Finding and Catching Redfish

If you can find a redfish - you can catch him - the trick is in the finding!

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More than any other species, many anglers request to explain how to find and catch redfish. That’s something that amazes me when I think back over the years. There was a time that we would actually move to another fishing spot if we began catching redfish. No one wanted them – they were trash fish!

Tournament Anglers

But today, reds are the favorite target of most inshore anglers, even to the point of building an entire tournament industry around them. Professional redfish anglers are making a lot of money bringing these fish to the scales.

Let’s see where they are today, and how to find and catch them!

Locate the Fish

The old adage that “fish are where you find them” holds true for redfish. The trick to this adage is knowing where to look! Redfish – like other species – are creatures of habit and their presence or absence can be predicted with a high degree of success.

Channel Breeders

Another name for redfish is channel bass. These fish will be found in channels. Channel edges provide travel routes, and reds will follow the edges of channels. In the spawn period of the fall, reds will be found in inlets and rivers along the deeper channels that are adjacent to a large flat. Huge redfish can be seen in the fall months rolling with each other on the surface along these channel edges as they spawn.

These channel bass are ALL catch and release fish. These are the brood fish and they are making the future generations of redfish.

Inshore Fish

But most of the reds that are sought and caught are the smaller variety – the redfish, puppy drum, red bass, and spot tail bass. These fish are generally caught inshore along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, and there are some specific places you can look to find them.

Fish movement is not random. If you accept that statement, you will know that fish, like other animals, are driven by two main urges – the urge to reproduce and the need to eat. So it stands to reason that if you understand what they eat you will have an advantage. Find the food source and you will usually find the fish.

What do Redfish Eat?

The primary food sources, in the case of redfish, are baitfish – like mullet and menhaden shad, and crustaceans – like small crabs and shrimp. If the area you are fishing is void of these creatures, you’re probably not going to catch not only redfish, but any other fish for that matter! So, locate the bait and you will likely locate the fish. Baitfish are going to move with the tide – in and out. They move into a creek or estuary on an incoming tide and move back out on an outgoing tide. Not every creek or body of water will have baitfish, and there will be seasonal differences in the quantity of baitfish.

If you are on the water a lot, you will know where the baitfish are moving, and you’ll be able to stay with them. But the occasional angler may have a problem determining where to locate the baitfish.

Find the Bait

I like to stop and idle close to the mouth of a creek or estuary. I watch for movement – a school of mullet or glass minnows moving along the bank; a flounder or other fish chasing a school of baitfish. Or, in the summer, I look for shrimp flipping on the surface of a creek. If the shrimp are there, the fish are there as well – bet on it!

Find the Fish

In the creek or estuary, I look for specific places to put my bait. Oyster bars are one of my favorites. They are out of the water at low tide, so I often explore a new creek at low tide to see the lay of the land, so to speak.

Never fish right on an oyster bar – you will only lose your terminal tackle. The redfish move along the edges, looking for small crabs and shrimp. Plan to fish along the edge. Let a bait under a float drift down the edge of the oyster bar. Work a jig back to you along that edge. Basically, fish where the fish will be moving. With redfish, you can be a few feet off their designated path and never get a bite.

My other favorite location is a run-out or small feeder creek. Water coming off grass or mud flats will push baitfish and crabs with it. Redfish will wait at a runoff for a free meal.

Bottom Line

Catching redfish can be simple if you fish smart, and fish where the fish will likely be swimming. These tips can help you be there when the fish are there!