Red drum, commonly known of as Redfish, are popular inshore fish to catch in the Tampa Bay area. Not only do they provide an exciting tenacious fight, they also make for a delicious mouthwatering meal! Targeting these tasty reds takes skills, patience, and knowledge.
First and foremost— Know the regulations!
The minimum size limit on redfish throughout the state of Florida is 18’’, and the maximum size limit is 27’’. In the northeastern zone the bag limit is 2 redfish per person per day with a maximum of 8 redfish per vessel. In the northwest zone 1 redfish per person with a daily bag of 8 fish per vessel, and in the south zone of Florida the bag limit is 1 redfish per person per day, and a limit of 8 redfish per vessel.
Just remember, the bulls (redfish over 27’’) are a blast to catch and take pictures with, but they must be released. This is important for spawning. These fish live up to 40 years and typically spawn once they reach 26’’. The size regulations help control over-population without depleting it.
Second, what is the temperature?
During winter months redfish congregate around the shorelines, docks, residential canals, and mangroves. Spring is now here and the redfish are very active. Schools of 100 to 1000 fish consume the flats and backcountry areas. Spring can be one of the best times to catch a boat load of reds (fall is also a very successful season). As the water temperature rises so does their metabolism.
Third, what are they craving?
Redfish can be compared to a 2 year old this spring. Sometimes the finicky child wants chicken nuggets and other days they won’t touch the nuggets for anything! Make sure to have a variety of options available. Redfish are currently eating live whitebait (scaled sardine/greenback) or cut-up threadfins. Sometimes it takes a lot of “chumming” to get these fish turned on. They like a lot of freebees so be very generous when using your bait bat. But, when bait does not appeal to them a Tsunami gold lite flash spoon will work great. This only require a steady retrieve. Change up the speed based on how active they are. You could also try a 1/16- ounce red jighead with a 2-3 inch soft-plastic white grub. This requires a little more technique because you need to allow the jig to settle on the bottom then jerk the bait 2-3 times before allowing it to sink again. This imitates a shrimp or crab trying to avoid a hungry red.
Forth, choosing the right rod, reel, line, leader, and hook (VERY IMPORTANT)
These bull-headed brutes will provide a great fight on light tackle. They strike aggressively and generally have enough stamina to pull the line and shake the rod until they are captured. It is very important to choose the correct fighting material to insure the fish does not win the game of tug of war. A 7-7.5 medium action rod will suffice. The Tsunami Airwave paired with the Tsunami Shield 3000 reel would be an excellent choice, plus they are very affordable. Rig it with 10lb Suffix braid and 20lb fluorocarbon leader. Capt. Jeff Hagaman is an excellent fishing guide in the area. He has won several inshore tournaments, and prefers to use 4/0 Mustad cirlcle hooks. A 3/0 to 6/0 circle hook will work fine depending on the size of bait you catch.
Fifth, Know the tides!
Just think, who is hungrier? A person walking into a buffet style restaurant or a person leaving? Redfish move with the tides. They come into the flats to feed when the tide is moving in and they leave the flats when the tide is moving out. It is best to fish for reds when the tide is incoming.
Last but certainly not least, be sneaky!!
Turn off the motor approximately 150-200 yards before approaching the hunting grounds, turn on the trolling motor, and creep up with stealth. Redfish are swimming in large schools right now and can be seen belly rolling from 30-40 yards away. A long and accurate cast will be rewarding, especially since the Redfish have been particularly skiddish this season.
It is now time to take a day off from work and get out on the water!
Happy Fishing Everyone,