Alabama Anglers Can Depend on the Redfish Bite

Big RedInshore anglers in Alabama have experienced an unusually spotty speckled trout bite this summer. Fortunately, one species has become a beacon of consistency during the summer heat – the drag-stripping, test-your-tackle redfish, especially those that reach the bull designation.

Alabama is blessed with an excellent population of redfish, technically a red drum but most often called redfish. Because of Alabama’s fertile estuaries and bays, redfish are everywhere. And they’re biting.

Alabama’s saltwater fishing regulations set a slot limit on redfish of 16 to 26 inches with a daily bag limit of three fish. Anglers can keep one fish longer than 26 inches per day to allow for a potential state record fish. However, those larger reds, called bulls, are not good table fare.

If slot reds are your targets, the inshore reefs from Fort Morgan to Perdido Bay will offer many opportunities as well as the Intracoastal Waterway. Minnow and shrimp imitation baits will often work, but it’s best to take some live bait along just in case the fish get a little finicky. Live shrimp, croakers, pinfish and pogies (menhaden) are your best bets. Redfish have mouths that are built for feeding on the bottom. Therefore, fish on the bottom if practical. If you’re constantly getting snagged, fish the bait under a popping cork.

Should you want to tackle the famous bull reds on Dixey Bar, it’s best to change tactics and tackle to suit the battle that will ensue when you hook one of those fish.

Dixey (not Dixie) Bar, situated within yards of the Alabama coastline at Fort Morgan, is a shallow sand bar on the east side of the Mobile Bay ship channel just off Fort Morgan. The bar is named after the clipper ship Robert H. Dixey, which disintegrated on the bar during a hurricane in 1860.

With a depth that varies from 5 to 10 feet, Dixey Bar is a perfect ambush spot for the redfish in the area. On the west side of the bar is the Mobile ship channel and its deeper water. On the east side is the Gulf of Mexico. Dixey Bar is about 3 miles long, but the width varies from about 2 miles wide near Fort Morgan to on a couple of hundred yards wide as it fades into the Gulf on the south end.

The wave action on Dixey Bar constantly roils the sand bottom, revealing food sources for the many baitfish that inhabit Alabama coastal waters. When the baitfish are in sufficient numbers, the bull reds invade the bar and embark on a feeding frenzy that includes basically anything that moves, from blue crabs to finger mullet.

When you take on bull reds, it’s best to beef up your tackle at least a little. Some people break out the big rigs, but that takes the fun out of it. I like to use a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with a reel capable of holding at least a couple hundred yards of 14- to 15-pound test monofilament or 20-pound braided line. And don’t forget to check your drag before you start fishing. With that tackle, you will have some control of the fish, but you won’t be able to horse him to the boat. You’ll have to tire him out a little before you can bring him alongside the boat.

Determine the tide and current movement to get the best angle for a slow drift down the bar with baits dragging along in Carolina-rig style with a Kahle hook, either a No. 4 or No. 2 size. A half-ounce egg sinker is pegged a couple of feet up the line, either with a split shot or a swivel.

It won’t take long for the frenetic action to start if the bulls are feeding on the bar. Expect several drag-stripping runs from the fish after they feel the hook.

If you prefer artificial baits, regular lead-heads with grubs, gold spoons, stick baits or lipless crankbaits, like Rat-L-Traps, will work just fine. At times, they will smash topwater lures, like Zara Spooks and Skitter Walks.

Bull reds offer a fantastic fight and are very hardy fish with a phenomenal survival rate after they have been caught and released. So, just shoot a couple of photos and slip the big red back into the water to fight another day.

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David Rainer (97 Posts)

David Rainer has written about the great outdoors on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. For 14 of those years, he covered the many fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast as outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register. He is past president of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and currently serves on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Outreach and Education Advisory Panel and the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation board.


About David Rainer

David Rainer has written about the great outdoors on the Alabama Gulf Coast for more than 20 years. For 14 of those years, he covered the many fishing opportunities on the Gulf Coast as outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register. He is past president of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association and currently serves on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council's Outreach and Education Advisory Panel and the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation board.

6 thoughts on “Alabama Anglers Can Depend on the Redfish Bite

  1. Mary Anderson (Andy)

    David,
    My husband and family/friends are coming down the end of August for vacation. We are renting a house on between Fort Morgan and the Gulf Shores on the Mobile bay side..
    Any insight on what may be running then and best tackle to bring?
    Appreciate any reply.
    Thanks!
    Andy

    Reply
    1. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

      Mary, speckled trout, red fish and flounders are all good fish to catch this time of year on the bay. Use cut bait like croaker under a popping cork for specks. Experts recommend giving specks time to take the bait before setting the hook. For red fish, try minnows on a shad head jig and troll them along slowly. You can try a plastic rig, too. Try fishing when the tide is going out. For flounder, fish around pilings or in tidal currents. Use live bait like minnows with light tackle and a tight line. Or bounce a plastic grub on a jig head along the bottom to invite a strike. Keep in mind that flounder will take the bait but lay on the bottom. You may think you’ve snagged a stump, but you’ll feel when the fish starts swimming. That’s when you set the hook. Good luck!

      Reply
    1. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

      Fall is a great time of year for fishing at Gulf State Park Pier. In the deeper water at the end of the pier, you can catch Spanish and King mackerel and bull redfish. In shallow water near the shore, anglers hook pompano, whiting, flounder and speckled trout.

      Reply
  2. John Allen

    My son and his family/friends are coming down to the beach near Ft. Morgan Oct. 10, 2018 and want to go fishing. They want to catch fish, any kind of fish. What’s our best bet. I have a 20″ bay boat.

    Reply
    1. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

      John, thanks for the question. Inshore fishing is a great family adventure. The smoother water on the Mobile Bay side of Fort Morgan provides a lot of variety of fish just waiting to be caught. This time of year, redfish can be found at Dixey Bar in Mobile Bay off Fort Morgan. Speckled trout start moving, too, and can be found around piers and pilings. If you head into deeper waters of the Gulf, look for bull redfish, and King and Spanish mackerel. Check with a local bait shop on what they’re biting. Hope that helps. Good luck with the fishing!

      Reply

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