One of the most popular and desirable game fish on the American Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Redfish prefer coastal waters and estuaries from as far north as Virginia and Maryland, around the coast of Florida, and all the way west as far as Texas and Mexico. Consistent larger trophies are taken along Cape Hatteras’ reefs and Outer Banks of North Carolina, but greater numbers throughout southern creeks, mangrove-lined inlets, channels and small bays provide constant rewards for full and part-time anglers. Chandeleur Islands, coasts of Texas and Louisiana, and Florida Bay have outstanding numbers, year-round.
Redfish get their name from a coppery color, influenced by regional water composition. Depending upon their environment, Reds can vary from nearly all white (often found at the extreme southern tip of Florida) to a vivid, deep burnt-copper tint – more likely in less accessible, darker, tannin-stained waters. Most examples display at least one black spot near the base of the tail, although some have been noted to have as many as 16 of these features. Six to eight pounds is a typical size for hungry Redfish pulled out of schools. The largest on record weighed 94 pounds, 2 ounces, caught off Avon, North Carolina.
The Florida Everglades are not only a major hunting ground, but also serve as a nursery for Redfish. These fish cruise around oyster bars, and crowd into various holes to avoid cooler temperatures. They feed on sand and mud bottoms, eating a wide variety of smaller fish and crustaceans. Young, “puppy drum” congregate in large schools among marshes and bays, and make good sport for light spinning tackle and fly rods. Reds grow into adulthood in deeper coastal waters, but these larger varieties also become gradually more wary, and are seldom as easy to catch. Closer to the coast, however, it is not too difficult to tempt this fish. Reds will strike an attractive lure even while fleeing something which spooked them.
Large adults spawn in large schools in the Gulf of Mexico, making them easy targets of commercial fisheries. This drastically reduced their numbers in the 1980’s, especially around Texas, where conservationists quickly necessitated laws and regulations, created hatcheries, and brought this highly sought-after fish back successfully. Popular for meals – especially blackened – Redfish also put up a great fight, and this keeps them at the top of most anglers’ lists.