We have all heard the definition of insanity as - “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.
This is, unfortunately, what many anglers do when targeting reds. Perhaps there was “this one time” when you “absolutely killed ‘em” at such and such a spot. Or maybe they are “always in this pond”, or “I only use this bait for redfish”, or “you can only catch redfish in the summer”, or “I can’t go after reds because there’s no live bait at the marina”, and on, and on, and on.
I am surprised at the number of anglers that target redfish that are not aware of the life cycle and habits of the species – Sciaenops ocellatus. Redfish are known by several names with red drum being the most common. However, although redfish are related to the other “drums”, they are unique in that they are the only species in their genus.
Redfish spend the first 3-4 years of their lives in the marsh and, after they reach sexual maturity, gravitate to the nearshore waters between late August and October to spawn. The larvae are carried back into the marsh areas by tidal currents where they spend the first year in calm and shallow waters. A one year old will be about 12-14 inches and weigh in at about a pound. Sexual maturity is reached at about 4 years of age and most breeding reds are 26 inches and over. While redfish continue to grow throughout their entire lives, after they reach 36 inches in length they tend to add more girth than length.
One of the key characteristics of redfish is that they don’t travel far from the area of their birth except during the spawning migration. But they do move around based on food supply and water quality – not clarity! Contrary to popular belief, redfish are not “always” in clear water nor do they avoid murky waters. It is the fishermen who prefer clear water so they can see what is going on. Passing up stained, muddy, or fast-moving waters is passing up many opportunities to catch quality reds. You just have to go about it a little differently.
Redfish are voracious eaters and will attack just about anything that remotely resembles food. Of course, live bait and dead bait are extremely effective but artificial baits of an endless variety are very effective as well. It seems that “real bait” anglers have a hard time making the move over to artificials and that is unfortunate because knowing how to use artificial baits opens up an entirely new and exciting way to catch reds.
Another area I find that many anglers fail to grow their skill is in their angling education. Learning about the waters you are fishing - what’s going on under the surface - and how to best fish those waters is equally as important as learning to navigate those waters in your boat.
One of the things I do when I have some time on the water is to spend at least part of that time (sometimes the whole day) searching different areas and different types of habitat and then just observing what is going on.
You can learn a great deal about the general habitat and health of the area you are fishing by noting what animals you see, watching what the various wildlife is doing, and figuring out why they are doing it. Put the rods down for an hour or two and just watch and learn. Then when you see them, let those reds swim on by without submitting to the urge to cast. See where they go, what they do, and try to figure out why they are doing it. It won’t be long before you are able to read the signs of the water just like driving down the road. And, your fishing success will be your reward.