Fall is a special time here in the Lowcountry for many reasons: the weather is better, the crowds thin, and the bull redfish swarm inshore waters. The bulls, 20 to 50 pounds, are here or offshore all year. But this time of year they come close in big numbers, with catches of 20 or more fish in a trip not at all uncommon.
The strength of these fish is incredible, rivaling 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, and the bulls will strip line off at an alarming pace, and do it several times in a battle. I have fished lighter tackle but the lengthy battle takes a toll on these big fish, which must be released, as the law states that everything over 23 inches must be returned to the water.
The 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. Not only a blast to catch, but they also eat very well. Before Chef Paul Prudhomme introduced “blackened redfish,” these fish were locally known as spot tail bass or puppy drum, but their proper name is red drum.
Coloration is 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 the middle of the fish. A strong broad tail and thick shoulders give it all the horsepower it needs to make your day.
Good conservation and our local 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 with their work 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.
Written by Captain Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters, who has more than 42 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new “Finatic” boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.