Florida Redfish: An Angler’s Guide
May 21, 2021 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Fishing in Florida is fantastic. Nearly every bucket-list species calls its diverse waters home, including pelagic fish, bottom feeders, and a variety of inshore favorites. And while we’re on the topic of inshore favorites, there’s one fish that stands out from the rest. That’s right, we’re talking about Florida Redfish! This species is considered the ultimate inshore game fish, and for good reason.

A smiling angler holding a Redfish aboard a skiff in the Mosquito Lagoon.

Redfish deliver in both numbers and size. Depending on the time of year, you’ll come across either massive Bull Reds, weighing over 50-pounds, or encounter multiple hook ups in a single trip. The fact that they’ll take to almost any bait makes them a great target for novices. At the same time, they’re strong and make short but bullish runs. This gives even the most experienced anglers a rush.

Florida’s terrain also happens to be a great place to hook ‘em. They prefer shallow flats and grassy shorelines – which you’ll find plenty of in the Sunshine State. Factor in their annual migration to the coast, and an adventure to the Gulf or Atlantic could also put you on fish. In this guide, we’ll share details on Redfish seasonality in Florida, how to hook ‘em, and where to go.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to pack your bags and get your hands on a Redfish of your own. Let’s dive in!

When is Redfish season in Florida?

Technically, Redfish are found in Florida’s waters year-round. That doesn’t mean you can always keep them, though, but we’ll dive into that a little later. For now, let’s take a look at where and what kind of fish you can catch at different points in the year. 

A Redfish being held up with the marsh in the background.

Most anglers will tell you that late summer and fall are peak seasons for Redfish. Why? It’s when they spawn! From August–November, adult fish head out of the shallows and into the inlets, passes, and lagoons. The fish are big, aggressive, and ready to bite. They make a unique “drumming” sound while spawning (hence the name Red Drum) so keep your ears peeled to hear it.

If you’re ok with battling smaller fish, head out in winter and spring. This is when juvenile Redfish (measuring under 30 inches) stay inshore, sticking to grassy shorelines, oyster beds, and muddy bottoms. It’s your best opportunity to sight cast for them, as the shallow waters increase visibility.

How can I catch Redfish in Florida?

One of the things that makes Redfish such a desirable target is the relative ease with which you can catch them. More often than not, you won’t need a complicated setup and you can play around with different baits and lures. These fish can be hooked from a charter boat, a pier, or a well-positioned spot on land. What more could you ask for?

Below, we’ll dive into the different techniques you can try. We’ll also look into Redfish baits and lures to help you make the right choice.

What’s the best bait for Florida Redfish?

A shrimp being used for bait with fishing gear in the background.

This is a question that comes up a lot among anglers. Luckily, the answer is pretty simple. Redfish are voracious eaters that latch on to just about anything – as long as you’re presenting it correctly. Naturally, their diet consists of baitfish like minnows, crab, shrimp, and mullet. If you’re using live bait, these are great choices. For even more success, try to mimic what’s already in season. 

You aren’t limited to just live bait, either. There are plenty of artificials to try out. Plastics mimicking shrimp or mullet are a great place to start. Alternatively, try shallow running spoons and jigs. Fly anglers and spin casters alike can make use of poppers to lure the fish out to the surface. This will result in spectacularly explosive strikes. For more information on Redfish baits, check out this blog post.

Spinning

Two anglers holding a Redfish with spinning gear behind them.

Now that we’ve covered the types of bait to use, let’s dive into techniques. If you’re a novice angler, spin fishing is a great place to start. It’s far and beyond the most popular technique for targeting Redfish, for a few different reasons. First off, the waters these fish inhabit are generally shallow. That makes them an ideal target for sight casting.

What that means is casting and hitting the spots where you believe you’ve spotted a fish. A medium-heavy rod anywhere from 7 to 10 feet long (depending on the size of the fish you’re targeting) will do. Most anglers pair their rods with 10–30 lb braided lines. Since visibility is an important factor in sight casting, it’s also a good idea to bring polarized glasses with you.

Fly Fishing

An angler aboard a charter boat holding a Redfish caught on a fly.

In keeping with the sight casting theme, more experienced anglers can also try their hand at fly fishing for Redfish. Florida’s clear and shallow waters are a great venue for both sight casting on the fly, as well as blind casting. That means you’ll either look for dark spots in the water that you believe to be fish and cast towards them, or “blindly” cast towards the structures Redfish gravitate to.

You’ll have plenty of flexibility in choosing a fly pattern. In fact, we encourage experimentation! Poppers and large streamers can be a good starting point. The rod you choose will depend on the size of the fish you’re targeting. Redfish weighing up to 15 pounds can be hooked with any sized rod. Big Bull Reds may require up to a 10 wt rod.

Where can I catch Redfish in Florida?

You’ll find Florida’s Redfish along the state’s grassy shorelines, shallow flats, and sandbars. They’re also available in the surf spanning nearly the entire length of the Gulf coastline. Not to mention the Atlantic Coast and even coastal rivers and streams. It’s safe to say that these fish are well dispersed! Below, we dive into just a few spots to visit for a Redfish face-off.

A view of the Indian River Lagoon at sunset.
  • Mosquito Lagoon: It’s first on our list for a reason. As part of the Indian River Lagoon system, it’s one of the best destinations for Redfish fishing in the nation. You’ll find them in the grassy flats year-round. Fly anglers and spin fishers alike will enjoy sight casting in these clear and protected waters!
  • Tampa Bay: Another great spot for year-round fishing in Florida. Tampa’s landscape includes flats and mangrove shorelines, as well as deeper waters with underwater structure that Redfish love. 
  • Apollo Beach: Located just west of Tampa Bay, Apollo Beach is another fantastic Redfish spot. You’ll target them in the flats and along the mangrove shorelines in spring, summer, and fall. 
  • Fort Myers: Fishing for Redfish in Fort Myers and nearby Cape Coral, as well as Sanibel, Pine, and Captiva Islands is a treat. Head to the grass flats, deep channels, and dense mangroves around the islands for consistent action.
  • Florida Keys: Yep, that’s right! Redfish live as far south as the incredible Florida Keys. These adaptable fish can be found here year-round inhabiting the multiple run-offs and deeper creeks and canals in the Everglades. Look out for structure like fallen tree trunks and rock piles before you start to cast.

Florida Redfish Regulations

An infographic with the text "Florida Redfish Regulations" on a blue background.

Florida’s fisheries thrive thanks to fishing regulations that encourage reproduction and curb overfishing. This applies to Redfish too! The fact that these fish are so plentiful in Florida’s waters today is considered something of a success story. In fact, in the late 80s, the state’s stock was severely overfished. 

Since then, bag and size limits have been introduced to great success. The population today exceeds the FWC’s management goals. Below, we’ll dive into the basics related to fishing licenses, as well as bag and size limits, so you can ensure your trip is both successful and lawful.

Fishing Licenses

Every angler between the ages of 16–65 needs a license to cast a line in Florida. If you’re fishing aboard a saltwater charter, your captain will cover the license for you. Heading out on your own? You’ll need to buy one online or from an FWC vendor. If you need more details, we’ve got a whole article dedicated to Florida fishing licenses.

Redfish Bag and Size Limits

Equally important to having a fishing license is making sure you’re staying within size and bag limits. In general, Florida’s Redfish slot is no less than 18 inches and no more than 27 inches. Bag limits will vary depending on which of the three Redfish management zones you’re fishing. Closed seasons, catch and release regulations, and other factors can also vary between the management zones, so make sure you’re consulting the FWC.

Florida Redfish: The Ultimate Inshore Game Fish

A smiling angler holding a Redfish aboard a charter boat.

For an inshore adventure in Florida’s productive waters, there’s no target more versatile. These fish will satisfy every angler. Whether you’re a beginner learning the ropes, a family looking to take home a tasty meal, or pro in search of a big battle – Redfish deliver. What are you waiting for? It’s time to see it for yourself!

What’s your favorite kind of Redfish battle? Any locations or techniques we missed? Let us know in the comments below – we love to hear from you!

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