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Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus)
- Size 3 to 12lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Good
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Flats, Backcountry
A more prominent relative of the Black Drum, Redfish are the most popular inshore and nearshore game in the US, abundant in Gulf and Atlantic waters. They are strong and hard fighting fish, with fierce short and fast runs for which previous fishing experience comes in handy.
An interesting fact about both species of Drum is that they produce a croaking sound when spawning or distressed - this drumming comes from their muscles rubbing against their air bladder. Red Drum also have a distinctive black spot (sometimes several) near their tail, which acts a defense tool against predators, fooling them into attacking their back side so they can make a quick getaway.
Schooling in large groups, Redfish are easily identifiable due to their collective bronze reflection which gives the waters above a pinkish hue. Younger specimen swim in bays, canals, rivers, tidal creeks and passes in estuaries, while the adults can be caught in nearshore and offshore waters.
This species has a long life expectancy (estimated up to 40 years) and specimens reach reproductive maturity quickly (between the ages of 3 and 5). When mature, they're mostly between 16 and 27'' long and keepers are commonly caught between 3 and 12lbs. Though some larger ("bull") redfish remain inshore (a good guide will know where), most migrate to offshore waters to join spawning schools.
Big bulls caught out of Oriental, NC
When & Where
Redfish are abundantly distributed throughout Florida. Notable hotspots include:
They're also present and popular game throughout Alabama, Louisiana and Texas shores, with some good places being Orange Beach, Dauphin Island, New Orleans and the Mississippi delta, Galveston, Freeport, the Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays. The coasts of North and South Carolina are abundant too, with great opportunities off Charleston, SC. These waters are actually where the world record fish was caught.
Reds are good to catch year-round, but the best time is during late summer months and throughout the fall.
Sunsets are also good for these guys. Caught aboard Pole Dancer Fishing Charters in Daytona Beach, FL
How to catch
Redfish are a typical light tackle inshore fish. Due to feeding off the bottom of the shallow waters in which they're mostly targeted, a light sliding sinker is recommended, with the weight being as low as possible to keep the bait on the bottom. Long casts are advised, as redfish are easily scared.
Natural baits recommended are shrimp, crab or any small live baitfish (pinfish being the best option). Artificial lures can be spoons and plugs, plastic finger mullets, worms or nylon jigs, all of which can also be used for trolling. Flies work great as well (especially when sprayed with bottled fish scent), and popping corks help a lot.
Good to eat?
Season - always open in state waters, prohibited harvest in federal waters; prohibited gigging in South Carolina Dec - Feb;
Size limit - Florida, North Carolina and Maryland - 18 to 27'', South Carolina - 15 to 23'', Virginia - 18 to 26'', Texas - 20 to 28'', Georgia - 14 to 23'', Louisiana - 16 to 27'', Mississippi - 18 to 30'', Alabama - 16 to 26'', New York - up to 27'', Delaware - 20 to 27''; One oversized fish is usually allowed within the bag limit.
Bag limit (per angler per day) - Florida - 2 in NE and NW zones, 1 in S zone (see Management Zone allocations in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission directory - vessel limit of 8 fish applies, on-shore possession limit during transport is 6 fish); North Carolina and Maryland - 1; South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Virginia and Texas - 3; Georgia, Delaware and Louisiana - 5;
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