Red drum or redfish, are an inshore species native to the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts. Redfish get their name from the bronze to copper color that dominates their body, which also sports a distinctive black spot near the tail. On some redfish, this spot becomes a wild collage of spots as a result of recessive pigmentation genes and, to some anglers, these “leopard” reds are trophies on their own.
While there’s no denying redfish are handsome, the appeal of these fish stems from their formidable strength and remarkable size. Redfish have a cult following among anglers throughout their range.
Redfish get big fast, reaching adulthood at a length of 28 inches in only three to five years. A large redfish is considered to be anything over 30 inches, and at 40 inches, it’s the fish of a lifetime. While these giants do spend time in deeper water, the most popular place to catch them is in shallow bays and backwaters. Redfish are exciting fish to catch because even an average sized redfish will crush your bait and peel out line after the hook is set.
Fishing guides are some of the most loyal redfish fans and have expert insight on these magnificent fish. Captain Ryan of Folly Beach, SC said, “fighting a 30 inch redfish on light tackle, you will not get a better fight than that.” While they may not jump like tarpon or battle for hours like bluefin, pound-for-pound redfish put up a bullish fight that is every bit as stout. Landing a solid redfish is a rewarding experience, but to add to their allure, they’re also delicious table fare.
A red drum over 30 inches is commonly called a bull redfish. These giants often leave inshore waters and head to deeper nearshore areas for most of the year. The only time you can count on these giant reds heading back into shallow bays and backwaters is to spawn.
When fall hits, bull redfish flood into inshore waters to eat and spawn, which anglers refer to as “the running of the bulls” or “pumpkin season.” Bull redfish measuring over 30 and sometimes 40 inches are not uncommon during the fall run, making it the best time to catch that trophy-sized fish.
Depending on who you ask, the best time to target redfish is either (a) anytime you can or (b) in the fall. In reality, both answers are true, but they don’t capture the big picture. Redfish are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast, but year-round populations are usually confined to the waters south of Virginia. From Texas to North Carolina, shielded warm waters and abundant food sources allow redfish to stay put, and anglers to target them anytime.
Captain Alan of Rockport, TX summarizes it best saying, “these fish live here year round and have to eat, but the biggest reds show up in the fall to spawn.”
Updated on January 31, 2023
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