If you like sport fishing, you surely will like to fish for redfish. Redfish is a common name for a range of species of fish throughout the English-speaking world. It is commonly applied to members of the deep-sea genus Sebastes, or the reef dwelling snappers, Lutjanus. It is also applied to the slimeheads or roughies (family Trachichthyidae), and the alfonsinos (Berycidae). This feisty species is one of the best fighters in the inshore spectrum and, if cooked correctly, a great addition to the barbeque menu. Even some restaurants have adopted the fish as a specialty. For example, at the famous Redfish Seafood Grill and Bar on Bourbon Street, New Orleans, they headline, “At Redfish, we serve up a parade of award-winning French Quarter specialties, including classics like Blackened Redfish, Crawfish Etouffee and Jambalaya.”
Young redfish, or red drum as they are often called, feed in the shallows on clams, crabs, mussels and shrimp. Red drum are an inshore species until they attain roughly 30 inches (4 years), then they migrate to join the near-shore population; spawning occurs from August to November in near-shore waters; sudden cold snaps may kill red drum in shallow, inshore waters; feeds on crustaceans, fish and mollusks; longevity to 20 years or more.
The fish gets its common name from the copper bronze large scales on their bodies, which are darker in cloudy water and lighter in clear waters, but the most distinguishing feature is a dark spot at the top of the base of the tail. For the fisherman, however, the most recognizable feature is the tail disturbing the water in the calm shallows and frequently breaking the surface. The sight of a dozen or more redfish “tailing” as this foraging behavior is called is enough to set the adrenaline coursing through the veins of the most hardened sportsman.
Catching redfish is like all fishing. You just have to be in the right place at the right time with the right bait and tackle.
A fishing rods strength or lifting power is determined by its action. A light action rod has a low strength, making it ideal for casting light lures and fighting smaller fish, whereas a heavy action rod is much stronger, and therefore suitable for fighting big brutes like Giant Mekong Catfish. Most rod manufactures offer rods varying from Light to Heavy, but the extreme classes Ultra Light and Extra Heavy do also exist. Use a light medium action rod because you could end up doing a lot of casting before you finally lure your trophy specimen onto the hook, and use the lightest line you feel comfortable with. Just remember to set the drag accurately (the pro’s will actually use a scale and set it to sixty percent of nominal breaking strain).
The right time is easy, fish the feeding grounds on the flats and oyster bars on the rising tide and till just after the tide turns and fish the hiding places in the troughs and sloughs on the ebb. The most reliable spots are on the edge of the mangroves close to deep water. This gives the combination of a great feeding spot with an easy escape route when threatened.
As far as bait is concerned, if you are fishing for the pan, use live bait. Live animals such as mealworms, red worms, night crawlers, leeches, maggots, crayfish, reptiles, amphibians and insects may be used as bait on all waters not restricted to artificial flies and lures. Toss your bait or lure as close to the mangroves as you dare, let it sink for a few seconds, then retrieve slowly. Redfish tend to wave their tails slowly when feeding. When the strike comes, you will know all about it, and the fish will do all the work of setting the hook. Your job will be to get the fish away from the mangroves and then to enjoy the fight of your life. This is when the challenge of light tackle fishing will tax your skill and fill your psyche with pride.
Happy fishing, and look out for the recipe coming soon! Just remember, if you are not going to eat the fish, release it unharmed. Always respect your local fishing regulations.