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Georgia's Year-Round Redfish

Catch them with these tips

By

Walter Bennett's Redfish

Walter Bennett's Redfish

Photo by Ron Brooks
Redfish, red drum, puppy drum, red bass, channel bass, or spottail bass, whatever you call them, these coastal marauders spell plenty of great year round fishing for the Georgia angler savvy enough to follow their habits.

Spottails are members of the drum family, a family name that comes from the drumming sounds they make with their air bladders. Many people don’t know that the spotted seatrout is also a member of this family.

Red drum can be found along the entire Georgia coast, from the St. Mary’s River to the Savannah River and everywhere in between. But exactly where along the coast they will be and how you fish for them is dependent on what time of year you fish. Reds follow a definite cycle during breeding, brooding and growing.

Knowledge of this life cycle coupled with a like knowledge of the Georgia coastal geography can help you catch fish all year long.

The entire coast of Georgia is comprised of salt marshes divided by hundreds of small creeks, rivers, shallow mud flats, and oyster bars. Protecting these marshes are the barrier islands. Often as high as thirty feet above sea level, these barrier islands were created by thousands of years of sand-pounding surf building up the beaches. Jekyll, St. Simons, Sapelo and the many other barrier islands offer this marsh protection.

To understand the life cycle of this fish, you must understand that red drum don’t reach sexual maturity until they are at least five years old. They will be from twenty-seven to thirty inches in length and weigh over fifteen pounds at this stage in their life.

Many people think that the red drum needs brackish or freshwater in which to breed. While they do need this backwater, it is not for breeding, but for brooding.

From July through September, large fish migrate offshore out of the cuts and inlets to breed. Large females may spawn several times during these months, broadcasting several million eggs into the water for the accompanying males to fertilize. Huge schools of drum have been sighted offshore just under the water surface by surveillance aircraft during these breeding periods. This large-schooling habit during the breeding season, and relative ease of detection have made them easy targets for commercial net boats in the past, causing devastation to future populations.

Life begins for a red drum well off the coast where the eggs hatch from August through October. The hatchings begin to grow immediately, and larval stages of the fish can be found in and around the beaches near cuts through the barrier islands.

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