Once upon a time, whenever one would ask a Louisiana saltwater fisherman if the fish were biting, the answer would be about redfish. Many of those really all-year-around fishermen were not really interested in speckled trout. In fact, there was little interest in flounder. Redfish were the prey, and not only in Louisiana but also in our great state. Unlike most of us do now, when these folks were afloat and saw feeding seagulls over speckled trout, the redfish anglers would simply ignore them and keep on doing their thing. If you have ever gone fishing for reds back in the inland lakes, marshes and bays, the appeal is obvious. Redfish are really great battlers, and if they are within the slot size, they are great table fare.
When heading out after primarily redfish, other than the surf bull reds, there are a good number of fishing techniques that have been tried and proven fruitful over the years. Probably the most fun chasing redfish is to look for them in the shallow marsh or along the shorelines of other waterways. The trick is to move around in the shallows as quietly as possible watching for the reds that are moving around feeding. For this, a shallow-draft boat is needed. Sometimes the fish will be feeding in water so shallow that you wonder how they remain covered with water. When you see what appears to be a torpedo making a swell or wake in the shallow water, that is likely feeding redfish.
The reds might also be located by seeing their dorsal and tail fins moving on the surface. I’ve always thought that those exposed fins moving around looked like a butterfly going along and getting a drink. Whenever you see either the torpedo-like movement or the fins, those redfish are likely feeding.
Whether to use lures or natural bait when going shallow is always the angler’s choice. However, our marshes and those over in Louisiana are laden with vegetation. That makes the use of natural or live bait less attractive than lures. There are several lure types that will entice strikes by the golden-side reds. Most of the larger spinner lures or buzz baits will take the marsh reds. By using a larger blade, it is possible to retrieve the lure across the top of the vegetation with little problem. When fishing for redfish, my choice of lure color will be chartreuse with a gold or copper blade. Casting the lure out across the vegetation and retrieving it, making the blade slap the surface water — that’s when the fish will strike. They might strike right up through the grass or when the lure is in an open area. Many times the battlers will merely grab the lure, and you had better be ready. I’ve never caught a redfish, no matter what size, that was not a super fighter.
My very favorite redfish lure in grassy marshes is gold weedless Johnson Silver Mirror. They come in various sizes and weights. I prefer either the 3/4 or 3/8 ounce, according to where they are being used.
For a topwater lures, use the shallow divers such as the Rogue, Redfin, etc. Whether colors matter or not, only the fish know for sure. My experience has been that orange or red bottom lures in the longer sizes will take reds whenever they are willing to hit them. Redfish are not constructed to feed on the surface, but they will at times. Their mouths are more for bottom feeding on shellfish. No matter what, they will test you when you use a shallow diving lure. Usually the outer edges of the grass or shallow shorelines are where the topwaters are more effective.
The use of live or cut bait is another way to take redfish. Most of the bait anglers will locate a deeper spot around a shallow slough or point, anchor out, and cast their baited hook into that likely looking spot. Live or cut mullet or shad will take redfish from these places. Some anglers will set out more than one rod and reel. Should you choose to do this, be sure that your drag is super loose, the gears are disengaged with the clicker engaged and be sure you have the rod secured in the boat. Redfish have been known to take a bait from an unsecured rod, and they can also take the rod and reel.
The redfish that are within the 20 to 28 inch slot will be welcome on the table. When filleted, be sure to remove any red meat. When baked, broiled or grilled whole, just rake the white meat from the bone and skin.
Billy Halfin can be reached at bhalfinoutdoors [at] aol [dot] com.