May 09, 2014
It's spring, inshore water temperatures throughout the Southeast are breaking 60 degrees, and that means bait fish are being beckoned to sleepy creeks and rivers.
Red drum, a premiere saltwater game species, are starved and breaking out of their winter schools, wildly excited like school children ready for summer break. That means it's game on for fisherman.
These popular game fish average between 15- to 23-inches, and up to 5 pounds; however, the 94 pound, 2 ounce world record was hauled in from North Carolina in 1984. Redfish feed on the South's plentiful blue crabs, mullet, and shrimp, along with any enticing lure. Their broad diet and voracious appetite allow anglers of all experience levels the opportunity to cast a spinning reel or fly rod and hook up for a bullish fight.
We caught up with John Irwin, ace inshore guide of Fly Right Charters in Charleston, S.C., to get his Top 10 tips to go out this month and land a bruising redfish.
Grow the Mullet
A smorgasbord of bait species encompasses the redfish diet, but Irwin has a go-to for the end of his line that consistently lands larger fish.
'I have probably caught most of mine on live finger mullet, ' he says. 'It's very abundant for a large portion of the year, easy to catch, stays alive well, and is somewhat resistant to pesky bait stealers. '
Lure 'Em In
A tackle shop's wall-to-wall artificial lure options can be overwhelming. And choosing the right product will often determine the day's success.
'I fish a lot of 5.5-inch jerk baits in a variety of colors, ' Irwin says. 'I like the size, action, and larger profile of the bait. It seems to really get them fired up. The longer jerk baits have much better action than the shorter 4-inch baits. '
A slick surface early in the morning and late afternoon offer calm winds and the best chance to cast a fly rod.
'It's hard to pick just one, but if I had one to choose I would probably pick a simple black clouser," Irwin says. 'Our water tends to be dark and black is going to show up the best, especially over the color of our bottom as well. '
Location, Location, Location
Redfish prowl inshore saltwater from the bottom to the surface, and Irwin targets shallow flats, small creeks, structures and spartina grass lines.
'Depending on the time of year really dictates when I am fishing for them, ' he says. 'A lot of it has to do with the presence of bait in these areas as well. Tide height also effects productivity of these areas. '
Thy Rod and Thy Reel
A rod set up for a spinning reel is the most popular choice for all angler skill levels. They're used to cast live bait and artificial lures.
'My favorite stick right now is a G Loomis NRX 7-foot, 8-inch medium action, ' Irwin says. 'A Shimano Sustain 3000 spooled with 10-pound PowerPro. '
Low and high tide each present anglers with an opportunity to catch plenty of red drum.
'Tailing at high tide and schooling at low tide are just a couple of the very effective situations we find them in, ' Irwin says. 'If I had to choose one tide then I like a low falling tide. '
Fly Rod Set Up
Choosing the perfect fly rod set-up can be just as overwhelming as selecting an artificial lure in a tackle shop. Irwin, though, has a consistent, heavier rod he uses every day on the water.
'Nine-foot, 8-pound fly rods are best for all situations, ' he says.
The Right Temperature
Red drum bite year-round while in schools during the winter, and in pursuit of live prey during the warmer months. But Irwin says the prime water temperature range is within 10 degrees.
'The fall seems to be our best fishing, ' he says. 'As the water temps start to fall, the bite really seems to go nuts when that water gets down below 75. '
Early Bird Gets the Redfish
Spring and summer days provide over 12 hours of daylight throughout the Southeast, so choosing the best time to head out can be a challenge. Irwin, though, says it's simple.
'Most of the time I would say early is best, but in our area where we have so much tide, fishing for redfish can be good almost any time of the day given the right tidal situation. '
Time to Present
Redfish are inquisitive and stalk their prey with keen eyesight, along with sense of smell. And Irwin stresses that presentation is everything.
'The best situations are when you can get the fish to pursue, ' he says. 'A cast in front of the fish with him swimming to you seems to do the trick most times. '
To book a trip with Fly Right Charters call 843-860-4231.