm
resistance to being moved. They are fun to catch
and when they are encountered in schools rather
than loosely scattered singles, pairs, and triplets,
they can be caught in big numbers without much
effort at hunting them out.

Redfish are good table fare, but the limit of one
fish per person in an 18-27” slot goes a long way
toward preserving the current population boom we
are experiencing. They are a common catch and
their schooling behavior means if you see one or
two, there is bound to be another couple around
the area. Certain times of the year, they will be
found in larger schools, driven by spawning
instinct to come together. But, much of the year,
they are more inclined toward smaller schools or
loose groups that are brought together mostly by
their mutual attraction to the same habitat or
feeding area.

Redfish are as unique as most saltwater fish in
their appearance. Depending on the color of the
water and the substrate they call home, their
backs range from a deep copper or bronze to a
light reddish tan color. They have a sizable single
spot at the base of the tail on each side of the
body and many often have additional spots along
their backs and sides, especially small, younger
fish. Their mouths are on the bottom of their
heads, being primarily a bottom feeder, but they
also aggressively pursue mullet or other baitfish at
times on the surface. Most of their diet consists
of shrimp, crabs, and small bottom fish and feeding
on these causes their distinctive tailing behavior
as they root out and chase that prey. They will
intermingle with large mullet schools or shadow
large stingrays, both for the same purpose: to
ambush whatever small menu items the mullet or
rays disturb as they do their own grazing on the
bottom. It is at these times that redfish become
their easiest to catch as they will strike virtually
anything that moves around them, expecting food
to appear at any time.

Like most flats gamefish, they respond well to
many methods and techniques. Bait works well,
however, I most often use artificial lures and flies.
Jigs, spoons, and soft jerkbaits work very well.
But, my favorite way to catch them is with a
topwater plug or surface fly when they are feeding
on baitfish. Many times, even when they are
chasing crabs and eels in the bottom, they will lift
their heads and accelerate to attack a well placed
small topwater plug or deer hair fly, providing it’s
one that pushes some water and attracts their
single minded attentions. That said, I will always
match the technique to your preferences and skill

Conventional tackle for redfish is pretty standard
flats tackle : 6-10 lb class spinning gear and 8-12
lb class plug casting tackle. Fly tackle selections
are 7-9 weight rigs with at least 100 yards of
backing, though you'll rarely need it. Redfish make
lots of runs, but not long ones unless they are
particularly big. If you wish to use your own outfit,
I’ll be happy to discuss the kind of trip you wish to
go on and advise you accordingly on which of your
rods to bring.  
A 35" red like this one will make you work for
the right to a  picture.
A nice 28" red heads back to the mangrove house.
A pretty little18" red about to return to his schoolmates.
Yes, redfish do feed nocturnally!  This  29.75", 9 lb red ate
a bait intended fro a snook, but nobody seemed to mind.
This 22.5" redfish broke the ice on what turned
out to be a banner day in windy conditions.
This beautiful 34" red put up a spectacular fight before coming to the
boat for this very happy angler..