Saltwater Fish - Red Drum

Red Drum or Redfish

Sciaenops ocellatus

AKA: channel bass

 

Distinguishing Markings:

Member of the croaker family with large reddish scales on their upper body and a blunt snout.  Chin without barbels; copper bronze body, lighter shade in clear waters; one to many spots at base of tail (rarely no spots); mouth horizontal and opening downward; scales large.  The tail is square with at least one round black spot (an eyespot) on top

 

Size: 

Commonly 27 inches and 8 pounds, up to more than 50 pounds; record is 98 pounds

 

Distribution:

Historic distribution of red drum on the Atlantic coast is from the Gulf of Main to northern Mexico, but has become uncommon north of New Jersey.  Red drum are more abundant in the Gulf of Mexico than along the Atlantic coast

 

Habitat:

Redfish are estuarine-dependent, found in brackish water and saltwater on bottoms of inlets, passes and bays.  Juveniles are inshore fish, migrating out of the estuaries at about 30 inches (4 years) and joining the spawning population offshore  Younger redfish, called “rat reds”, stay in bays year round, over oyster reefs and in grass flats.  They like shallow water with quick access to deeper water.  Larger redfish are called “bull reds”

 

Food Preference:

Feeds on crustaceans, fish and mollusks

 

Spawning:

Spawning occurs from August to November in nearshore waters

 

Fishing Tips:

Fishing season is year round with fall being the best time to catch big reds in the surf.  In shallow water reds are sighted with their tails slightly out of the water, a behavior called "tailing".  Cast lures, flies, spoons, surface plugs, swimming plugs and jigs.  Leadhead jig with soft trailers are also effective.  Use live bait such as crab, shrimp, and cocahoe minnows.

 

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