Story by Collins Doughtie
When I began guiding folks in their boats, almost without exception those that wanted to learn how to fish these waters would say, “Can we catch a redfish? Huh, can we?” Whenever this happens, I can’t help but flash back to the time when my kids were young and we would be in a store and one of them would run up with something in their hand and say, “Will ya buy this for me? Will ya, huh, huh?” and keep on asking until I would finally give in just so they would stop. Don’t get me wrong — redfish (aka red drum, channel bass) are a blast to catch — but having caught thousands in my lifetime, I can only assume the thrill has petered out. Worry not if I ever should guide you, because like the kids, I’ll give in. Better now? You are allowed two redfish per angler per day with tail length between 15 and 23 inches.
Tips on catching redfish
For inshore redfish, I use light to medium spinning tackle with bait either on the bottom or suspended under a Cajun Thunder rattling cork. When using these corks, a quick snap every few seconds makes a clicking sound that drives reds crazy. For bull reds, the huge ones that school up in the fall and winter, I use heavier tackle with 30-50 pound line so I can get them in and release them before harm is done to these breeding fish. Without a doubt, strips or chunks of fresh mullet are their favorite natural bait. For the bulls I use a whole 6-to-8 inch mullet with a circle hook. Inshore I use 20 pound test fluorocarbon leader, for bulls 40-60 pound fluorocarbon leader. Fishing our creeks, it seems Owner 3/0-5/0 Mutu circle hooks are the ticket. As for weight, I use various size split shot, depending on current, about 6 inches above the hook. Remember this, a redfish’s mouth is below their head because they are primarily bottom feeders. Other good natural baits are shrimp, of course, and half of a blue crab with its shell and legs removed. Great artificial baits are GULP! “new penny” colored shrimp, Johnson weedless gold spoons and a DOA imitation shrimp fished under a popping cork.
Mono or braid: When & Where?
Because redfish do much of their searching for food around and near oyster rakes or structure, braid is a must. For inshore reds, 30 pound braid, for bull reds go up to 50 pound braid. Fluorocarbon leaders for each need not be more than 2 to 3 feet, tops. Inshore, my favorite tide for redfish is the last hour of the outgoing through low water and the first hour or so of the incoming. Most importantly, they will always be up close to the shoreline. Try to avoid banging around in the boat because if quiet, they will often swim in skinny water where their backs are out the water. Bull reds will feed pretty much any time and any tide. I use fish finder rigs with various size pyramid weights for bull reds.
You can’t go wrong cooking redfish. After filleting one, use a sharp knife and cut out the blood line (dark strip down middle of fillet). They are great fried, baked or broiled and as usual, my favorite spice is Paul Prudhomme’s Redfish Magic on all of the above methods. Grilling is the easiest. Leave skin on (with scales) and lay it skin side down on the grill. Often called “redfish on the half shell,” grill it until meat lifts off skin and it’s ready. Lastly, don’t overcook fish because no matter the species, less is best!
King Estate Sauvignon Blanc
A great glass of wine is the perfect compliment to a local seafood dish. Since this month’s featured fish is redfish, we reached out to Betsy Trish of Red Fish, a fantastic restaurant with a killer wine shop. She suggests drinking this sauvignon blanc from King Estate, the largest biodynamic vineyard in the United States. It is light bodied with a round, creamy style. Its crisp fruit is perfect for light fresh summer foods. It’s really good with salads. Pick up a bottle for $19.99 at Red Fish.