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Some Things You NEED To Know About Redfish


  • Appearance: Red drum have a reddish-bronze color on their upper bodies, fading to white on their underside. They are easily identifiable by the distinctive black spot or spots near their tail, although some may have multiple spots or none at all.

  • Size: They can grow to significant sizes. Juveniles are often found in estuaries, while adults can grow up to 60 inches (about 1.5 meters) and weigh up to 90 pounds (around 40 kg). However, the average size inshore is typically between 12-30 inches.


  • Distribution: Red drum are native to the western Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer shallow waters and are commonly found in estuaries, bays, and along coastal shorelines.

  • Environment: They thrive in both saltwater and brackish environments. Juveniles tend to stay in estuaries, while adults are often found in nearshore and offshore waters.


  • Feeding: Red drum are opportunistic feeders, preying on a variety of organisms, including shrimp, crabs, and small fish. They often forage along the bottom, using their sense of smell and sight to locate prey.

  • Spawning: Spawning typically occurs in late summer and early fall. Males produce a drumming sound by vibrating a special muscle against their swim bladder to attract females. Females can lay millions of eggs, which hatch within a day or two.

Fishing and Regulations

  • Sport Fishing: Red drum are a popular target for sport fishermen due to their strong fight when hooked. They can be caught using various methods, including fly fishing, bait fishing, and artificial lures.

  • Regulations: To ensure sustainable populations, there are often regulations on the size and number of red drum that can be harvested. These regulations vary by location and are enforced to prevent overfishing.

Culinary Uses

  • Cooking: Red drum are highly regarded for their taste and can be prepared in various ways, including grilling, baking, and frying. One famous preparation is "blackened redfish," popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme. I highly recommend grilled on the half shell method. 


  • Management: Red drum populations are managed through a combination of size and bag limits, seasonal closures, and habitat protection. Conservation efforts are in place to maintain healthy stocks and ensure the species' long-term viability.

Biology and Ecology

  • Growth and Lifespan: Red drum grow rapidly in their first few years. Juveniles typically measure around 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 cm) within the first couple of years. They can live for over 40 years, although their lifespan can vary depending on environmental conditions and fishing pressures.

  • Migration: Red drum exhibit seasonal migration patterns. In warmer months, they are often found in shallow coastal waters and estuaries, while during cooler months, they may move to deeper offshore waters.

  • Predators: As juveniles, red drum are preyed upon by larger fish, birds, and marine mammals. Adults have fewer natural predators, though they can still be targeted by sharks and large fish.

Spawning and Development

  • Spawning Locations: Red drum typically spawn in coastal waters, near inlets, passes, and river mouths where there is a mix of fresh and saltwater. These areas provide the right conditions for the eggs and larvae.

  • Egg and Larval Stages: The eggs hatch into larvae that drift with currents for a few weeks before settling in estuarine habitats. These nursery areas offer abundant food and protection from predators.

  • Juvenile Habitat: Young red drum use seagrass beds, marshes, and mangroves as nursery grounds. These habitats provide shelter and a rich supply of prey items, essential for their growth and survival.

Fishing Techniques

  • Bait and Tackle: Common baits for red drum include live or cut bait like shrimp, crabs, and small fish. Anglers often use medium to heavy tackle due to the fish's strength and potential size.

  • Artificial Lures: Various artificial lures such as spoons, soft plastics, and topwater plugs are effective in attracting red drum. These lures can mimic the appearance and movement of the fish's natural prey.

  • Fly Fishing: Fly fishing for red drum is also popular, especially in shallow waters. Anglers use flies that resemble shrimp, crabs, and baitfish. This method requires precision casting and often targets sighted fish.

Conservation and Management

  • Stock Assessments: Fisheries scientists conduct regular assessments to monitor red drum populations. These assessments inform management decisions, ensuring the species remains sustainable.

  • Habitat Restoration: Efforts to restore and protect estuarine habitats, such as seagrass beds and marshlands, are crucial for red drum conservation. Healthy habitats support robust fish populations.

  • Catch and Release: Anglers are encouraged to practice catch and release, particularly for larger breeding individuals, to help maintain healthy populations. Proper handling techniques are important to minimize stress and injury to the fish.

Scientific Research

  • Tagging Studies: Researchers often tag red drum to study their movements, growth rates, and population dynamics. Tagging provides valuable data that helps in understanding the species' behavior and informs management strategies.

  • Genetic Studies: Genetic research is used to investigate population structure and connectivity among different red drum stocks. This information is vital for effective management and conservation efforts.

Sightcasting Preparation and Equipment

  1. Tackle: Use a fly rod or medium to heavy spinning or baitcasting rod with a fast action. A reel with a smooth drag system is essential. Line choice is usually braided line (10-20 lb test) with a fluorocarbon leader (20-30 lb test).

  2. Lures and Baits: Top choices include soft plastic shrimp or crab imitations, gold or silver spoons, topwater plugs, and jerkbaits. Live bait such as shrimp, mullet, or crab can also be effective.

  3. Polarized Sunglasses: These are crucial for reducing glare on the water surface, allowing you to see fish and structure beneath the water.

  4. Quiet Approach: Use a kayak, shallow-draft boat, or wade quietly in the water to avoid spooking the fish.

Finding Red Drum

  1. Time and Tides: Generally between 9am-3pm are often the best times due to the angle of the sun. Look for areas with incoming or outgoing tides, as red drum are more active and feeding during these times.

  2. Habitat: Focus on shallow flats, grass beds, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines. Red drum are often found in 1-3 feet of water.

  3. Water Clarity: Clear water is ideal for sight fishing as it allows you to see the fish better. Look for areas with good visibility. However, I've found though years of experience that slightly dirty water allows  you to still see the redfish, without being seen. 

Spotting Red Drum

  1. Look for Signs: Watch for tails breaking the surface (tailing), wakes (caused by fish movement), and nervous water (ripples caused by fish swimming just below the surface).

  2. Movement: Red drum often travel in small schools or pods. Look for groups of fish moving together.

  3. Color and Shape: Red drum have a distinctive bronze color and a torpedo-shaped body. Their tails often have a characteristic black spot.

Casting to Red Drum

  1. Distance and Accuracy: Cast ahead of the fish, anticipating their direction. Aim for a few feet in front of the fish to avoid spooking them.

  2. Stealth: Make a quiet and gentle presentation. Avoid loud splashes that could scare the fish away.(you wouldn't throw a rock near a fish you're trying to catch right)

  3. Retrieval: Use a slow, steady retrieve with occasional pauses to mimic natural prey movements. If using live bait, let it sit and move naturally with the current.

Hooking and Fighting

  1. Setting the Hook: Once you see the fish take the bait, give a firm but controlled hook set.

  2. Playing the Fish: Red drum are strong fighters. Use your rod to control the fish and let your reel's drag system tire it out. Avoid horsing the fish to prevent breaking your line or the hook pulling out.

  3. Landing: Once the fish is tired, use a landing net or carefully grab the fish by the gently holding his belly. They are usually relaxed and still while being held. I don't recommend a net unless you have to use one, because it tends to injure the fish by splitting the tail fin. 

Ethical Considerations

  1. Catch and Release: If you plan to release the fish, minimize handling and keep it in the water as much as possible. Use barbless hooks to make release easier. 

  2. Respect Regulations: Adhere to local size and bag limits, as well as any seasonal closures, to help maintain healthy red drum populations.

  3. Habitat Protection: Avoid damaging sensitive habitats like seagrass beds and oyster bars. Use designated entry and exit points when wading or kayaking.

Fly Fishing Equipment and Gear

  1. Fly Rod: Use a 7-9 weight fly rod. An 8 weight is the most common choice as it provides a good balance of power and finesse for casting larger flies and handling strong fish.

  2. Fly Reel: A large arbor reel with a smooth, reliable drag system is essential. It should have enough backing (at least 150 yards of 20-pound test) to handle long runs.

  3. Fly Line: Use a weight-forward floating line, which is suitable for casting in shallow waters where redfish are often found. A clear intermediate line can be useful in deeper or murkier water.

  4. Leaders and Tippets: Use tapered leaders with a length of 9-12 feet, ending in a 20-30 pound fluorocarbon tippet for abrasion resistance.


  1. Shrimp Patterns: Patterns like the EP Shrimp, Crazy Charlie, and Bonefish Bitters mimic shrimp, a favorite prey of redfish.

  2. Crab Patterns: Flies like the Crazy Claw Crab, Merkin Crab and Raghead Crab are effective in mimicking crabs, another staple in the redfish diet.

  3. Baitfish Patterns: Clouser Minnows and Deceivers work well to imitate small baitfish.

  4. Topwater Patterns: Gurglers and Poppers can be exciting to use, especially in low-light conditions when redfish are feeding aggressively.

Techniques and Strategy

  1. Sight Fishing: The essence of fly fishing for redfish is sight fishing. Look for signs such as tailing fish, moving wakes, or fish in clear shallow water.

  2. Approach: Use a stealthy approach, whether by wading, poling a flats boat, or using a kayak. Avoid making unnecessary noise or casting shadows over the fish.

  3. Casting: Accurate casting is crucial. Practice short to medium casts (20-40 feet) with precision. Aim to land the fly a few feet in front of the fish’s path to avoid spooking it.

  4. Retrieval: Use slow, deliberate strips to mimic the movement of shrimp or crabs. Vary the speed and length of your strips based on the fish's behavior and water conditions.

    • Shrimp Patterns: Short, quick strips.

    • Crab Patterns: Slow, steady strips with occasional pauses to mimic a crab's movement.

    • Baitfish Patterns: Longer, more erratic strips.

Handling and Playing the Fish

  1. Hook Set: Redfish often take the fly aggressively. When you see the take, strip set by pulling the line with your stripping hand while simultaneously lifting the rod tip.

  2. Fight: Redfish are strong fighters and will make powerful runs. Use the rod’s butt section to apply pressure and let the reel’s drag system tire the fish.

  3. Landing: Once the fish is tired, carefully grab the fish by sliding your had under it's belly and lifting it out of the water. Handle the fish as little as possible if you plan to release it.

Best Locations and Conditions

  1. Flats and Marshes: Shallow flats and marshes with grass beds, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines are prime habitats for redfish.

  2. Tides: Incoming and high tides often push redfish into shallower waters to feed. Plan your fishing around these tidal movements.

  3. Seasons: Redfish can be targeted year-round, but late summer and fall are particularly productive times, especially during spawning runs.

Conservation Tips

  1. Catch and Release: Practice catch and release to help maintain healthy redfish populations. Use barbless hooks to minimize harm.

  2. Proper Handling: Wet your hands before handling the fish to protect its slime coat. Support the fish horizontally and avoid holding it by the gills.

  3. Follow Regulations: Adhere to local fishing regulations, including size and bag limits, to ensure sustainable fishing practices.

Spring (March to May)

  • Location: As water temperatures begin to rise, redfish start moving from deeper winter habitats into shallower waters.

  • Areas to Target:

    • Shallow Flats: Look for redfish on mudflats and grassy areas, especially during high tides.

    • Creeks and Channels: Redfish use these areas to move between deeper waters and feeding grounds.

    • Oyster Bars: These structures provide both food and shelter.

  • Behavior: Redfish are actively feeding to replenish energy after winter, making them more aggressive and easier to catch.

Summer (June to August)

  • Location: Warm water temperatures push redfish into deeper channels and cooler areas during the heat of the day, but they will move into shallower waters early in the morning and late in the evening.

  • Areas to Target:

    • Grass Beds and Flats: Focus on these areas during cooler parts of the day.

    • Deeper Channels and Pockets: Midday fishing can be productive in deeper, cooler waters.

    • Inlets and Passes: These areas often have cooler, moving water and attract baitfish.

  • Behavior: Redfish are often seen tailing (feeding head-down) in shallow waters, which makes sight fishing particularly effective.

Fall (September to November)

  • Location: Fall is one of the best times to catch redfish as they prepare for winter and spawn, particularly in the late summer to early fall.

  • Areas to Target:

    • Shallow Flats and Grass Beds: These areas are excellent, especially during high tides.

    • River Mouths and Estuaries: Redfish congregate here to feed on baitfish being washed out of the rivers.

    • Oyster Bars and Marsh Edges: Productive during all tidal stages.

  • Behavior: Redfish are actively feeding and are less wary, making them easier to catch. Look for schooling fish, as they often group together during the fall.

Winter (December to February)

  • Location: Cold temperatures push redfish into deeper, more stable waters to avoid the colder, shallower areas.

  • Areas to Target:

    • Deeper Holes and Channels: Redfish seek thermal stability in deeper water.

    • Mud Flats: Mud retains heat better than sandy or grassy areas, so redfish might be found in shallow mudflats during sunny days.

    • Near Structures: Docks, piers, and other structures in deeper water can hold redfish.

  • Behavior: Redfish are less active in colder water but will still feed, especially during warm spells or sunny days when the water temperature rises slightly.

General Tips for Different Times of the Year

  • Tides: Pay close attention to tidal movements. Incoming and high tides are generally more productive as redfish move into shallower feeding areas.

  • Time of Day: Early morning and late evening are usually the best times to fish, especially during the hotter months.

  • Water Conditions: Clear water conditions are ideal for sight fishing. However, slightly murky water can be beneficial as it makes redfish less wary.

  • Bait and Lures: Adjust your bait and lures based on the season. Live bait like shrimp and mullet are effective year-round. Soft plastics, spoons, and topwater lures can be particularly effective depending on the water conditions and redfish behavior.

Estimated Speed:

  • Burst Speed: While there are no precise studies specifically measuring the burst speed of red drum, their speed is likely comparable to other similar-sized coastal fish. Some estimates suggest they can reach speeds of up to 20-30 miles per hour (32-48 kilometers per hour) in short bursts.

  • Sustained Speed: For longer distances, red drum swim at more moderate speeds, likely around 5-10 miles per hour (8-16 kilometers per hour), which allows them to conserve energy.

Comparison to Other Fish:

  • Tarpon: Known for their speed and agility, tarpon can reach burst speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour).

  • Bonefish: Bonefish are also fast swimmers, capable of reaching speeds around 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) in short bursts.

Lateral Line System

  • Purpose: The lateral line system is a series of sensory organs that run along the sides of the fish from the head to the tail. It detects changes in water pressure and vibrations.

  • Structure: The lateral line consists of a series of fluid-filled canals and pores. The holes or pores on the face and body lead to these canals, which contain sensory cells called neuromasts.

  • Function: Neuromasts sense movement and vibrations in the water, allowing the fish to detect the presence and movement of nearby objects, predators, and prey. This system is particularly useful in murky water or low-light conditions where visibility is limited.

Sensory Pores on the Head

  • Location: The sensory pores are particularly concentrated around the head, including the snout, jaws, and cheeks. These areas are highly sensitive to changes in the water.

  • Role in Feeding: These sensory organs help the red drum locate prey items such as shrimp, crabs, and small fish by detecting their movements and vibrations in the water. This is especially important when hunting in turbid waters where visual cues are less effective.

  • Electroreception: In addition to the lateral line, red drum and many other fish have specialized sensory cells called ampullae of Lorenzini, which can detect electrical fields produced by other organisms. These cells are located primarily on the head and are common in cartilaginous fish like sharks and rays, but some bony fish, including red drum, also possess them.

Additional Sensory Adaptations

  • Barbels: Some fish species have barbels—whisker-like structures that contain taste buds and help the fish detect food on the seafloor. While red drum do not have prominent barbels, their highly developed sense of smell and taste aids them in foraging.

Visual Acuity

  • Good Vision: Red drum have good visual acuity, which allows them to detect prey and predators effectively. Their eyes are adapted to see well in the varied light conditions of their coastal and estuarine habitats.

  • Color Vision: While specific studies on red drum's color vision are limited, many fish have the ability to see colors. This is beneficial for distinguishing prey and navigating through their environment.

Adaptations for Light Conditions

  • Low-Light Vision: Red drum are adapted to see in low-light conditions, which is useful during dawn, dusk, and in murky waters. Their eyes contain a high density of rod cells, which are more sensitive to light and help in dim environments.

  • Clear and Murky Water: Their vision is adapted for both clear and murky waters, which is typical of the estuarine and coastal environments they inhabit. In clear water, they rely more on visual cues, while in murky water, they use a combination of vision and other sensory systems like the lateral line.

Interaction with Other Senses

  • Complementary Senses: While red drum have good vision, they rely on a combination of senses to interact with their environment. Their lateral line system and sense of smell are highly developed and complement their vision, especially in conditions where visibility is reduced.

Foraging and Predation

  • Detecting Prey: Good vision aids in detecting and capturing prey. Red drum often forage in shallow waters where they can spot crustaceans, small fish, and other prey items.

  • Avoiding Predators: Their visual acuity also helps them avoid predators by detecting movement and changes in their surroundings.

Behavior and Habits

  • Daytime Activity: Red drum are typically more active during the day when they can use their vision to forage. However, their ability to see in low light also allows them to feed during early morning and late evening.

  • Sight Fishing: Anglers often take advantage of red drum's visual capabilities when sight fishing, spotting the fish in shallow waters and casting lures or flies to attract them.

How the Lateral Line Works

  • Structure: The lateral line system consists of a series of fluid-filled canals and sensory cells called neuromasts, which are located along the sides of the fish’s body and head.

  • Function: Neuromasts contain hair cells that are sensitive to mechanical changes in the water. When water movement or pressure waves displace the hair cells, they send signals to the fish’s nervous system.

  • Sensitivity: This system is highly sensitive to low-frequency vibrations and pressure changes, allowing fish to detect even subtle movements in the water.​

Impact on Fishing

  • Stealth and Approach: Understanding the sensitivity of the lateral line system can help anglers be more successful by emphasizing the importance of a quiet and stealthy approach. Minimizing noise and vibrations, whether from boats or wading, can increase the chances of getting closer to red drum without spooking them.

  • Casting Distance: Keeping a greater distance when casting to avoid creating pressure waves that might alert the fish is often beneficial. Long, accurate casts can help place the lure or fly without causing disturbances.

  • Using Wind and Currents: Anglers can use natural conditions such as wind and currents to mask their approach. Wind-chopped water or strong currents can help diffuse pressure waves and make it harder for the fish to detect disturbances.

Effects of Movement on Fish Behavior

  • Pressure Waves: When you shift your weight or move on a boat, it creates pressure waves in the water. These waves can travel outward from the boat and alert nearby fish to your presence.

  • Vibrations: Movements on the boat can also generate vibrations that transmit through the hull and into the water, further alerting fish.

  • Fish Response: Red drum and other fish may respond to these disturbances by becoming more cautious, moving away, or stopping their feeding activity.

Minimizing Disturbances

To improve your chances of success, it’s important to minimize movements that create pressure waves and vibrations. Here are some tips:

On the Boat

  1. Stability: Keep the boat as stable as possible. Sudden movements should be avoided to reduce the creation of pressure waves.

  2. Weight Distribution: Distribute weight evenly and move slowly and smoothly to minimize rocking the boat.

  3. Quiet Operation: Use a push pole or trolling motor on low speed for quiet and controlled movement. Avoid using the main engine in shallow areas where fish are likely to be present.

  4. Deck Padding: Consider using deck padding or carpet to reduce noise and vibrations from footsteps and movements.

  5. Anchor with Care: When anchoring, do so quietly and with minimal disturbance to the water.


  1. Slow and Steady: Move slowly and steadily when wading to minimize pressure waves and vibrations. Avoid splashing or making sudden movements.

  2. Light Steps: Take light steps to reduce the impact on the water. Move by sliding your feet along the bottom rather than lifting them high and placing them down forcefully.

  3. Awareness of Substrate: Be mindful of the type of substrate you are wading on. Soft mud or sand can absorb more vibrations than hard, rocky bottoms.

Casting and Retrieval

  1. Long Casts: Make long, accurate casts to avoid getting too close to the fish and creating disturbances.

  2. Gentle Entry: Ensure that your lure or fly enters the water gently, avoiding loud splashes that can spook fish.

  3. Smooth Retrieval: Retrieve your lure or fly smoothly and consistently to avoid creating erratic vibrations that can be detected by the fish.

Using Natural Conditions

  1. Wind and Waves: Utilize windy or wavy conditions to help mask your movements. Natural water disturbances can help cover up the pressure waves and vibrations caused by your actions.

  2. Currents: Fish areas with strong currents where natural water movement can help conceal your presence.

Observation and Adaptation

  1. Fish Behavior: Observe the behavior of the fish. If they seem skittish or are moving away, it may be a sign that they are detecting your presence. Adjust your approach accordingly.

  2. Patience and Timing: Exercise patience and wait for the fish to settle if you inadvertently disturb them. Sometimes giving the area some time to calm down can improve your chances of a successful catch.


Time On The Water 

You can read things on the internet all you want, but nothing will make you a better fisherman faster than time spent on the water.  

My name is David Foreman

Most of the above was written by chatgpt. Every word was read and approved by me. (I say most because I did make a few edits)

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