Red Drum

Red drum, also called redfish, are great gamefish—and delicious table fare.
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Where and When?

Red drum are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida, including the Chesapeake Bay, and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to northern Mexico. They are most abundant in the Gulf of Mexico and least abundant north of New Jersey. States with good populations of red drum along their coasts include Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. Red drum can be caught all year round, but most anglers target them in summer, when baitfish and other preferred food is most abundant. Late summer and early fall are the best times to catch larger fish. Adult red drum can be found in the Chesapeake Bay from April through November, with younger fish moving farther up the bay and large adults staying near the mouth of the bay.

About Red Drum

The red drum is a sought-after gamefish found in coastal waters along the East Coast of the U.S. It is also known as redfish, channel bass, spot-tail, or red. Red drum have dark red backs fading to white on the belly, with a distinctive large black spot on the upper part of the base of the tail. Red drum get their name from the “drumming” sound that the male fish make during spawning. They use special muscles to vibrate their swim bladders to create the sound. When celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme promoted his recipe for Cajun-style blacked redfish in the 1980s, the popularity of these fish skyrocketed. The largest red drum on record was caught off Hatteras Island in North Carolina and weighed just over 94 pounds (42.6 kg). Most anglers consider a 40-inch (101.6 cm) red drum to be a trophy fish. Smaller red drum—between about 16 and 30 inches (40-76 cm) —are referred to as “puppy drum.” These sub-adult fish can often be caught in coastal rivers and marshes with brackish water, while the larger, adult red drum spend their lives in the ocean.

How to Catch?

Red drum are primarily bottom feeders that gorge on crabs and shrimp, but they will take most kinds of natural and artificial bait. Good bets for live bait include shrimp, mullet, menhaden, and small peeler crabs. Live baitfish are usually fished on the bottom using a slip-sinker rig so they can move naturally. Red drum can also be caught with artificial lures. Try fishing shallow-running or floating plugs over grass flats. Bucktails, spoons, and soft plastic jigs are also effective. Lures and soft plastic worms are especially effective for fishing in the surf. Fly-fishing is also a good way to catch red drum. Most saltwater flyfishermen sight-cast to these fish with surface poppers or streamers that represent baitfish. When fishing for red drum, pay attention to the tide. A high tide or ebb tide usually produces the best results, as the fish approach the shore and feed in the shallows, and then will bunch up as the water begins to recede.