Year round action
You may or may not know this but I am on the water all 12 months per year. During those 12 months I am taking clients out into the Gulf of Mexico, Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay, Weeks Bay and all the rivers that feed Mobile Bay. I have had to adapt to all the seasons, weather and water temperature changes which all dictate how our fish behave. Throughout the 12 months I can target different species nearly 365 days. The first and a local favorite is speckled trout. The second is redfish. Redfish are becoming very popular with my clients and I break the redfish species into two groups. First, the keeper size, which is made up of both undersized (less than 16″) and slot size (16″-26″). Then, we have the bull redfish which is any redfish over 26″.
Many of our guests are interested in keeping his or her catch for food purposes. While on our charters if our guests are interested mostly in keeping fish then we will likely target speckled trout or other seasonal tasty fish like sheepshead, snapper, white trout and the list goes on. As a fishing guide it is important for me to find a balance between client satisfaction and conservation. That being said I must do my part to protect species that may not be as readily available. Redfish are available but I certainly like to protect them as well. We exclusively release the larger bull reds and we will refrain from keeping slot redfish if we have plenty of fish in the cooler already. However, if you enjoy eating redfish then we will certainly keep some of the slot fish for you.
As we discussed earlier the bull redfish is a redfish over 26″. Usually once these fish reach 30″ they will likely move into more open water and group up with other bull sized redfish. This is not always the case because it’s not uncommon to catch bulls while targeting specks and slot reds. I like the open water large schools of bull redfish. The reason I like them is because they are often very aggressive, easy to see in the water, and seem to fight harder than a loan wolf fish.
The Set ups
Bull redfish can be anywhere from 8#’s up to 40#’s (Alabama state record held by Al Mead 45# 9oz). Our tackle will likely consist of 400/4000 – 600/6500 series reels and rods capable of 15#-65+# braided line. You can certainly catch bull redfish on less tackle but you better pack a lunch and larger equipment will drastically reduce the fight time.
Now that we know what sized rod and reel to use, you will need to match the tackle. Keep it simple as possible. A single jig head like the bomber lure 1/2oz jig head with a yum mud minnow is an incredible combo. If you want to fish with live bait like pogies or croakers, then I use a knocker rig which is a 1oz-4oz egg sinker (2oz is my personal favorite for both casting and dragging) on your line sitting directly on top of your hook. Another very effective set up is a popping cork. I like a 6/0 kahle hook or a circle hook of equal size. You can also through ling jigs, crank baits and topwater lures but the main thing is to keep it simple.
Find the fish
Now that we have the right size rod and reel set up and the proper tackle we can look for fish. December – August you can find large schools along the gulf beaches, Dixie bar, and open areas of the gulf. The water is usually clear enough to see the schools from a distance in the gulf. August-November you will likely find more bull redfish schools within Mobile Bay. These fish will be found gorging themselves on pogies so look for pelicans to show you where the pogies are located them look for fish activity. The fish within the bay system are usually not in giant schools like you will find in the gulf. These fish are usually in small groups and I find using a popping cork with a live pogie for bait is the best answer for these fish.
Catch the fish
While in the gulf you can have the most fun by sight-casting to the school of fish. Read the school to see which direction they are moving. Read the wind and current. Place your boat in the best position to either drift into the school or allow the school to swim to you. Once in range cast you bait/lure into the school and hang on. These fish are highly competitive and will likely not let anything fall into the water without a strike. If the water is dingy and you only see minimal activity then try popping corks to see if you can draw the fish to the bait.
All creatures are beautiful in their own way but its hard to not think that redfish are not gorgeous animals. Take care of these fish. Respect them. Protect them and enjoy them. When my clients begin to bring these fish up the boat I coach them through the whole process. Me or another guest will likely net the fish. If you are not taking photos then leave the fish in the water and remove the hook(s). Once in the boat we will quickly remove the hooks, measure in length and possibly weight, position the angler on the boat in an ideal location to prevent shadows. Now that the angler is in a good position then hand the fish to the angler. Let them admire the catch for a moment and take several photos. Cherish the moment.
Return to the wild
The bull redfish is the natural brood stock for the species. The more bulls we have then the more fertilized eggs we will have, which later turn into rat reds and some of those will grow to the bull status. Bull redfish fishing is only as good as our fishery can support so lets support our fishery by returning these fish where we captured them.
Guided Fishing Trips
If you don’t have the ability to go out and target these fish on your own then book a fishing trip with me or one of our guides. Though we can not guarantee a redfish on every trip we have the right plan of attack to get us close.