Waterman's Journal

Feb 27, 2011

America's Redfish

Red Drum

The Red Drum ( Sciaenops ocellatus ), also known as Channel Bass , Redfish , Spottail Bass or simply Reds , is a game fish that is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Northern Mexico. It is the only species in the genus Sciaenops . The red drum is a cousin to the Black Drum (Pogonias cromis), and the two species are often found in close proximity to each other, they are rumored to interbreed and form a robust hybrid, and younger fish are often indistinguishable in flavor. Red Drum are also one of the only species of Saltwater fish that can live in both salt and pure freshwater. While Reds can't reproduce in freshwater, certain lakes and waterways stock these Redfish for sport and to occupy anglers thirst for something slightly different and rewarding.

Below : A nice surf-caught Red is landed

Red Drum usually occur along coastal waters. Three year-old red drum typically weigh six to eight pounds. The largest one on record weighed just over 100 pounds. When they are large they are called Bull Reds, although most people do not find the large ones good to eat. However, several decades ago the waters off Texas and Louisiana were combed out for Redfish (often oversized Bull Reds), which were highly sought after in resturants and served as 'Blackened' Redfish, Redfish on the 'halfshell', or several other various presentations of the fish. Since then laws have been put in place to protect this amazing inshore gamefish and today stocks are thriving.

Below : Pelagic Pro Team's Capt. Benny Blanco poses with a Red via topwater

Mature Red Drum spawn in near shorelines. Juvenile red drum typically inhabit bays and coastal marshes until they reach maturity between 3 and 6 years of age. They will readily accept any bait but prefer Menhaden, Shrimp, Mud Minnows and crabs. Red Drum are relatives of the Black Drum and both make a croaking sound when in trouble or schooled up.

Below : Oz poses with a sun-down Red in the surf off Texas...

The most distinguishing mark on the red drum is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon for this fish but having no spots is extremely rare. As the fish with multiple spots grow older they seem to lose their excess spots. Scientists believe that the black spot near their tail helps fool predators into attacking the red drum's tail instead of their head, allowing the red drum to escape.

Below : Capt. Benny Blanco puts an angler on a beautiful Red Drum via artificial lure...

Red Drum along with Spotted Sea Trout are among the top inshore game-fish for the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic. Anglers will find these great fish feeding on grass flats and will sight-cast to them as they are 'tailing'. There is a great following of anglers who do this early morning stalking for these drum. Drum are also amazing fighters for their size. Their biological design makes them the pitbulls of the inshore world.

Below : Anglers take to the kayak to pursue Reds like this in the shallows...

Bull Reds will often do their migrations in the spring and fall, running along the coast. At times, anglers in the right place at the right time can hook into and land double-digit quantities of Reds over 40" in a single day. Their favorite bait by far is a large Mullet, followed closely by shrimp and crab. Large Reds on light tackle offer a great challenge and rewarding battle for any interested angler.

Below : A close-up view at the head of a Redfish...

Red Drum of all sizes love the surf, bays, and estuaries of our Gulf. Some of the largest Reds on record run up the eastern coast of the United States and can be encountered off North Carolina. The fishery for Redfish has been properly managed as of recent and stocks appear to be quite healthy. While the smaller fish qualify as outstanding table-fare, many anglers are going with a more catch-and-release frame of mind which in return is assuring the healthy populations of Reds in the future for all to enjoy. Today, anlger's love for this fish is shown as tournaments around the country are popping up. Whether you take your next adventure to the surf, bay, and channel... it may be of interest to spend a bit of time and target of our great american inshore game-fish.

Below : A Bull Red is landed and released from the kayak...