Aptly named because of the reddish/bronze/orange coloration, redfish are some of the most beautiful inshore gamefish. Aside from their deep colors, redfish are identifiable by their tails which nearly always sport a single black dot. In some cases redfish tails can have multiple spots and even have them spread out along their body giving them the appearance of a leopard. As if these two things weren’t awesome enough, the very ends of their tails are often deep blue. Some people attribute the blue coloration to a steady diet of shrimp and crabs.
We usually look for redfish around oyster bars and mangrove coastlines and islands. They are also prevalent on mud flats, grass flats and mixed in with schools of mullet in all these locations. They usually hang around these areas because they hold their favorite food sources, shrimp, small crabs and baitfish. Reds will also happily eat cut baits on the bottom such as cut mullet or ladyfish, but many times we will also use a mix of both soft and hard bodied plastic baits.
Redfish of any size will test you, when you hook into one they will try to bulldoze their way to the bottom, through deep, thick grass, around or deep up into mangroves and around shoots, through oyster bars or pretty much anything where they can sever your connection. Even if you have a red out in the open away from any snags or structure, they will make several hard runs – they’re built for brute strength.
Reds will eat the aforementioned live and dead baits on hooks with split shots or jigheads, fished live or dead as well as hard and soft lures, but on fly they are a different game. If you enjoyed fighting a red on a spinning rod, you’ll love the fight they can put up on a flyrod. While challenging to hook on a fly, it is certainly not impossible. A good cast with either a crustacean or baitfish pattern fly with dumbell eyes, or even a spoon style fly will work.
Just like other drum species, these fish are very good to eat and can be prepared in a number of different ways such as grilling, frying or blackening. Despite their food quality, they are another important species to the Florida Keys ecosystem, additionally, given their status as a gamefish and prized for their beauty and fight, we practice catch and release for redfish.
Reds feed on the bottom, often in shallow water. As they feed many times you will see their tails sticking out of the water, this is called “tailing”. Seeing a tailing redfish is one of the most captivating scenes for any angler. Whether they’re tailing or your pitch a bait deep under a mangrove overhang, these fish demand respect and will put you to the test.