One of the most sought-after species on the flats is the redfish.
I can remember the first redfish that hooked me, it was late summer of 1989 in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Weeks before one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the Carolina coast, Hurricane Hugo. I was a skinny 9-year old that was all of about 75 Lbs soaking wet fishing a tidal creek with a live shrimp.
It was a fairly slow day and the sun was setting and I was minutes away from packing up to head home.
I look up… tap… tap… the shrimp was swimming scared…
Bam! I set the hook and it took everything for me to not get pulled into the water. The drag was screaming, the whole time I was hoping my knots will hold. A fish this size had the smarts to know how to break me off. trying to keep this beast from pulling me into the oyster beds. After fighting for a solid 10-15 minutes I landed an 18Lb redfish, or as we refer to them in the Carolinas as spot tail bass.
I’ve been chasing them ever since.
About The Redfish
This species is a voracious bottom feeder rooting through the bottom stirring up crabs, shrimp, and crustaceans.
Even though, redfish are known to be bottom feeders they will crush a topwater lure if presented with finesse. I can tell you from experience that there is nothing more exciting than sight casting for tailing redfish and having a hookup.
Regions for Redfish
Redfish can be found throughout the southeast coast and gulf waters of North America. I now live in the Tampa Bay area and we are one of the best and high-pressured redfish fisheries in the country.
Known for one of the most amazing areas for redfish, with over 1 million acres of tidal wetlands this creates one of the best environments to incubate and grow redfish. With these estuaries being some of the most remote in the region there is relatively little pressure on this fishery. If you ever get an opportunity to plan a trip to Louisiana to fish, by all means, do it.
Aka the fishing capital of the world, there are so many areas to hunt for redfish. Jacksonville during the flood season, panhandle estuaries, flats in the Tampa Bay area, and there is always the Everglades.
If you have the opportunity to fish in the Tampa Bay area I highly recommend booking a tour with our friends at Inshore Society. Captain Kenny Smith and Cristian Minami will guarantee you non-stop entertainment and a day filled with tight lines.
Georgia, Northeast Florida, & South Carolina
South Carolina and Georgia are where I spent a lot of my youth fishing the marshes and tidal creeks for redfish. In our quest for monster redfish, we managed to pick up a good amount of flounder as well. Which were a staple in my household growing up. One of my favorite dishes was the Flounder Cagney.
Charleston, is always touted as a redfish hotspot but where I grew up in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina is where I caught my personal best.
Any of the estuaries like North Winyah Bay near Georgetown down to Brunswick Georgia hold secret passes that lead to monster redfish.
How To Find Redfish?
Even though, redfish don’t migrate they do make up a lot of ground in the zones that live in. You’ll find them offshore cruising the beaches, in the bays, tidal estuaries. They work the grass flats in super skinny water. Redfish love working structures as well. Frankly, they work all areas and work all areas well.
Find Redfish In Structure
You can find redfish hanging around oyster bars, piers, and dock structures as well. In Florida, during high tide, you can find them pushed up into the mangroves stirring up juvenile species of fish including their species, shrimp, and various crustaceans. Look for choke points between structures. This is where redfish love to ambush prey.
Find Redfish In Current
Redfish love the opportunities that currently provides. Casting your baits upstream of the school and floating your baits down in a natural state usually get the best results. Look for current to flow through chokepoints. For example creek mouths, between oyster bars, and channels.
Generally, redfish predominantly are in the water with a good bit of current, but they will sit in stagnant water as long as bait-like mullet are apparent. If you are in stagnant water and there’s no presence of bait it is a good idea to try somewhere different.
What Do Redfish Eat?
Redfish are known primarily as hunters, pack hunters even. They actively search for food stirring up the bottom looking for pass crabs, shrimp, pinfish, and other crustaceans. I’ve had the best luck when the in the twilight
The best part about targeting redfish is they are voracious eaters. They have been found with mice, frogs, snakes, and grasshoppers.
When you’re trying to determine which lure to run with. Always match the hatch. Mimicking bait that is running is your best bet. For us, we love to run top-water in low-light situations, like the Man O War Little Red Corvette. Walking the dog with these lures you can entice an explosive bite first thing in the morning. It works better than a cup of black coffee.
The mid-day bite we tend to switch to swimbaits either soft or hard or work through your favorite jigs. Once you find the right combination for the bite it’s on like donkey kong.
If it’s in the cooler months and the water temp is dropping, redfish tend to be a bit sluggish. We find that when this happens to switch the lures to smaller sizes is the best bet. We can induce a seemingly impossible bite by using a technique known as the Ned Rig.
What’s the best tackle set up for Redfish?
Well, the answer to this question is… it depends.
If you plan on a fishing structure like docks, sea walls, and pilings having a robust setup is definitely in order. Almost all structures will have barnacles and redfish are notorious for using them to their advantage.
For fishing structure, right now we like fishing a 7’ - 8’ medium action rod with a 4000 series spinning reel. You lose a little sensitivity at the rod tip, but you gain the backbone to horse any redfish out of that structure. We spool up our reel with a 10 - 20 Lb test braid with 3’ of 15 - 40 Lb fluorocarbon. Depending on water clarity, you may have to adjust your fluorocarbon size, if you’re not getting the bite. This setup is perfect for a ¼ - ¾ ounce range for lures.
For fishing the flats, with redfish we scale it back and run with a 7’ - 8’ medium/ light action with a 3000 - 4000 series reel. We run 15 Lb braid on this setup with 15 Lb fluorocarbon. Once again, you may even need to go to a 15 Lb fluorocarbon if water conditions are clear and your presentation is getting rejected.
There are no right or wrong ways to catch redfish. We hope that knowledge and conservation will help encourage having a healthy redfish population for generations to come.
The team at Man O War Fishing Supply would love for you to get an opportunity to enjoy this beautiful species of fish and experience why many anglers spend their lives chasing redfish. Just know that we’re by your side every step of the way.