What's Biting: Alabama Redfish Regulations & Limits
Inshore anglers who really love to go fishing and test their tackle are in for a treat right now on the Alabama Gulf Coast. An invasion of saltwater redfish species (aka red drum) has left anglers in amazement in terms of sheer numbers and the variety of sizes available.
The inshore bays along the Alabama coast are running red with the number of saltwater fish stacked up to feast on the abundance of bait in inshore waters. One veteran angler said he’d never seen that many reds in one place at one time in his decades of fishing Alabama waters.
While fishing, if you find those red schooling and thrashing through a ball of menhaden or mullet, it doesn’t really matter what type of bait you use. I made the mistake one time of throwing a lure with two treble hooks. It took more time to get the fish unhooked than to hook a fish on the next cast.
When you find them schooling, use a bait with a single hook and it’ll be much easier to get the fish unhooked and on to the next cast.
Some anglers love to catch reds on the front beach, and several buddies who fish regularly have found nice saltwater redfish and speckled trout in the same holes along the front beach. Some of those fish have been caught on artificial lures and others have fallen for the best inshore live bait this time of year – 3- to 5-inch croakers.
There was an indication last winter that the redfish population was booming when the rivers along the Alabama coast held numbers of large redfish throughout the cold weather. In years past, you might be lucky to catch a handful of big reds during the cooler months. Last year, the redfish bonanza lasted almost two months longer than usual.
The redfish being caught right now have a wide range of sizes from the legal limit of 16-inch minimum all the way to bull red size of larger than 26 inches. Alabama’s fishing regulations put a slot limit on redfish of 16 to 26 inches with a daily bag limit of three fish. While fishing, anglers can keep one fish longer than 26 inches per day, but a bull redfish is not good table fare. Just shoot photos and toss the beautiful, bronze fish back in.
For those who want the inshore fight of their lives, head out to Dixey Bar, just yards off the Alabama coastline at Fort Morgan.
Dixey Bar, named after an 1860 shipwreck, is a shallow sand bar on the east side of the Mobile Bay ship channel just off Fort Morgan, Alabama. With a depth that varies from 5 to 10 feet, Dixey Bar is a favorite hangout for the redfish in the area. On the west side of the bar is the Mobile ship channel, which has plenty of deeper water. On the east side is the Gulf of Mexico. Dixey Bar is about 3 miles long, but the width varies a great deal, from about 2 miles wide near Fort Morgan to on a couple of hundred yards wide as it melts into the Gulf on the south end.
When redfish are on the prowl, they move up onto the bar, searching for anything edible. When the bull reds are in a feeding frenzy, it really doesn’t matter. If it appears to be something edible, the redfish will hit it.
Although many bull reds have been landed on trout-fishing gear, better not go too light. Monofilament line in the 12- to 14-pound range will do just fine, as long as you don’t try to put too much pressure on the fish and you’ve got the drag set properly.
I’ve found that the fish seem to be in a feeding mood on a falling tide. Start near Fort Morgan, Alabama and begin a slow drift down the bar with a live bait hooked Carolina-rig style with a Kahle hook, either a No. 4 or No. 2 size. When a school is located, switch to whatever bait you prefer. If the bulls are on the bar, it won’t take long before you enjoy numerous drag-stripping runs from these hard-fighting reds.