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Fall is time for redfish
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One of the finest meals I’ve ever enjoyed is broiled redfish in a pan full of green beans and onions (but blackened red fish is a delight as well) I’m telling you this because we are approaching a period of time when this excellent table fare is available in abundance on Georgia’s coast. Besides the tasty meals you will have in store the red fish is one of the great battlers of the salt water flats, sounds, and deeps. October and November are perhaps the two best months of the year to catch these fish in the tidal creeks and rivers.

The red fish is also commonly known as the red drum, red bass, channel bass or spottail bass and they roam the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from New England to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. They are reddish brown or bronze on the back and white on the underbelly with a dark spot or spots near the tail section. The world record was caught off Cape Hatteras weighing in at around ninety five pounds but the average adult usually weighs from thirty to forty pounds. When the fish are about three years old they typically weigh anywhere from six to eight pounds but the puppy drum which range from two to four pounds may be the best eating. They are often found in fairly large groups and fishermen may be able to catch significant numbers of them once located. When caught they make a distinctive "drumming" sound.

Red fish can be found along the entire coast of Georgia from Savannah to the St. Mary’s River on the Florida line. The style of fishing changes with the season because red fish follow a definite cycle of breeding, brooding and growing. At some point during the fall months the fish will move into the tidal creeks and one of the favorite methods of taking them is to fish the plentiful oyster bars in these tidal waters.

Retired high school football coach John Hill lives in St. Mary’s Georgia and has chased these red bass for many years. He offers these tips for the fall. "Right now they are going to be in these creeks and if you will fish the oyster bar areas where there is a good current cutting around a point or island you will have a good opportunity to catch them. We like to float live shrimp from the high outgoing tide all the way to the bottom (the end of the outgoing tide). This pattern will be the way to go until the first really cold snap." Hill goes on to say, "You can put in at the downtown St. Mary’s boat ramps and be close to plenty of places to fish."

When fishing around the oyster bars a float rig is most often the technique of choice. Usually you don’t need the bait to be more than a couple of feet below the cork and often times even less. Make sure you have a strong leader tied on because when your line bumps and scrapes along the oyster beds it can easily get nicked up often resulting in lost fish.

Red fish are typically bottom feeders that forage on a wide variety of food. Commonly shrimp, crabs, and sand dollars are their favorites in the fall. As the seasons change and winter moves in they primarily feed on mullet, menhaden and other bait fish.

These fish will usually be found over sandy bottoms in the coastal waters we’ve mentioned and because they are voracious feeders will strike a variety of baits if you get it in the right place. They are scent feeders thus it is not a disadvantage to use fairly heavy line but these fish can be taken on medium tackle with the proper drag set up and a full spool of line.

During the early part fall season you can also catch these fish in the surf when they are cruising the beaches in close proximity to schools of the big schools of menhaden and mullet. Sometimes the reds will be right alongside a school of bluefish which are easily recognized because they will be actively breaking water in pursuit of the bait fish. Typically what the reds are doing is waiting underneath the blues and feeding on wounded and cut up bait fish that the blues leave behind. Fresh cut bait fished on the bottom is a killer in this situation.

Current Georgia regulations limit fishermen to five fish daily and those that are kept must be between 14 and 23 inches in total length. For a complete guide on Georgia’s coastal fishing you can go to to get all the information you will need.

Additionally there are virtually dozens of web sites that can hook you up with charter boats to get you on the water. It is a really good idea to do this if you don’t have any experience in fishing the tidal creeks. Knowledge of shallow areas and oyster beds that can ruin a boat is essential plus the fact that tide movement can leave you high and dry unless you know what you’re doing. The best way to learn is with an experienced fisherman or charter captain before you go it alone.

Another good place to get information is to call the Department of Natural Resources Coastal Resource Division at 912-264-7218. They can answer many of your questions.