The Red Drum. Known as a Redfish. They are famous in angling lore, tall tales, and beloved for delivering unforgettable days. It is hard to name another inshore gamefish that inspires the level of devotion, passion, and dedication among anglers of all skill levels than you will see with the Redfish. Boasting a massive geographic range, a huge variety of habitats and habits, and year-round non-stop fishing opportunities are among the few reasons why it is not unreasonable to claim the Mighty Redfish is America’s Premier Inshore Gamefish.
Now multiply those elements exponentially by making the choice to target Reds exclusively with lures. Nothing beats fooling Mother Nature’s formidable Redfish than when you have the skills to bypass this Apex Predator’s millennial-long feeding habits without live or cut bait. Join Nomad Design as we break down the basics of Lure-Fishing for Reds and give you the tools to take your Redfish Fishing Adventure to the next level.
To begin with let’s talk about the Redfish as a species. They begin life in the marshes, bays, lagoons. While the spawn takes place in deep water it happens near an inlet on incoming tides that carry the eggs into the back. As they grow, they are voracious eaters and are called Puppy Drum. They come in all sorts of colors. Some gold, some silvery, some red. They have distinctive spots. Some have one and some have hundreds, there is no pattern. The spot on the tail is most effective in avoiding predators as it looks like and eyeball and the predator attacks the wrong end, giving them a chance to escape. They grow quickly yet they can live to over 20 years. Fish as large as 100 pounds have been recorded, but as they get large and begin to be called “Bulls” for both males and females, sizes from 20 pounds to 40 are most prevalent.
Next, lets pinpoint the Redfish’s range. Leaving out the fringe edges of their range, Redfish can be found from the deep southern Texas coast, all along the Gulf of Mexico around the bend down the western Florida coast, to the Everglades and north along the entire eastern coast of Florida. Things get hot from the northern Florida east coast, up to Georgia through South Carolina and of course North Carolina. Redfishing is great from northern North Carolina up the Virginia coast all the way to the DelMarVa peninsula. That is over half of the USA’s entire coastline. Wow what a range.
With that large range comes varying habits based on different geographies. Things like predominant diet, date of the spawn, movements around habitat are all affected by what region of the USA the fish are located. Redfish don’t just have a range up and down the coast, they also have a range in and out of inshore and nearshore, even a few miles out. They can be found near deep offshore structure during the spawn or following migrating bait along the beaches and they can be targeted in the thinnest of brackish backwater lagoons and ponds of the salt marsh. They can be in large bays or in inlets. They don’t actually migrate but they are known to move about sometimes. Either hiding from summer heat by going to deeper water even deep inshore and hanging around structure or moving offshore for the spawn they do move. They follow migrating bait but don’t move too far out of their home range. The spawn effects their movements in the fall, precisely when depends on the geography of where they are located. Speaking of spawn, we will discuss specifics in a moment.
So on to Habitat and Diet. Redfish love cover and structure. Docks, Oyster Beds, Grass Mats, Channels, Cuts, drop-offs, and Jetties. They eat almost anything and are very ruggedly built so they are not afraid to stick their noses into the mud and take a bite of sharp spikey things like crab, which is one of their favorite meals. Their mouths face down to facilitate this and other foraging in shallow marshes. Since their diet is so varied they will follow certain bait school migrations (based on geography), but for the most part they pretty much stay tight to their home range except for the spawn. They can be found almost year-round in the estuaries and lagoons and bays in the back and typically hang out in the same places. You wont often find them roaming the open flats in schools looking for random food. They are far more likely to be hanging in structure ready to ambush prey. When are in the back marshes look for large ponds with grass mats and you will likely find Redfish, if there are no floating cover opportunities, stick to grass shorelines, oyster beds, and channel drop offs. Beyond Crabs, Redfish love Mullet, Croaker, Shrimp, and any other easily had baitfish. Find the bait, match the hatch! This is why fishing with lures for Reds is so challenging, you need to choose the right to lure match what baitfish the Redfish are after and deploy it in a way that mimics it best.
We spoke about their how big their range can be so let us narrow it down to some of the very top destinations that show the true variety of Redfish angling. Starting on the western edge, Port Aransas Texas and it’s inlet jetties are a top destination. Big Reds sit in deeper water ambushing huge clouds of bait as they are funneled into the jetties like a vacuum in the late summer. They transition into spawning mode in early fall, both times are prime for scoring a big bull Red.
Next, we head to Venice Louisiana, a bucket list trip and home to savage inshore sight fishing for big Reds. Stealthy fishing and quiet approaches in skinny water make this adventure a must do. This can be done almost year round.
Speaking of year round, The Everglades will also offer spectacular Redfish angling almost year round. This is not a grass flat or grass mat situation, but extremely shallow open water sight fishing for tailing Reds eating crabs. Especially in the fall. The Everglades live up to their reputation and it should go unsaid to add one more checkmark on your bucket list.
In the Fall, on the spawn, Ponce Inlet provides a great opportunity to target bull Reds consistently. Taking place around August and September huge schools of Reds move out of the bay bays and through the inlet to spawn. Along the inlet boats line up with Live Bait, but you can out fish them with the proper technique will discuss in the ensuing Redfish Blogs.
A little less accessible and a large area, but the estuaries of South Carolina and North Carolina are massive and hold untold Redfish of all sizes. It is best to hire a guide in this region. Lastly we cant have a conversation about exciting Bull fishing without mentioning the ‘Point’ of Cape Hatteras. Famous in fishing lore for its fishing off the beaches during fall spawn. Anglers line up shoulder to shoulder in a conga line and wait their turn to cast 12ft plus surf rods into the turbulent water off the point and waiting for that heart stopping thud.
That is just a short list and we purposely overlooked all your private spots and the thousands of other areas to catch Redfish in the USA. Go get your plane tickets booked!
Spawn. If you have paying attention you know this is a prime time to target adult mature Redfish. A word about the health of the fishery. Of course, local regulations reign supreme no matter where you fish and some Redfish are protected during spawn. Whether your area can keep fish on the spot or not, one should give consideration to Catch and Release during the spawn. This is about saving the fishery that is some trouble already in certain areas. Overfishing in the past, habitat destruction, and unusually strong weather events are negatively affecting populations. Additionally, when fishing them during the spawn there is often open water which gives them room to sound and run great distances. Light tackle while fun, can stress spawning fish greatly. This is the time to deploy heavy spinning gear and stout reels to quickly get Reds hooked up, fought, and quickly released. This is also true if sharks are around.
So hopping off our soapbox and on to the specifics of the spawn. First, as you might have already surmised, it is a moving target. Depending on geography and prevailing weather, the spawn can start at different times. In Texas they start late winter or early spring. On the northeast coast of Florida they spawn in August or September. Up on Cape Hatteras they Spawn in late fall. It is usually when the water temperature gets to about 65 degrees. They will move out of the back, following bait like Mullet, Menhaden, or Croaker up and down the coast. They will congregate when the water gets warm enough and find deep water near and inlet. You will know it when you find it. Huge schools of monster fish and if you listen you can hear that ‘drumming’ sound that give this fish its name. While they want deep water, they will spawn right up on top near the very top of the tide. As the tide turns the eggs are sucked into the inlet and flushed out into the back. Ah, mother nature is a genius.
Things out of our control can account for either boom or bust spawns each year. Cold fronts that drop temperatures or kill eggs. Hurricanes. If there is an above average amount of rain near the coast it can affect salinity and kill the eggs. Of course, things in our control, like pollution, habitat destruction or exploitation and overfishing will also affect the spawn. That is pretty much the spawn in a nutshell, research your local area and read our blogs about specific lures to be used during the spawn.
As you can see Redfish, their habitat, food, and spawning characteristics are simply put, a moving target. And to hit that target fishing with lures exclusively you need to put together the pieces of the Redfish puzzle to find out when and where to target them in your area. Find a great tackle shop and inquire about the specifics of the local spawn and when best to target them. Make sure you tell them you are looking to hook up on lures not bait. You may also consider hiring a guide.
So what kind of Lures are used? There are so many lures used for Redfish. Of course, different regions have different favorites. What is hot in Alabama, would not be considered in another region and visa-versa. To keep in basic and simple we will categorize them into 4 divisions. Swimming Plugs, Topwater Plugs, Twitchbait lures, and a new secret favorite The Vibe. We discuss each division with key specifics in our Redfish Blog series, you can start here.
We hope we gave you a good foundation to understand what the Redfish is, what it does, and where it does it. Now it’s time to jump into targeting trophy Redfish with lures even further! To learn about what specific lures to use and tips & tricks when working them, Read on to our Redfish Fishing with Lure Blogs.