How to Catch Redfish
Tackle & Best Bait for Redfish
Whether for sport or table fare, it’s without a doubt that the redfish is one of the most sought-after species in the southeast. Here’s a brief overview of how and when to catch this fantastic fish.
Fortunately for us, redfish are available year-round, particularly in Florida where they can tolerate the mild changes in water temperatures. Perhaps the most infamous season for catching redfish is in the fall, where large fish aggregate to spawn. They will also be around for all other seasons, moving with the tides and by the day searching for food or preferred water temperatures.
Redfish are primarily inshore species, spending the majority of their time in the estuaries, bays, and saltwater lagoons of our coasts, but are also common along the beaches and even offshore in some locations. Their locality within those sites will vary depending on the season and time of day. In general, the fish will spend the winter, spring and summer within the estuaries, and leaving for the inlets, or in some areas offshore, where they will spawn in the fall. There are some areas – for example the Indian River Lagoon – where redfish spend their entire life cycle within the lagoon system, even spawning inside the deep channels rather than the inlets or offshore.
A good place to start looking for reds year round is directly in and around mullet schools. Whenever you see mullet jumping erratically in and out of the water, they’re kicking up food that redfish would normally have to root around for. This makes finding forage much easier for the redfish, so Redfish always tend to be on the back-ends of the mullet schools.
There are two basic levels of fishing for redfish: fishing for redfish and fishing for “bull” redfish. A bull redfish is somewhat of an arbitrary definition, but it is basically anything over 30 inches, which requires a bit heavier tackle.
Anywhere between 6-to-14 pound test line, paired with a 20-pound leader will hold for average redfish, where a 20-to-30 pound line, paired with a 40-pound leader may be desired for the bulls.
- Spinning Tackle for Redfish
Spinning reels are easy to use, and can be essentially used in all situations – top-water lures, deepwater jigs, or live baiting. A spinning reel is also good for casting for under docks, mangroves, and other structures where redfish often can be found.
- Baitcasting Tackle for Redfish
When extra leverage is needed for pulling big fish out from structures such as docks, pilings, or thick mangroves, a bait-casting setup may be desired. Bait-casting reels give you more power when reeling in those big fish. As for casting, bait-casting reels give a more accurate cast, as well as a farther one.
A top choice for shallow water redfish, a fly rod is great for catching tailing fish in the flats. Use a heavier rod such as an 8-to-10 pound weight so that you can use heavier fluorocarbon sinking lines and leaders to get the flies down to the fish.
Redfish primarily feed on crabs during the first few years of life, and after which switch to a more varied diet of crabs, fish and shrimp. Therefore, there are many baits to choose from when targeting redfish. If purchasing from a bait shop, live shrimp are almost always available, while other baits such as mullet, pinfish, ladyfish, sardines, small blue crabs, or fiddler crabs may have to be found on the water.
TOF Pro Staff Tip: One of our favorite live baits for catching Redfish is live shrimp. Especially while they are actively “tailing” or rooting around for food. If you don’t have any terminal tackle and can get within casting range without spooking them, you will get a hookup.
Some of the most consistently caught redfish are done so on artificial lures. Several lures are effective, and each has their strengths. A weighted shrimp or fish-mimicking jig and spoons are effective in both shallow and deep waters, whereas a top-water plug is only effective in shallow waters.
TOF Pro Staff Tip: One of our favorite artificial baits for catching Redfish are Gulp! because they smell. Redfish use their nose to root around on the bottom to look for food. Gulp! are probably the #1 bait for redfish in the whole state of Florida. Gold spoons are also a very popular and effective artificial bait for redfish.
Our popular Ask a Captain, with locally renowned Captain David Rieumont, is a one-stop resource for all your Florida fishing needs. Included are some question and answer features from fishermen on how to catch more redfish.
- What are the best lures for snook and redfish?
- Can you give me some ideas as to where to fish in the Matlacha area for redfish?
- How would I catch snook, redfish or bass in brackish water?
- I keep missing the redfish at Mosquito Lagoon. Do you have good coordinates?
- How do you sight-fish for redfish?
- Do you know where and how I can catch Redfish, Trout and Greenback using a kayak?