Redfish, also known as red drum, are one of the most popular and best-eating game fish swimming up and down Pensacola Beach. Redfish can be caught year round, but the best time to target them is in the Spring and Fall when the water isn’t too hot.
You can fish for redfish almost anywhere! The best places to target redfish are in the surf, on a bridge, or from the pier. Cast anywhere along Pensacola Beach and you have a good chance of hooking up with a redfish. I caught my personal best redfish, a 48 inch bull, fishing right on Pensacola Beach. You can also catch them from the Bob Sykes Fishing Bridge, right next to the toll bridge coming into Pensacola Beach. Another great spot to try is Fort Pickens. Whether it’s on the pier, in the surf, or in Pensacola Bay, you have a great shot at landing a trophy redfish. They can be found anywhere in shallow water in 2-4 feet to deeper water channels and drop-offs.
what rigs do i need?
When it comes to tying rigs for redfish, there is no one size fits all solution. You can use a pompano rig with a weight on the bottom, since they already come with circle hooks and fish in the surf. If you are on the pier or somewhere you don’t have to do a ton of casting, you can free-line your bait, which is simply a rig tied on with no weight, letting the current move your bait through the water. Free Lining is one of my favorite ways to fish for redfish because the bait looks more natural in the water, and oftentimes produces when nothing else will.
One of the best parts about fishing for redfish is they will eat almost anything. They are not picky predators. You can use bait like live or dead shrimp, sand fleas, FishGum (link) or FishBites (link), finger mullet, blue crabs, ghost crabs,and mud minnows. The more diverse your bait options are, the better your chance at landing a red. I always prefer live over dead bait, but have caught many redfish with just a dead piece of shrimp fishing on the bottom. My personal best redfish, a 48 inch bullred was caught on a dead piece of shrimp fishing in the surf. If they are hungry and feeding, it won’t matter what bait you throw at them.
Finger mullet, a top bait of choice for redfish, can be caught in a cast net or you can purchase frozen finger mullet at your local bait shop. Another top bait you can catch yourself is blue crabs. All you need is a small net to scoop them out of the shallow waters where the waves crash into the Gulf. Be careful when handling blue crabs. They are crabs, with claws, and are not afraid to bite. I recommend carefully removing the claws before attaching one to your hook and always hooking them through the back flipper.
If you like artificial baits like spoons(link) and Gulps (link), then you are in luck. Redfish can be caught right across from Pensacola Beach in the Bay. There are numerous grass flats to fish from and it is often less crowded and way more secluded. The water is so clear you can sight cast for schooling reds cruising the Bay looking for their next meal!
Redfish are known for taking your bait and running like they aren’t even hooked so hold on tight when you hook up! These fish are known for their strong and powerful runs and a bullred (any redfish over 28 inches) will not tire easily so make sure your drag is nice and loose. Keep your rod tip up during the fight and reel at a smoothe consistent pace. Do not place your rod tip down when fighting the fish as any slack in the line may result in you losing the trophy redfish of a lifetime! Always keep tension on your line during a fight, and if you’re fishing from the beach, watch out when you get your fish near the crashing waves. This is a place where a lot of anglers will lose their catch since the water is moving in all different directions and crashing on the beach.
clean and cook
After catching a redfish, it’s important to know how to clean and cook them to get the best tasting meal possible. Make sure to put it on ice right after catching to keep the meat from spoiling and away from birds like egrets and cranes who are happy to steal your catch.
After landing and storing your catch properly, it’s time to clean it. Redfish do have scales so make sure to take the scales off with a spoon or descaler if you have one. They are also very easy to fillet. The meat comes right off with a good filet knife.
Once you have your redfish descaled and filleted, it’s time to cook up your catch. Whether you like your redfish blackened, fried, or grilled, it all tastes great! It has a mild, sweet flavor with firm meat that flakes into large chunks.
Younger fish in the slot, 18-28 inches, tend to have a milder taste. Any redfish over 28 inches is over slot and illegal. Many of the larger adult redfish over this size tend to have worms. The smaller ones are definitely the best table fare and that is why they are so sought after.
I personally like my redfish blackened, cooked on the halfshell, on the grill with a little lemon and butter. I like to keep the seasoning on the lighter side so it doesn’t overpower the taste of the meat. Enjoy!