How to Catch Redfish

Here are some Tips and Techniques for Catching Redfish - Red Drum - Channel Bass

Lots of anglers want to know just how do we catch redfish. Up and down the Atlantic coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, catching redfish is a major fishing activity. These tips and baits can help you find that monster red you are pursuing.

Redfish, known in some parts as red drum, channel bass, or red bass, are relatively easy to catch once they have been located. So, the first part of our discussion needs to center around how to find them! Where do we look?

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Habitat

Lakshmi Sawitri/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Redfish are generally a shallow water fish.  They live in and around the estuaries along the eastern seaboard and gulf coast of the Untied States.  They can be found in the salt marsh creeks and rivers, oyster bars, open sounds, and backwater flats.  Smaller fish tend to school more than the larger fish, and once you catch one, you are almost sure to catch more.

They migrate offshore each winter to deeper water and hold on natural and artificial reefs.  In the warmer months, they can be found inshore where the bait is plentiful.  During their fall migration, they can be found in the deep channels leading out to the ocean – hence channel bass.  These may be the biggest reds you will find, and they may be the easiest to catch as well.

Not long ago, wild stocks of red drum became so depleted that legislative action was required in order to slow down the commercial take.  This was primarily driven by the demand created when noted television chefs began celebrating 'blackened redfish' as a Cajun style favorite.  Eventually, the redfish population rebounded to normal levels.   

Nonetheless, conservation is truly the key to making sure that redfish and other popular gamefish species are still around for our great grandchildren to enjoy catching as well. Never keep more than you need, and please practice catch & release with the rest of fish that you have been lucky enough to hook and land.

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Natural Baits

Photo © Ron Brooks
Redfish caught on a live shrimp and csting tackle. Click to Enlarge - Photo © Ron Brooks

Redfish can be caught on a variety of natural bait.  Live bait such as live shrimp, mud minnows, or small baitfish like mullet or menhaden shad are all used to catch redfish. 

Live shrimp are fished under a float or on a jig head.  Free-lining live shrimp is another technique that works in shallow water under certain circumstances.  Mud minnows can be fished the same way.  Other live bait, such as live finger mullet of menhaden are generally fishing on the bottom on a standard bottom fishing rig.

Sometimes cut bait, such as the side of a mullet, works well on the bottom.  Whole or half crabs fished on the bottom also work well.

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Artificial Baits

Photo © Ron Brooks
Jim Pierce and a nice red drum caught on a crankbait. Click to Enlarge - Photo © Ron Brooks

Artificial bait – lures and plugs – are very effective baits for redfish.  These baits range from topwater to deep diving baits, from plugs to jigs.  Lots of redfish lures resemble freshwater black bass lures.  It stands to reason – all the lures are meant to mimic baitfish.

Plastic swim tails or grubs on jig heads are extremely popular baits.  My personal favorite is a Bass Assassin Electric Chicken color swim tail on a 3/8 ounce jig head.  Heavier current will have me using a ½ ounce jig – lighter current will allow me to go down to a ¼ ounce jig.  I fish with the lightest weight I can that will still give me the action I want.

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Methods

Jim Pierce shows off a double on redfish. Click to Enlarge - Photo © Ron Brooks

Inshore we fish for reds in the creeks and estuaries up and down the coast.  We look for creeks that have signs of baitfish - schools of minnows, birds feeding along the edge of the water.  We look for oyster bars and water flows into and out of the marsh flats.

We try to fish the tide that best suites the situation.  We fish an outgoing tide to find feeding fish coming off a marsh flat and dropping back into the creek or river.  Live and artificial baits are presented in those areas and worked slowly.  Generally, when you find one fish, you will find a school.  If you fish for 15 minutes on one structure and get no bites – move.