Scientific Name: Sciaenops ocellatus
Redfish Names Anglers Frequently Use: Red Drum, Puppy Drum, Big Spot, Spot Tail Bass, Channel Bass, or Red
The first thing you have to know when fishing for redfish is what exactly they look like. They are one of the most common types of inshore fish species. They have several distinct features that make them recognizable to everyone. The most common feature on a redfish is their spot. This dark spot at the base of their tail is a distinctive mark for redfish. Redfish can have multiple black spots on both sides of their body. A redfish that has this can be referred to as a leopard red. Occasionally you will catch one without spots. This always raised the question, "Why do redfish have spots?". It has always been speculated these spots have evolved as a form of camouflage. The concept behind this is predators, target eyes. They would see the spots as eyes and target them on the tail before the head of the red.
Another feature unique to the redfish is color. Redfish will differ in color according to the water they are in. Brackish water will have darker colors then offshore reds. No matter what all reds have a copper-bronze color that fades into a white belly. You may hear them referred to as pumpkin reds certain times of the year. It's this color pattern that makes redfish known to most anglers.
A few other things that will help you identify them is when you catch one look in their mouth. In the back, you will see these yellow/orange looking teeth. These are crushers for opening oyster shells and other shellfish. DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGERS IN THE BACK OF A REDFISH MOUTH! I promise it will not feel good. Like the sister species of black drum, the red drum does not have barbels on their lower jaws. These are the whisker looking sensory organs often found on the chin of most drum species.
Redfish can reach a maximum size of 61 inches. More commonly you will find them in the 12" to 24" range. This is also known as the slot size that most states will allow anglers to keep redfish for eating. As redfish age, they tend to become larger round then in length. To put in perspective how massive these fish get, the Florida state record is 52 lb 5oz caught back in 1996.
Redfish can be found both inshore and offshore. The most common area anglers will target them is while inshore fishing. They are found in all southern coastal waters from Virginia to Texas. In warmer areas, you can catch redfish all year. Red's tend to target areas of grass, mud banks, oyster bars, seagrass, and rocks. All of these areas hold bait and the food that reds feed on.
Redfish live on a diet made up of baitfish and crustaceans. The favorite food of a red drum is mullet, blue crab, shrimp, and menhaden shad. The best rule when redfish fishing is locating the bait to find the reds. Baitfish move with the tides so does the red drum. Red drum will often invade the flood tides in search of crabs and shrimp. Large fish can be found in shallow water trying to feed. This is known as "tailing" because the redfish tail can often be seen outside of the water. This allows anglers to sight fish for reds.
Redfish spawn from August through December. When spawning a female red will produce millions of eggs. Large schools of redfish will venture inshore to spawn near passes and inlets. Part of the spawning process is the wonderful noise they make in the water. They use a muscle that rubs against their air bladder which produces a "drumming" noise. It is this noise that gives redfish its name.