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Huge Red Drum in Coastal Inlets - Catching Big Redfish

Anchor on a Channel Edge and Wait for the Bite

By

Photo © Ron Brooks

Huge redfish like this one are in the ocean inlets in the fall.

Photo © Ron Brooks
Up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, huge red drum (redfish) can be caught in the fall by just about anyone willing to soak a bait on the bottom and wait. These bruisers congregate in the channels in the fall months, and light tackle is definitely NOT the way to go to catch one.

Big, Big Redfish

These redfish or red drum are called channel bass for a reason. They like hanging on the edges of the deeper channels in the inlets to the ocean this time of year. These are not your run-of-the-mill reds that everyone catches all year long. These are the big brood or breeder reds that can reach weights of up to 80 or 90 pounds. The world record was caught in Hatteras, NC and come to the scales weighing 94 pounds 2 ounces. That is some kind of big redfish!

Where to Fish

Inlets to the ocean from Florida to Virginia are teaming with big redfish in the fall months. Check your local fishing reports, but plan to fish the inlet or just inside the inlet. Look for the edge of the channel and look particularly for any eddy current that may have formed along that edge. While these fish like current, they also like to have a point of ambush they can sort of hide behind to attack a baitfish or crab as it goes by. These eddy currents on the surface indicate that some type of structure change is on the bottom under the eddy. This is where you want to put a bait down.

Tackle

I would not advise fishing for these monsters without a heavy boat rod and reel with at least 30 pound test line. They can be caught on lighter tackle, but you need to know a couple of things about catching them on the lighter tackle. First, of all you will be fighting a big fish for a long time. If you don’t have an anchor marker to leave and follow the fish, it will likely spool your reel. That leaves a fish in the water with a couple hundred yards of fishing line attached to him. Second, these fish will literally fight until they die if you don’t get them to the boat in short order. While fighting a fish is fun, allowing it to die after a long fight is not something you want to do. My advice is to stick with the heavier tackle. Trust me, you will get all the fight you ever want, even on heavier tackle.

You will be fishing in relatively deep water with a fairly strong current. You need weights (sinkers) anywhere from 8 to 16 ounces to keep a bait on the bottom. An 80 pound test monofilament leader about five feet long should be attached to a 9/0 circle hook. Always use a circle hook when fishing for these fish to avoid a swallowed bait and a gut hooked fish.

Bait

This is a relatively easy decision. Any bait will work for these fish as long as it is a crab. That’s a joke, but blue crabs are the run away favorite bait for big reds. Live medium sized finger mullet will work, but a half crab on that circle hook sitting on the bottom is hard to beat.

Technique

There is no real secret to this kind of fishing. Anchor up, drop a bait to the bottom along the edge of the inlet channel, and wait. While this can be long periods of boredom punctuated by one or two exciting fights, it can also be a fish on as soon as you can get a bait to the bottom. Sit back, let the fish take you bait and begin reeling. The circle hook will do its job and the fish will be hooked in the side of the mouth every time.

WARNING

Be advised and remember what I said earlier about these fish fighting to the death. Every single fish you catch like this is oversize and illegal to keep. By law, they must be released unharmed and released immediately. A picture is OK, but you need to get them back in the water.

Take your time and revive the fish before you release it. Use both hands and hold the fish upright in the water – one hand under its belly and one hand holding its tail. Move the fish back and forth in the water to get water moving through its gills. This may take as long as five minutes to get the fish able to swim off. You will know when that happens, because he will kick his tail, breaking your hold and swim away form the boat. If you don’t do this and simply toss the fish back in the water, he cannot on his own get enough water moving over his gills to get the needed oxygen into his system. The odds are heavily against his survival. Please be kind to our renewable resource!

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