Redfish produce a “drumming” sound during spawning and when taken out of the water. The sound is produced when a fish rubs its muscles against their inflated air bladder. Redfish have a prominent black spot on their tails, which they use as a false eye to throw off predators in their juvenile state. They can range in color from bronze/copper color to a much lighter coloration depending on the water quality and environment they are around. Fish spending most of their time on sandy bottoms will appear much lighter in color.
Redfish sizes can vary a great deal from a 3-7 pound slot fish in the 18 to 27 in range, to fish well over 30-40 pounds and reaching lengths greater than 45 inches. The Florida state record was caught right here in east central Florida in 1996 and weighed 52 lb 5 oz. The world record redfish was caught off the beaches of North Carolina and weighed 94 pounds.
Redfish inhabit the nearshore and offshore waters around the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Their range stretches from Northeast Atlantic around Massachusetts down around the coasts of Florida, and all the way to the northern parts of Mexico. The juveniles will spend their time inhabiting the tidal creeks, bays, rivers, and canals of estuaries for the first several years of their lives. As they reach maturity they move out to open water flats and nearshore habitats. Redfish mouths are located on the underside of their head. This dictates how they forage for food.
Typically, redfish are scavengers, rooting around the oyster beds and grass flats looking for shrimp, crabs, and other small crustaceans. While hunting for hiding prey, redfish exhibit a unique behavior called “tailing”. This is where the tips of their tails poke through the surface of the water while they use their round noses to root around on the bottom. They also prey on small bait fish such as finger mullet, pinfish, pigfish (grunts), menhaden, mud minnows, and croakers.
There are many different methods for targeting redfish. These fish can be fairly aggressive as well as incredibly spooky. The cleaner and calmer, the water is the spookier the reds will get. Typically, fishing with live bait works well. Free-lining live baitfish or shrimp works very well, targeting the edges of bars and flats and in the center of sand spots.
One proven method is to use a popping cork with live baits or artificial attached underneath. Another popular method is to use cut bait, typically mullet or ladyfish, and soak the bait on the bottom. Redfish are bottom feeders and have incredible sense of smell. They will likely find that piece of bait waiting for them on the bottom.
One of my most favorite red fish bait is a ¼ oz Johnson silver or gold spoon. Jigs work well on redfish especially on sandy bottom. Bounce the jig off the bottom and it will create a puff of sand that the fish can hone in on.
Redfish are also great targets for fly fishermen. The most popular redfish flies are typically shrimp or crab patterns. Redfish, with their long hard powerful runs and super aggressive takes, make for one of the best fighting fish in the sea.
Nothing can compare to seeing a tailing red and making that perfect cast!