What's Biting: From Rats to Bulls, Redfish Give Anglers Plenty of Options
When the sweat is pouring off your brow because you’re having trouble finding fish that will consistently bite. Never fear. Redfish are here, and plenty of them.
Once a species that was in dire straits because of overfishing, redfish (red drum for all you purists out there) have made a remarkable comeback from the days when the blackened redfish craze threatened to put the fish on the endangered list.
So many redfish roam Alabama waters that some folks are complaining that the reds are eating all the blue crabs. No research confirms this, but the abundance of redfish certainly has people talking.
Alabama is blessed with fertile estuaries and bays, perfect habitat for reds, and these fish seem to always be hungry.
Anglers put redfish into three categories—rat reds, slot reds and bull reds. Rat reds are those fish that fall under Alabama’s slot limit of 16 to 26 inches and must be immediately returned to the water if hooked. The slot reds are the keepers that are in that 16- to 26-inch category, and those fish are under a three-fish daily bag limit. The bull reds are the fish larger than 26 inches. State regulations allow for one fish larger than 26 inches to be included in the three-fish bag, but I encourage anglers who catch a bull to take a photo and release it.
When you target slot reds, think of structure and shoreline. The inshore reefs from Fort Morgan to Perdido Bay, many of which have been refurbished with new material, offer multiple opportunities to catch those stringer-sized reds. If you’re not having much luck on the reefs, try the Intracoastal Waterway.
I prefer to cast jigs with minnow and shrimp imitation plastic bodies, but I do like to take a little insurance with some sort of live bait. Head to the bait shop and grab some live shrimp or croakers, if available. If you’re good with a cast net, look for pogies (menhaden) flipping on the surface or birds diving into the water. Although reds will sometimes hit topwater baits when conditions are right, most of the time you’ll get more bites when fished on the bottom. If the structure makes it difficult to keep from getting snagged, use a popping cork to keep the bait suspended just above the structure.