Florida Red Fish Regulations: Everything You Need to Know About Fishing For Red Fish in Florida
Fishing for red fish in Florida is something that can be enjoyed by all types of fishermen and women. From deep sea to saltwater fly fishing, you can catch red fish in a variety of habitats. To help you make the most of your fishing experience, we’ll look at some of the qualities and characteristics of red fish, the type of bait you should use, and red fish regulations in Florida.
What are Florida Red Fish?
Red fish, sometimes called red drum, are a popular fish species for anglers of all types. Its most distinctive feature is an eyespot that’s located near the tail. Red fish have golden yellow streaks and pink and white coloring.
Depending on how old the fish is, a red fish can vary in length from 11 to 24 inches and typically weigh up to 22 pounds. Heavier red fish Florida fishermen often catch are called bull reds. The largest caught on record was 94 pounds.
What You’ll Need to Fish for Red Fish
Anglers enjoy red fish for many reasons. First, you can catch red fish with several types of bait, making them ideal for beginners. At the same time, they can have short, strong runs that make them an attractive chase for the most experienced.
Where to Fish for Red Fish
Red fish can be found in Florida waters all year. However, there are Florida red fish regulations that dictate when you can keep them. Red fish spawn between August and November, which makes late summer and the fall some of the best times to fish for them. During the spawning season, adult red fish move out of shallow waters and into lagoons and inlets.
Red fish like shallow waters between one and four feet deep and tend to stay near the edges of calm bays. They remain in the submerged seagrasses and other vegetation.
During this season, the fish are big and aggressive, and are willing to feed on almost any type of bait. They also make a distinctive drumming sound when they’re spawning that you can listen for.
If you’re looking for smaller fish, the winter and spring are ideal times for finding juvenile red fish, which are under 30 inches. The younger, smaller fish stay inshore, seeking out muddy bottoms, shorelines, and oyster beds. In shallow waters, these times are great for practicing sight casting.
During the breeding season, red fish eat crabs, mullet, and shrimp. In the winter and spring, adults eat Atlantic croaker, lizardfish, mullet, pinfish, sea robin, and sea worms. Red fish are constantly looking for food, no matter what environment they find themselves in.
Red fish are located in the Atlantic Ocean from the eastern United States to the Gulf of Mexico. You can find them all over the region and throughout Florida.
When you’re setting up shop for the red fish season, you’ll want to look for areas that have solid structures, such as bridges, piers, and other manmade builds. However, you’ll also find them near beaches, oyster bars, and on sandy bottoms.
When the weather gets stormy, especially in the fall, the red fish moves to bays or surf zones. At times, they can even be found in freshwater spots such as rivers and tidal creeks.
How to Fish for Red Fish
Because red fish are so willing to eat nearly everything, there are lots of options when it comes to bait, both live and artificial. Live options include crab, minnows, mullet, and shrimp, especially if you pick what’s most in season.
Artificial options include plastics that mimic mullet or shrimp. Jigs and shallow running spoons are other good options. If fly fishing or spin casting, poppers are a good option to entice fish to the surface.
When it comes to artificial lures, size and presentation are usually more relevant than color. Fish-shaped plugs and plastic worms that resemble shrimp are also good options. Your rods should be long. For smaller fish less than 10 pounds, rods should be six ½ to eight feet long. Action should be medium and a two-handed grip is ideal for long- distance casting. For heavy terminal tackle, rods that are 10 feet long or longer and stiff are a must
Fly fishing rods should be heavier, such as an eight to 10-foot weight, letting you use heavier sinking lines and leaders. Your reels need to be able to manage 25 to 40-pound test lines for several hundred yards and have a strong drag system. Smaller catch reels should be able to handle 100 yards or more of line. Baitcasting or spinning reels are excellent options.
Your line strength can vary based on the habitat being fished. If you’re fishing in oyster beds or rocks, a heavier line (17-25 pounds) is best. In grassy areas, a lighter line (eight to 16 pounds) works best. A grabbing sinker is also crucial to keep bait stationary on the bottom. Leaders are not necessary, depending on the location being fished and the line weight
Red Fish Florida Regulations
In Florida, any angler between 16 and 65 needs a fishing license. If you’re on a saltwater charter, the captain will obtain your licenses. If you need to get your own, you can order one online or from a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission vendor.
When fishing for red fish, you’ll need to abide by bag and size limits. Red fish slots are no less than 18 inches and no more than 30 in most cases. The bag limits vary based on the region but are generally one fish per person per day and two to four fish per vessel per day.
Other Tips for Catching Florida Red Fish
Get the most out of your red fish adventure by following these tips:
- Red fish move fast, so you’ll need a good eye and quick response times to be successful when casting.
- Look on the water for new hot spots, which can prevent putting pressure on established spots.
- When using live bait, opt for what’s already active in the water you’re fishing. The red fish will be used to eating those species. The same goes for artificial baits. Go with the prey that red fish are accustomed to pursuing.
- Adaptability is key. Having a good spot where you can see the fish will be best though blind casting can also be fun.
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