If you're hankering for a big fish with a big fight, you should consider fishing for redfish. Wondering where to find them? It's really a matter of figuring out what areas offer the best redfish fishing in each season. If you're willing to travel along the Atlantic coast and to the Gulf of Mexico, you can experience great redfish adventures throughout the entire year.
Redfish are also known as rat reds, bull reds and red drum. Redfish have a large black spot on the base of their tails, and their colors range from black to copper to silver. Redfish grow up to 11 inches the first year, and reach up to 24 inches by their third year, when they are considered mature.
Until they reach around seven years of age, young reds are found in coastal marshes where they hatch. Then, they move offshore and only head back into marshes and ponds during the winter months. Redfish live in saltwater, but can also live in freshwater. You can catch redfish using natural baits like shrimp, mullet, and blue crab, as well as artificial baits like shallow spoons, plugs, worms and jigs. [source: Florida Sportsman]
In this article, we'll take you through each season of the year to let you know exactly where to go fishing for redfish. Grab your gear, and let's get started.
Spring Redfish Locations
During the spring, redfish head up the Atlantic, populating the inlets up and down the East coast. It isn't hard to find huge schools making their way out into the deeper waters. Though redfish are found nearly everywhere along the East coast, there are a few places that are noted for record catches and high populations. For example, Hatteras Island, False Point, Ocracoke Island and Cape Point in the Chesapeake Bay kick out big reds in the spring (and the rest of the year) that can be taken while surf fishing right from the shore. [source: Malat]
Peaking in April and May, North Carolina's Outer Banks is a favorite hot spot that can boast some of the biggest trophies ever. April brings many of the redfish that were wintering in North Carolina back to Virginia Beach. From May through the month of July, the Chesapeake Bay kicks out record numbers of trophy redfish, especially during evening fishing from the warm shallows to the shoals along the mouth of the Bay. [source: Yokam] Charleston, S.C. begins building redfish numbers in the spring, though they don't start schooling until summer. [source: Yokam] Redfish numbers in Florida's St. Johns River are growing, and catching prime reds along the shallow grass beds is becoming common.
It's not just the temperature that's hot. Summer redfish locations get hotter and hotter each year. Read on to learn about the hot spots for summer redfish fishing.
Summer Redfish Locations
Florida is popular year-round for redfish, but they don't stay in one area. As the seasons change, the reds move. From early spring through late fall, large schools of redfish invade the local grass flats of St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay (Gulf Coast). During the high tide, redfish cruise mangrove shorelines, oyster beds and grass flats foraging for crabs, shrimp and baitfish.
The best months to hit the south Florida flats, backcountry and Biscayne Bay for redfish are May through August. In this climate, reds are around during other months of the year, but these months tend to produce the best action. [source: Hale]
Other prime Florida locations for redfish anglers include:
- Big Lagoon, Fort Barrancas, Fla.
- Caladesi Island at Dunedin, Fla.
- Dog Island, Fla.
- Don Pedro Island at Placida, Fla.
- Ochlockonee River at St. Teresa, Fla.
- Waccasassa Bay, Fla.
The coast of South Carolina shouldn't be ignored during the summer months. Fishing salt marshes, creek mouths and near oyster beds is popular, as the redfish are feeding on the baitfish that are being pulled out by the tide. [source: Rhodes]
Murrells Inlet, near Myrtle Beach, S.C. produced a record 75-pound red in 1965, and is still a popular near-shore and inlet-fishing hotspot.
Cameron Parish, La. produces monster bulls that can be taken right from the shoreline. While the redfish chase mullets to the shoreline, anglers get a chance to snag 50-pound reds in just a few feet of water. [source: Felsher]
Where's the best fall redfish location in the United States? Find out in the next section.
Fall Redfish Locations
Though the Georgia coast isn't the only place to fish for redfish in the fall, it does offer up large schools populated with 27- to 30-inch redfish. Inshore hot spots include the St. Marys area, specifically the Spartina grass areas of Crab Island and around Kings Bay. [source: Dean]
The Golden Isles, part of Georgia's Barrier Islands, is a great fall redfish location. Fishing breakers off the barrier island shoals is good for bull redfish, while moving to shallow estuaries during the afternoon will garner smaller but tastier reds. [source: Dallmier]
Great redfish locations can be found in both the Gulf and the Atlantic during the fall season. Some of the best spots include:
- Peaking in mid-October, the Florida Panhandle fall redfish season produces some big bulls. The best action is at the mouth of jetties, where redfish mate. [source: Burgess]
- Cedar Key and St. Augustine inlet basins are producing big bull reds through the fall season. Fishing the outgoing tide, around holes and drops increases your chances of getting to the big bulls, some of which are up to 50 pounds. [source: Reiter]
- Charleston Harbor, Shem Creek and Isle of Palms in Charleston, S.C. offer some of the best fall redfish fishing, peaking late October through the beginning of December. [source: Yokam] Redfish school and travel in large packs, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. The schools remain together up to winter.
- Visit North Carolina's Pamlico Sound in August through September for fall redfish, and hit the Outer Banks again in October and November for more hot catches. [source: Yokam]
Think winter means the fishing blues? No way. Some of the best winter redfish locations are scattered across the Gulf Coast, just waiting for you. Check out the next page to find your best winter getaway.
Winter Redfish Locations
Winter reds are found inshore in water less than four feet deep. Sometimes they habitat waters so shallow that their tail fins are visible. They prefer soft mud and vegetation, as well as oyster, clam and mussel reefs. Inshore fishing spots include jetties, coves, points and pilings, where the reds can hide and munch on baitfish and crustaceans.
For winter bulls (adult redfish), your best bet will be the Gulf Coast waters off Florida, but each location listed below sports high populations of redfish. Keep in mind that winter in the Gulf Shore starts in late January and goes through early March. A few of the best winter redfish locations include:
- In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Ala., cold weather pushes the reds to the ends of canals and rivers where the offshore bulls get mighty hungry. [source: Weir] You will also find plenty of young reds, called puppy drums.
- New Orleans and Lafitte, La., are considered two of the best Gulf redfish fishing locations. High tides and strong winds move the reds deep into marshes of bayou country, where you can find scores of young reds. [source: Schultz]
- Big Reds are moving in inshore waters along Florida's Gulf Coast from the Indian River, Mosquito Lagoon, and the Intercoastal Waterway [source: Sargeant]. St. Joe's Bay and Apalachicola are noted redfish hotspots from spring clear through winter.
- The Mississippi Delta is a redfish haven, and beginning in the fall, the cuts and channels between the Barrier Islands offer up excellent redfish. Don't overlook the Biloxi's Back Bay area, as it is an excellent fly-fishing area. [source: Leon]
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More Great Links
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