Bull Reds: Running of the Bulls
Catching Bull Reds In The Fall
From late September to December marks one of the most incredible migrations of inshore fish in the south.
The Red Drum, redfish, or bull reds move into inlets to spawn from the capes of North Carolina to the Texas Coast. One of the early signs of their movement is the appearance of the monarch butterfly that seems to time their migration with the Redfish.
Areas To Target For Bull Reds:
The sun was already up when we set out towards Sapelo Sound off the coastal waters of Georgia trying to get out there before the tide slowed. These massive redfish are near structure and in holes moving out to feed during the lunar feeding times that go hand in hand with the changing of the tides. We were running 40 mph feet from the saw grass. The crisp fall air in our faces, as the sound was littered with orange butterflies making their way to Mexico.
Bait and Rig To Catch Bull Reds:
We had a dozen live blue crabs, and a few live mullet. A complete setup is using a 3-way swivel and 16 oz. of fishing line lead with a 16/0 circle hook. Heavy lead is used to keep the bait on the bottom where they feed, but the 3-way swivel keeps the bait slightly off the bottom to allow a scent trail and also to make it easier for the fish to find.
Rods and Reels To Land Bull Reds:
We had 4 BLACKFIN RODS with Penn speed jigging reels rigged with 60 lb VICIOUS BRAID with a 50 lb mono leader. The captain informed us that we were not after small fish today. That was very obvious by setup we had our gear rigged. We were after the BULL REDS.
As we approached the inlet the tide was just slacking off, we zig-zagged the boat across the edge of the channel from 20- 50 feet. Then the captain found them; the fish finder was lit up with arches hovering around a small bit of structure on the edge of the channel. The anchor was set in 20 feet of water allowing the boat to sit right on the side of the channel so our baits would be down near the structure and edge of the channel. You could see the fish cruising along on the depth finder.
Every fall around the same time the Bull Reds come into spawn. This is a trophy anglers dream to be able to catch such an old fish. The Reds travel in from offshore and meet up to spawn. It is not uncommon to see large schools of fish pushing bait in the inlet or sound at this time. Any angler can go out and catch up to 10 large redfish a day. It is excellent for the family due to being such easy fishing.
Bull Reds Fishing Strategy:
Before we could get the rods out the captain started breaking blue crabs and throwing them in the water.
“Why are you throwing our bait out?” I asked.
“Chumming” was his answer. The Redfish are very sensitive fish to smell and will follow the scent trail hundreds of yards to a bait. When rigging the crabs, pull off the claws and legs, then broke off the points for scent. The mullet was cut into half fish sections. This allowed for a scent trail to the bait. The circle hook was placed into the leg joint of the crab. The lines were then dropped/ cast right onto the edge of the channel.
Five minutes passed, out of the corner of my eye I see a rod tip bounce, as I go to pick it up the captain says not to touch the rod, “let him crush it.” Reds have a large tooth in the back of their throat they use to crunch blue crab shells. 20 seconds pass, 20 seconds, then a slow pull, “She’s on.”
With the drag was tightened, the circle hook was allowed to work into its mouth of the redfish. When using circle hooks, it is critical not to set the hook. The hooked redfish started taking the drag and creating huge pulls which caused thrashing of its head. As I grabbed the rod, I realized the power of this fish. It was very similar to fighting a grouper. After an intense 4-minute fight I see the fish. A large redfish almost 4 feet long weighing nearly 30 pounds surfaced next to the boat. The circle hook was right in his top lip.
In 2 hours we landed seven fish the largest being 45 inches long!
I knew I was going to be sore the next day. These massive fish put up an incredible fight. I feel blessed to be able to go out and catch these old breeder fish. Without conservation and protection, these large breeder redfish would be rare and difficult to catch. However, in most inlets in any southern state, these beautiful fish can be caught.
Take your large rods and reels, your redfish hook set up and a few blue crabs and see if you can catch one. This is a great substitute for arm day in the gym. Great way to pass an afternoon and enjoy a few beers with friends! Email us your best redfish pictures to be featured on all social media. Please comment below or email us any questions you may have to Info@HFDepot.com. Get out there and try your luck at catching bull reds this fall.