Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus) or the red drum fish is a popular game fish best known for their huge size and the fierce fight they put up on being caught making it a rather adventurous experience to catch them.
They belong to the Sciaenidae family, although they do not have any characteristic whiskers like that of fellow members of the same family share. The name “drum” comes from the ability of the male red drum,to produce a deep drumming sound by contracting muscles on either side of the swim bladder which is used during courtship and sometimes when a fish is distressed.
They are known by various names such as red, channel bass, spot-tail bass, red bass.
As the name indicates the redfish have a coppery-red in areas which are muddy and in brackish waters,silvery gray in those living in surf areas and areas of higher-salinity, bronze body which shades off into a pale,white white belly. They have a compressed and elongated body, dorsal fin has two sections, with a spiny fin at front separated by deep notch from the soft dorsal fin. The scales are large and have jagged edges.
The highlight feature of the redfish is the black spot on their tail which is round and well-demarcated.
There maybe more than one spot when they are younger, which they lose as they grow. The tail has a light iridescent blue shade which wears off as the fish grows.During the spawning season, the fins take on an orange color.
Larval redfish feed on plankton. Juvenile fish gradually shift to copepods, shrimp, marine worms, small crabs, and fish as they mature. Adult red drum are aggressive and opportunistic feeders that take a variety of prey, primarily shrimp, blue crabs, fish, and polychaete marine worms. Commonly eaten fish include menhaden, mullet, pinfish, sea robin, lizardfish, spot, Atlantic croaker, and flounder. Feeding habits change during the year. During winter and spring they feed primarily on fish. During summer and fall, more crabs and shrimp are eaten.
Red drum on an average grows between 20-30 inches , can grow up to five feet in length and a weight of 90 pounds.
Red drum are commonly found along the southern Atlantic coast from Chesapeake Bay to Key West, Florida, along the entire U.S. Gulf coast, and south to about Tuxpan, Mexico.
One can find a redfish anywhere from freshwaters, saltwater,open Gulf, to the lower reaches of costal rivers as they tolerate a wide range of salinity and water temperature.
In general, younger fish prefer the lower salinity of inshore waters and older fish prefer higher salinity found offshore. Red drum live in both inshore and offshore waters, with younger fish inshore , in bays and estuaries and seagrass beds and older fish moving offshore when they mature to feed in shallow waters.
The best natural baits are mullet, live shrimp, atlantic croaker, mud minnows, ladyfish, and small live blue crabs.
Fish-shaped plugs, shrimp-like plastic worms, jigs,spoons are some of the most-effective artificial baits for the redfish. A heavy grabbing sinker is needed to keep baits stationary on the surf bottom.
While catching saltwater fish it is important to make sure one has the right equipment. To catch the redfish, a 10 feet long, smaller fish can be caught with rods which are 6 ½ -8 feet long.
Depending on the habitat, the strength of the line uses varies, if you’re fishing in areas which are full of rocks, oysters then heavier lines of 17-25 pounds used and lighter lines for those in grass flats.
For smaller catches 100 yards of reel line is sufficient. Spinning or bait casting reels are always a good option.
Still fishing, drifting and casting in shallow waters are preferred. They’ll hit almost any natural bait and a full range of lures from spoons to topwaters, as well as flies.In shallow water reds are sighted with their tails slightly out of the water, a behavior called “tailing”.
Fishing season is year round with fall being the best time to catch big reds in the surf. Early hours of the morning is the prime time to get them reds.