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Basic Tips For Catching Red Drum

Updated on September 26, 2013
'Reds of October'- A 31" Red Drum caught and released using cut lady fish, by captain Joey Sweet.
'Reds of October'- A 31" Red Drum caught and released using cut lady fish, by captain Joey Sweet. | Source

Red fishing 1201

When it comes to Salt water fishing in the Eastern United States, it is among the first fish that comes to an anglers mind. Red drum, or "redfish" as they are commonly called, live in the Atlantic Ocean and range from New England to the Gulf of Mexico states. These copper colored fish are known for their unique black spots, which usually occur near the tail.

During the spawning months, (August through October), they can be found inland gathering in large schools on the flats of estuaries, which are fresh water fed inland bodies of water. When fishing for "reds" you want to fish the tide. Either dead low, incoming, or super high, outgoing. The key is to fish when the water is moving. They typically are easy to locate during this time of the year, especially on calm days when the water looks like glass. However, locating them isn't as much of a challenge as approaching them can be.

To locate these fish, slowly pole or cruise along with a trolling motor, keeping an eye out for any movement you may see at the surface of the water. Red drum feed heads down, poking at oysters, shells, and rocks along the bottom. In shallow water their spotty tails are visible as they often just barely stick out of the water when feeding.

Like many other shallow water fish, they spook very easily, so to get close to them without having them scatter, one must exercise patience, and devise a plan. The following are a few suggestions on how to get within casting distance without disturbing them much.

1. Note the direction the wind, and current are coming from. This often means simply stopping any movement of your vessel, and just drifting for a few seconds. Although you want to get within casting distance, you don't want to be on top of them. Once you establish which way you will drift, you can figure out a good place to set your anchor.

2. Always anchor up current from where you see the fish feeding. If you have to slowly back out of an area to do this, then take your time and do it. Again the key is patience and strategy here. As long as you exercise tactics like this, the odds will be in your favor that the fish wont scatter.

3. Set the anchor. Once you have decided on where you will anchor, slowly lower it into the water as quietly as possible. Power pole anchors are an electric alternative to a conventional anchor and are preferred by most guides, as they offer a quite solution to anchoring. They come in many sizes and can be found at almost any sporting goods or outfitter shop.

Now that you have gotten into position to cast, lower your chum bag into the water. A good chum slick will stimulate the fish into feeding, and keep them near your boat as it constantly is drifting towards them. Chum bags can be purchased or you can make one yourself. Keeping bait from previous trips in a freezer bag, is a good way to fill your chum bag on the next one. A way to make a good chum bag is to pick up a small mesh laundry bag and tie a nylon line to it. Some people will recycle the carcasses from previous fishing trips, chop them up and put them into a cardboard or a plastic gallon container. They then freeze the container until the next trip, where they simply punch a few holes in it, and put it in the water.

Another tactic that is used quite frequently is to gently sling small bait pieces up to the areas near the fish. To do this correctly you need either a long spoon of some kind, or a tube that you can fill with bait. ( A cut off plastic toy bat, or PVC tube works great for this.) Once the chum tube is full, you carefully sling it towards the fish. It is important that you not throw it on top of where you see them, since this may cause them to leave.

Red drum feed by smell, as well as sight, much like catfish. This is why live bait or scent filled artificial lures work the best. If you choose to use artificial, make sure that it looks like a bait that would be normally found in the area. Example, you wouldn't want to use a bright neon green squid, or a giant floating lure. Not only will you not catch a red, but you will send them swimming away very quickly.

Their diet is very broad depending on the time of the year. They will eat everything from small bait fish and shrimp, to small crustaceans or crabs. They have a crush plate located just to the back of their throat, which gives them the ability to crunch up the tougher food. During spawning months, especially when the air and water temperature start to fall, their feeding patterns change. They begin to gorge themselves and will often eat large pieces of cut bait, such as lady fish, and crab meat.

One of the best rigs to catch red drum during this time, is a 1/0 hook with a 1/4 oz slip sinker just above the hook. This set up is often referred to as a "knocker" rig, since the weight is sliding freely on the line, and makes it tap the hooks shank when retrieving.

Another rig that is popular is a red or green jig head, tipped with a piece of shrimp. When slowly reeling this bait in, give it an occasional twitch with the rod, and be ready to hold on. When a red drum is on the other end it will be a powerful pull.

Setting the hook, or at least making sure that it securely hooked is very important when you start to feel a steady pull on the line. This is done by pulling the rod tip up quickly and keeping it up as you experience tension on the line. Red Drum usually don't slam the bait like other game fish do. They simply suck the bait into their mouth and swim away which causes the slow and steady pull. When you keep the rod tip pointed straight up, you are keeping slack out of the line. Slack can mean that the fish broke free, but it can also mean that the fish is running straight towards you. If this happens, continue reeling fast until you feel the tension again, then slow it down a bit but keep the rod pointing up.

The goal as is with most all fishing, is to let the fish tire itself out and slowly float towards you. Never rush trying to land a fish, you will only end up with a broken line or spit hook. Red drum can be extremely heavy with some of the biggest on record weighing over 90 pounds. "Bull Reds", which refer to drum over 27" are very powerful fighters, and are known to strip lines off and break rods. These are fish that are generally not legal to keep, so caution must be used during the catch and release phase. These larger fish play an important role in species reproduction, so you don't want to stress them to the point that they die.

It is always best to use a good size pole net or lip holding device to ensure a gentle release, and safe recovery of the fish. Once the fish is landed, and measured, it's either back into the water, or heading to the grill. One thing is certain though, the memories that you will make catching Red Drum, will be lifelong!

Red fish alley

"Red fish alley"- Near south Tampa Bay
"Red fish alley"- Near south Tampa Bay | Source

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    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 4 years ago from New Jersey

      Useful information. Thanks for sharing!