Redfish Rundown

Wallace with a 30lb Redfish

It’s odd that December has become one of the most important months for fly fishermen. In the old days the best thing you could do in December was tie flies for next season. These days, fly fishermen are not only pounding the local tailwaters in sub-freezing conditions, but they are also spending a lot of time searching the internet for plane tickets to places like Honolulu, Christmas Island, Belize, and of course, Louisiana. If you want a quick, yet exciting saltwater fishing trip before the end of the year, Louisiana is the place to go.

If the number of migrating guides you will find heading back towards south Florida at the end of the year are any indication, you might think that December is the end of Louisiana’s prime Redfish season; where you can regularly find Reds 20 pounds and larger. We’ve found this is not necessarily the case. It turns out Reds are available and catchable from September – May due to the colder water temperatures. However, the weather is definitely more volatile from January on. But are you more likely to get those big Bulls in December? “True Dat!”

Redfish Basics

Redfish is another name for a Red Drum (Sciaenops Ocellatus.) It’s actually a close cousin of the Black Drum, which you can often find swimming in the same area. Drums get their name because of the “drumming” noise that males make when attracting mates or when under stress.

A typical beautiful Redfish
A typical beautiful Redfish

This coastal fish can be found in deeper saltwater, but are more fun when they move into the brackish marshes. Food and cooler water temps will bring these fish into shallow waters where they can be caught on flies in two feet of water or even on top water poppers. They range all along the coast from south Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, and even up to South Carolina. Seasonally, September to May is your best bet. From January to May the weather in Louisiana can be marginal (but I know at least two people who have caught great fish during Mardis Gras.) If you’re looking for temperate conditions for getting Reds, South Texas (Padre Island) would be the most consistent option.

A Bull Red is defined not by gender but by being either greater than 27 inches or 20 pounds (depending on who you are talking to.) Without a doubt the prime time and place to find big Bulls is in Louisiana, between September and the end of the year.

Reds of all sizes are great fighters and it is common to get into your backing multiple times per outing. For fly fishermen it is almost always a sight fishing experience. Strikes are aggressive and the fish will usually thrash violently before they run. As one guide put it, “If they only jumped, I’d skip going for Tarpon.”

Tackle and Prep

When you’re standing on the casting platform of a flats boat and see the water being pushed by one of those big Bulls, or the glistening body of one of these giants “lifting” in the water, a lot of things can go right, but a lot more can go wrong. Being prepared and practicing for the next step is key.

When a Red is sighted you must get the fly close to his face very quickly. Accuracy is more important than distance when it comes to Reds. Being ready to strip and set when the fly hits the water is critical. Because their teeth are rounded by their favorite food of crabs, several tip-down strip sets are necessary to get that hook buried to ensure a long battle.

Some pictures from recent trips
A Biloxi Marsh 12 pounder A 25 pounder from Bay Charlie A Black Drum
Therefore presentation to Redfish not only includes your casting accuracy skills, but how your tackle is setup. The guides down there will normally take care of all of your terminal tackle needs and even your rods. But if you want to be setup ahead of time and get some practice in, Front Range Anglers can help you out with all aspects of your equipment. Here are some items to keep in mind when choosing and setting up your gear.

  1. For Louisiana, take a 9 weight rod. Sure, you will be over-sticked on many of the 15lb or less fish, but you will still be well-equipped when you stick a big Bull.
  2. Casting to Reds is about accuracy and quickness over distance. Specialized Redfish fly lines really do work, and are highly recommended.
  3. Most anglers and guides use leaders that are too long (see number 2). There are simple setups and build-your-own options to get the accuracy and “transfer” that you need.
  4. Don’t just practice your cast; practice your pick up, your lay down, your strip, and your set, before leaving for your trip.
  5. Make a boat list for your trip that includes preparing for the elements and dynamics of big fish. A 30 pound fish running at high speed into your backing can do a number on your fingers. Have a plan for your hands and your feet. (see below)
  6. Flats boat fishing is teamwork between you and the guide. Not only can FRA recommend great teammates for you but we can simulate the experience for better preparation.
Wallace’s Boat List
  1. Hat
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Buff
  4. Shirt
  5. Warm top ( for the run from marina to fishing area)
  6. Wind/Rain jacket
  7. Long pants
  8. Knipper/plier clippers
  9. Sunscreen
  1. Insect repellant
  2. Chapstick
  3. Finger tape
  4. Gloves
  5. Shoes or flip flops
  6. Camera
  7. Beer, lunch
  8. A joke for mixed company
  9. A joke for unmixed company

Redfish Locations

For these trips, the trick is finding the right location and the right guide. Front Range Anglers can provide you with names, phones, prices, and particulars of both. Stop by and we can help you with your booking. Here are some location summaries:

Map of where to fly fish for Redfish
There are plenty of options to fly fish for Redfish in Louisiana.

Venice:

Located at the southern tip of Louisiana and the mouth of the Mississippi River, Venice is the self-proclaimed fishing capital of the world. There are two marinas; Venice and Cypress Cove. Cypress Cove is the more (relatively) upscale location. However, both of these locations have obvious lingering effects as a result of Katrina. The fishing resources (boats, guides, and fish) in the Venice area are legendary and frequently seen on TV for a reason. The drive from New Orleans is under two hours.

Woodland Plantation and Port Sulphur:

A little more than halfway from NOLA to Venice is the economical, yet outstanding old style lodge of Woodland Plantation. The food at Woodland is remarkable and the fish stories even more so. Trips organized through Woodland will leave out of Port Sulphur and they have an excellent stable of guides to choose from.

Woodland Plantation can also be a great central location for trips out of Venice or Hopedale, or both.

Hopedale – Breton Sound Marina:

This is your jumping-off point for the pristine Biloxi Marsh. Located 45 minutes from NOLA, most folks will enjoy the Big Easy before meeting their guide for a trip of a lifetime. This area is typically more protected from weather than the more exposed Venice, but weather is weather down there and it does what it wants.

FRA Guide Anne Reid with a Biloxi Marsh Redfish
FRA Guide Anne Reid with a Biloxi Marsh Redfish

Houma:

Not as well known (and that is a good thing), are the vast marshes south of Houma. Deep in the heart of Cajun country, you will find no place more beautiful and it is full of fish. Going to Houma, one skips NOLA and heads south from the airport. Houma is a mere 40 minutes from the airport. Houma has reasonable and quality motel lodging and good food. If you want to skip the NOLA hoopla and focus on the fish, make this a strong consideration. Plus, if you plan your trip with Front Range Anglers, you might even get in on an authentic Cajun crab boil!

Wallace with a 25 pound Four Point Redfish
The author with a great 25 pound Redfish from the Houma region.

Last Tip

If time allows, throw in a “weather day.” The fish are there. FRA can help with locations, guides, and equipment. But the weather is the weather, and out of everyone’s control. If you have an extra day of slack in your itinerary, you can use it for touring while it’s raining and blowing.

A little of what it’s like

Check out this video featuring some of the shots the author got at Redfish. The Redfish of Louisiana are plentiful and you typically will get plenty of shots.

Other Locations

Stay tuned for part two, where we’ll cover chasing Redfish in Georgia, Texas, and Alabama.

Savannah GA Redfish
The author with another great Redfish taken near Savannah, GA.
Wallace Westfeldt
Wallace Westfeldt