Ask saltwater anglers on the Gulf of Mexico what their favorite fish to target and chances are the answer will be Red Drum. Reds are some of the hardest fighting fish out there, and these shallow bruisers are always ready to rumble with any angler attempting to land them. And as if their thrilling fighting ability wasn’t enough of a lure for anglers, red drum are some of the tasty fish in the ocean. Equal parts scrappy and delicious, red fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is a sport anglers dream.
Also sometimes referred to as redfish, channel bass and just plain old “reds”, Red Drum are so named for the drumming croak sound they make when distressed. Named for the copper-tinted scales on their backs, which slowly fade to white underbellies, their most distinguishing feature is the black spot near the base of the tail which almost all members of their species share. Some fish may have multiple spots, but there is almost always at least one spot. Rarely, they come with no spots. No one knows for certain why they evolved the spots, but the leading theory among marine biologists is that it has to do with confusing any predators looking to make a meal of them.
Red drum can be found all over in the water column, but mainly are spotted patrolling around in shallow grass flats and oyster beds where they root around like aquatic vacuum cleaners hunting by both sight and touch for crabs, shrimp and smaller fish. Red drums are gluttonous feeders, and these bruisers regularly take their meals at the surface. Mullet, pinfish and menhaden are also popular live bait choices for reds. For those anglers who prefer fishing with artificial lures, top water skitter walkers, twitch baits, jerk baits and assorted popping corks all make excellent options.
Red drum tend to inhabit shallow waters making kayaks, sups and smaller individual fishing vessels incredibly popular among inshore sport anglers targeting Red Drum. Larger gas powered skiffs and flats boats also allow fishermen to get to where these bruisers feed, and throughout the Gulf Coast, chartered trips are widely available that aim to put you in the middle of the action.
Most areas in Florida allow recreational anglers to keep one fish per day between 18-28 inches. The average Red Fish in this size range weighs on average 5-8 pounds, and easily makes a gourmet seafood dinner for a family of four. Red Fish are so delicious, that during the 1980’s restaurant demand led to overfishing and brought redfish nearly to extinction in the Gulf. Thankfully though, strict rules on sizes and limits were introduced, and these favorites of sport fishers and dinner plates have rebounded nicely. If you fish anywhere in the Southeastern United States or East Coast, you are missing out if you aren’t after the reds.