Fish the Shallows at High Tide for Redfish Success
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
The abundant redfish in Alabama’s coastal waters have moved to their usual late spring haunts and are ready to test your tackle any time there is tide movement.
Tide movement is one of the most critical components in searching for redfish.
Seldom are redfish actively feeding during neap tides or during the slack tide when going from high to low tides and vice versa. However, if there is tide movement, head for the usual spots to enjoy one of the best fighting fish in Alabama waters.
As the high tide floods shallow areas along the coast, redfish will often cruise the shallows in search of crabs, shrimp and bait fish. As the tide starts to fall, the reds will drop back to ambush points to catch the shellfish and bait fish retreating from the shallows.
As I’ve said in the past, fishing for reds is a lot like bass fishing. The reds tend to relate to structure, whether it’s a piling, dock, pier, shell bed or rock jetty. That’s not to say there aren’t redfish just cruising around. There have been many fishing excursions on a speckled trout bite when one or two of the anglers hook up with something that is definitely not a trout. If the anglers are lucky and the drags on their reels are in good shape, a nice 20- to 26-inch redfish may be netted beside the boat.
Most likely, however, you’ll find redfish hanging around structure to ambush whatever swims within striking distance.
If you’re targeting redfish, I wouldn’t use anything smaller than 14- to 15-pound test monofilament line. Some anglers prefer braided line, and that’s fine with a 12- to 18-inch monofilament or fluorocarbon leader of 20- to 25-pound strength. On the initial runs after being hooked, redfish are strong and you may not be able to turn them, which means possible contact with the structure and the razor-sharp barnacles that are attached.
My favorite redfish lure is the gold spoon. I prefer a Johnson Silver Minnow in gold color, either ¼-ounce or ½-ounce, depending on wind conditions. The erratic motion of the spoon that mimics an injured baitfish is irresistible to reds. I also use a spinnerbait designed for redfish. The spinnerbait has a single blade with tough steel wire for the frame. A ¼-ounce jighead with minnow imitation body completes the rig. If you’re a bass fisherman on vacation at the beach, don’t bring the spinnerbaits you use for bass because the redfish will render them unusable after one fish.
The mouth position of a redfish it is best suited for bottom feeding, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hit baits higher in the water column. If you’re fortunate enough to encounter a school of redfish, toss a topwater lure in the middle and let the fun begin.
Alabama has enjoyed a great resurgence in the redfish population in recent years, and the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) is working to ensure it stays that way. At the MRD’s Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores, a redfish breeding program is producing fingerlings that are being released into Alabama’s coastal estuaries. The most recent stocking occurred at Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores when more than 6,000 redfish fingerlings were released. More stockings are planned for other coastal areas this month.
Alabama has a three-fish bag limit and a slot limit for redfish. The slot limit allows anglers to keep fish between 16 and 26 inches. One redfish larger than 26 inches is allowed per angler per day because of a possible state record fish. Bull reds, those redfish larger than 26 inches, are best for photo ops and not for the dinner table. The good thing about reds is they are a hardy species, and you can take several photos before you release the fish back into the water.
My family’s favorite way to eat redfish is grilled. I take those 18- to 20-inch reds and filet each side without removing the skin and scales. Get the grill nice and hot while you take your favorite seasoning, Cavender’s Greek or Tony Chachere’s for us, and sprinkle generously on the meat side. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and place the filets scale side down on the hot grill and never flip them. When the meat flakes with a fork, it’s time to ring the dinner bell.