Once you’ve hooked on to a big redfish you’ll never be the same. Every time you’re trolling the backwaters of some brackish lagoon you’ll be forever searching for the ripple of rushing baitfish or the telltale spotted tail indicative of a red drum is searching for prey. There are a number of methods you can use when fishing for Reds; you can drop live bait in likely spots when the tide is right or sight fish with artificial worms or flies. Regardless of your approach, when you have a really big red on the line you’re in for a tremendous fight with lots of bulldog runs that will test your arms and your concentration. Additionally, red drum is one of the most delicious fish you can catch. Blackened, baked, or grilled, reds make for excellent table fare.
Whether you plan a trip to target these fish specifically or spend a few days on the water as an add-on to a family trip you’ll love chasing these elusive gamefish. But where should you concentrate your efforts? Here are six great redfish destinations where the action is red-hot.
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Hilton Head Harbor/Fripp Island, South Carolina:
Fishing for big reds is a Lowcountry tradition, and the waters around Hilton Head are a great place to add to your fishing itinerary. You’ll want to concentrate on finding the flats where reds congregate at low tide, usually oyster beds that allow the fish access to grass beds where they will feed at high tide. Areas where you find low tide flats and high tide grass in close proximity are likely to hold lots of reds.
Outer Banks, North Carolina:
The Outer Banks is home to some really huge reds and the area consistently produces record-class fish. Most tourists flock here to check out the regions beautiful shorelines, but the Outer Banks region is also home to plenty of shallow channels and lagoons where inshore fishing opportunities abound. In fact, these rich waters are a great place to catch your Inshore Slam — flounder, black drum, speckled trout, and red drum — all in a single day.
Mosquito Lagoon/Indian River, Florida:
Mosquito Lagoon is located near Titusville, Florida and it is one of the absolute best redfish destinations in the country. The big draw to this area is that you can find reds on the grassy flats year-round, and while tactics and locations may change throughout the year there’s a good chance that regardless of the season you’ll have luck catching red drum here. The protected, clear waters of the lagoon are also a great place to do some sight fishing, and if you are interested in catching a big red on a fly this spot is a great option because you’ll be able to see the fish tailing and moving in the clear, shallow, protected waters. If your family is planning to vacation in Daytona, Ponce Inlet, or even Orlando it’s worth taking at least one day to try catching some reds in the lagoon.
Mobile Bay, Alabama:
I have a special place in my heart for Mobile Bay because it’s where I caught my first redfish. And the bay doesn’t get enough credit as a great redfish destination. The backwaters here are teeming with fish and there are plenty of secluded waterways with ideal redfish habitat. You’ll catch fish around docks as well as in shallower water that’s tucked away from inclement weather. Also, concentrate on the rivers that surround the bay — Dog River, Fowl River, and the aptly named Fish River. The prime time to fish here is the spring, and since the abundant shrimp in the bay are a primary food source for reds they also make great bait. Mobile Bay is very large — 31 miles long and 24 miles wide — so you’ll have plenty of room to cast a line.
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Matagorda Island, Texas:
Matagorda is a 23-mile-long barrier island not far from Corpus Christi, Texas. Though it may not be traditionally thought of as a redfish destination the island is home to some whopper reds, and with so many little cutouts, flats, and grassy tidal feeding grounds it’s a great place to find a big red. I’ve only fished here with live bait, but a bobber and shrimp allowed me to catch my limit of legal reds for a few days in a row. If you’re a hunter this area is ideal for a cast-and-blast hunt since millions of waterfowl migrate through this area in the fall and winter. You can limit out on ducks in the morning and reds in the afternoon while escaping the winter cold farther north.
Venice, Louisiana is ground zero for red fishing in America, and one look at a map should quickly explain why this area is so fantastic. It’s right at the end of the Mississippi Delta, so there’s an abundance of aquatic life to support game fish. Additionally, the zigzagging marshes, streams, and estuaries in south Louisiana are the ideal habitat for redfish. And boy, do they grow some bulls here. Will you catch a 40-incher? That’s hard to say, but your odds are as good in Venice as just about anywhere else. You can catch reds here year-round, but September and October are the prime times.
If you haven’t experienced a red stripping line off your reel just be warned it’s been known to cause a chemical reaction in your brain that starts a life long addiction — don’t say I didn’t warn you.