As the mercury drops many of you may be packing the fishing gear away until the dog days of summer return, but not me. This time of year can offer great fishing for both the inshore and offshore angler alike.
Offshore you’ll find king and Spanish mackerel as well as gag and red grouper cooperating. Inshore sheepshead will be on any barnacle covered dock or bridge piling, snook will be in the creeks and backwaters seeking warmth. Finally, red drum AKA redfish will be readily available in the bay.
Red drum also called redfish are on of Florida’s most popular gamefish, and my personal favorite. Redfish are hard fighters, take a variety of baits, are cold tolerant, considered to be very good eating, can be found in a variety of environments and in my opinion are one of the most beautiful fish in all of Florida’s waters. In my opinion redfish are the perfect cold weather fish because of their propensity to be found on oyster bars.
Red Drum Habitat
Oyster bars and shoals hold small fish, crabs and shrimp that redfish feed on, but oyster bars are more than just redfish buffets. Oysters absorb and hold heat better than the surrounding grass or sand bottom, this makes them a magnet for redfish when the temperature drops.
This redfish was caught on an oyster bar in Tampa Bay last year; the air temperature was 62 degrees.
Photo by William Korte Sr.
The trademark of redfish is one or more black spots on the tail and/or body. Their tails will also usually have some blue in them depending on how heavily comprised of shrimp their diet is. The body of a redfish is golden bronze to orange but in some cases can be almost white. Redfish have mouths that point downward which forces them to root around on the bottom for food, because of this behavior their tails stick out of the water and is referred to as tailing.
A cast right to this tailer resulted in an instant hook up.
Photo taken by William Korte
Perfect example of a redfish tail with blue and a black spot.
Photo taken by William Ward
Red (drum) Tactics
Redfish are active all year round but to target them in the winter there are certain procedures that work better than others. There are many ways to target these fish but I will share with you my personal favorite way to do it in the winter. Anchor your boat or kayak on the oyster bar and either under a bobber or free lined on the bottom try a live shrimp or a piece of cut pinfish or ladyfish. Redfish are primarily olfactory hunters and the smell of the cut bait will readily bring them in. Shrimp are a primary source of food for redfish all year round and will readily be taken in the winter. In my opinion this recipe can’t be beat for winter time reds, but there are certainly many other methods to target them that would also produce fish.
This redfish engulfed a live shrimp
Photo taken by Nathan Hitt
This redfish met a hot grill that night for dinner.
Photo taken by William Korte Sr.
This Tampa Bay redfish fell for an artificial lure. Reds will take an assortment of artificials.
Photo by Aaron Myers
Don’t pack away for winter, do what I do. Get out to an oyster bar, grab some shrimp from a local bay area bait shop and go after redfish.
Until next time, Tight Lines