Battling Big Bull Reds

Photo provided by Capt. Miles Altman

Better weather, thinner crowds and bull redfish swarming inshore waters are all reasons to celebrate the arrival of fall in the Lowcountry. The 20- to 50-pound bulls are here or offshore all year but, during this season, they come close in big numbers with catches of 20 or more fish in a trip not at all uncommon.

Their strength rivals any other fish its size, short of an amberjack or tuna. I usually fish heavy spinning reels with 50-pound braid and even a heavy drag, since the bulls will strip the line off at an alarming pace several times during the battle. I have fished lighter tackle, but the lengthy fight takes a toll on these big fish. Any redfish over 23 inches must be released and returned to the water.

Smaller redfish also invade the creeks this time of year offering the best light tackle sport available. Shrimp, live or dead, cut mullet and menhaden are all favorite baits when fishing inshore. The “slot”—or keeper size—is 15-23 inches and, by South Carolina law, you may keep three per person, per day.

They are not only a blast to catch, but also to eat as well. Before Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced “blackened redfish,” these fish were locally known as spot tail bass or puppy drum. However, their proper name is red drum, thanks to their coloration.

Usually a deep burnt orange or copper across the back with a single spot at the base of the tail, some fish have multiple spots from the tail to their middle. A strong broad tail and thick shoulders give it all the horsepower it needs to make your day.

Good conservation methods, with help from Bluffton’s Waddell Mariculture Center, have provided some of the best stocks of redfish I have seen in 40-plus years of fishing this area. Al Stokes and his crew at the Mariculture Center have been boosting the local population of redfish for years. The proof is in the pudding and, whether you want to light tackle redfish in the creeks or chase the big bulls, now is the time.

By Capt. Miles Altman, Bayrunner Fishing Charters

Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years of experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new “Finatic” boat, which accommodates up to 12 passengers and features a special 3-hour shark/ dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Capt. Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.