Redfish will turn your face red from the strain of going one on one with this great Florida Keys gamefish
Redfish are making a fabulous come back in the Florida Keys and all through the Gulf of Mexico. They became so popular as a food fish in the 1980's that they were almost fished out. Someone on the television told the world what a great tasting fish Red’s are especially when they’re blackened. Conservation measures were put in place and now the fish are showing up everywhere.
Redfish spook easily. They can be caught using live bait , dead bait or artificial lures. They can be caught anywhere in the water column, on the bottom, in mid-water or on the surface. It’s more difficult to get them to take an artificial on the surface because of the down turned shape of their mouth. They can be caught using spinning gear, casting rods or with a fly rod. They feed in the same places that Tarpon , Bonefish and Permit do.
This fish likes to feed on the flats. As the tide goes out, they’re forced to move off the flats and into the near by channels. They feed on shrimp and crab and will also eat small baitfish. The best time to fish for Redfish is on the low tide. They drift along looking for food like crab. When they spot one, they’ll root them out from their hiding holes. This causes their head downward and their tail upward. When the water is shallow enough, their tail will come completely out of the water. Tailing Red’s can be seen hundreds of yards away.
Redfish have a squared off tail. The color is reddish or copper like. At the base of the tail there’s a black spot or a group of black spots called an “eye.”
When you spot Redfish tailing you’ll need to act fast. This means their feeding so you need to get into casting range of them. Try and stay as far away as you can and still get within casting range. Sometimes when their tailing it’s hard to get them to see your bait, they’re to busy eating. When this happens try to cast your bait beyond the fish and walk it back toward them. If you get it far enough in front of them this will make them look up and see your bait. It could take you several casts to do this. If your cast hits to hard they’re spooked and if it’s too soft they don’t even know you’re there.
Some anglers prefer to leave the boat and wade in for the cast. You’ll want to keep a low profile. You may need to crouch down as you get close to the fish. It’s difficult to get closer than 200 feet from them.
Shrimp is a great bait for Red’s. It doesn’t have to be alive but it does have to be fresh. Just cast it in front of them and let them smell it out. I like to break the tail off the shrimp because this puts more scent into the water.
For gear use a 7 foot medium fast or fast action rod. You’ll need a twenty to twenty five pound fluorocarbon shock leader. This prevents break offs. If you’re a fly fisherman, you’ll want to use a 9 foot rod with a weight forward, floating line and a nine foot leader. The bait casting reel isn’t really good for fishing Redfish because they just don’t get the distance on the cast as a spinning rod and reel does.
As soon as you hook a Redfish hang on, it just may pull the rod right out of your hands. They tend to make a long run while beginning a tug-of-war with you. When one has been hooked up it’s easy for another angler to cast near that fish and hook up to another fish. These fish lose their fear when one is hooked and begin to follow him. They will even try and get the bait from his mouth. These guys will rub their mouths on the bottom and shake their heads back and forth to try and dislodge the hook.
In the fall when the mullet run these Redfish put on the feed bag. They just can’t resist gorging themselves on this large ball of baitfish. Most of these fish will be for catch and release because of their size. The size limit for keepers is a small window of 18 inches to 27 inches. They’re in this size range for less than a year of their lives. The bag limit is one per person per day. But what fun it is fighting these 20 and 30 pound fish.
Redfish can’t be sold commercially so if you want to eat on of these you’ll have to go catch it for yourself. They’re great to eat. They have a white firm sweet tasting meat. You’ll have to decide which way to cook your catch, baked, broiled, fried or blackened. Here’s a great recipe if you decide to blacken the fish.
• 1 ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
• 1 ½ tsp. paprika powder
• 3 tsp. salt
• 1 tsp. onion powder
• 1 tsp. garlic powder
• ½ tsp. white pepper
• ½ tsp. black pepper
• ½ tsp. oregano
• ½ tsp. thyme
• olive oil
• 1/4 lb butter (1 stick)
Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly to make the blackening mix. Rub 3 or 4 single/serving Redfish fillets with the olive oil and dust with the blackening mix. Heat a cast iron skillet to nearly red hot. Drop one-half of the stick of butter into the pan. Immediately place the Redfish fillets in the pan which should be cooked for no more than 2 minutes each side. Add more butter after flipping the fillets over if you need to.
You’ll probably want to cook blackened fish outside because of the amount of smoke your going to have.
Here’s another method for cooking your blackened fish inside. It’ll still make quite a bit of smoke. Use any type of skillet, preferably with a non-stick finish. Place the pan on the burner set on high and add one-fourth of the stick of butter. Wait until the butter turns dark brown, nearly black. Then, put in 2 or 3 prepared fillets. Cook about 2 minutes each side maintaining high heat. If you’re going to cook more fish, add more butter and allow the butter to turn dark brown once more before you put more fillets in the skillet.
I hope you get a chance to battle a Redfish while your visiting here in the Florida Keys. If you should catch one that’s legal to keep have him for dinner and see if you don’t agree that it’s one of the best tasting fish you’ll ever eat.
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