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Red Drum / Redfish Fishing Red Drum / Redfish – (Sciaenops ocellatus), also known as: Channel Bass, Puppy Drum, Redfish, Spot-tail Bass. Found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico.
The red drum has a reddish-bronze body and a silvery-gray to white belly. Adults have: One or more large black spots at about the size of the eye on either side of the caudal peduncle, just before the tail fin, A squared tail fin, Scales with a dark center, forming poorly-defined lines, No chin barbells, Usually grow to about 20 to 30 inches, but can be as long as 5 feet and weigh as much as 90 pounds, Can live up to 35 years. Some scientists believe the purpose of the spot(s) on the red drum's tail is to mimic an eye. This fools predators into attacking the wrong end of the fish, giving the red drum a chance to escape. The red drum able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating its swim bladder using special muscles.
Red drums prefer shallow waters (1-4 feet deep) along the edges of bays with submerged vegetation such as seagrasses. They are found over all bottom types but they seem to prefer areas with submerged vegetation and soft mud. These fish are also commonly found around oyster reefs. Breaks in continuity of shorelines such as coves, points, jetties, old pier pilings, and guts attract them. They prefer soft mud along jetties, pier pilings and jetties. They are often found in water so shallow that their backs are exposed while swimming. During cold spells large numbers of red drum can be found in tidal creeks and rivers. They can live in fresh water and have been found many miles upriver. The red drum is a schooling species that occurs inshore over sandy or muddy bottoms. It inhabits both salt and brackish waters and can tolerated fresh water. It is found in inlets and channels, and smaller specimens may be found in shallow estuaries. Red drums can be found in the Bay from May through November, Schools of red drums are common near the Bay mouth in spring and fall during the coastal population's migrations, Young move up into the middle Bay, as far north as the Patuxent River, Usually found in near shore waters.
It is a strong, hard fighter when hooked. Fishing methods include drifting or still fishing on the bottom, jigging or casting from boats or from shore, and slow trolling. In some areas red drum may be stalked on the flats like bonefish. Baits and lures include crabs, shrimp, clams, jigs, plugs, spoons, strip bait, and streamer flies. The recreational season for catching red drum is open year round. Surf casters along the 35 miles of Maryland’s Atlantic coast catch large red drum in late fall and may occasionally catch legal size fish. The best natural baits are live shrimp, small finger mullet, Atlantic croaker, and small live blue crabs. Live shrimp are fished under a popping cork or "free shrimped" using a small weight and letting the shrimp swim freely. Live fish are best on the bottom using a slip-sinker type rig where the fish can swim freely. The bait fish are hooked through the lips or through the top of the back behind the dorsal fin. Small blue crabs are fished on bottom and are hooked through one of the swimming legs at the rear of the crab.
Stalking the shallow grass flats for red drum is the ultimate challenge for the wade anglers. Artificial baits such as 1/2 and 1/4 ounce shallow-running gold, copper, or silver spoons are favorites. A weedless spoon is used in areas of heavy submerged or floating vegetation. Fish-shaped plugs, both floating and shallow-running, are effective over the grass flats. Shrimplike plastic worms and jigs are good and both are fished under corks or bounced along the bottom. The surf provides excellent red drum fishing. The best artificial baits are the heavier spoons and slow sinking fish shaped plugs. Plastic worms are also effective bounced along the bottom.
Saltwater fly-fishing for red drum is increasing in popularity. Fly-fishers sight-cast small surface popping plugs, baitfish type streamers or shrimp and crab imitation flies to "cruising" or "tailing" red drum. Once hooked, a red drum on fly-fishing tackle is a worthy, exciting adversary. Very large specimens are often call bull reds, although they are usually females. Red drums up to about 10-15 lb. (5-7 kg) are very fine eating. Larger specimens may be coarse, stringy and unpalatable.
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