By Mark Fike
No, you did not read that incorrectly. I titled it Bull Red, not Red Bull as in the beverage. However, you might feel like you either need one or just drank a Red Bull after fighting a big redfish!
Redfish, aka red drum, are found all over the coastal regions of the southeast and Gulf coasts. In the Chesapeake Bay, the larger fish are usually caught by trolling huge Drone spoons. To do battle with a bull red you need to be sure to use quality rods and reels. If you want to test a rod or reel out, try it on a red drum of decent size. They will give it a run for the money you spent on it!
Dad and I hooked up with one a few years ago near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Penn reel dad was using was screaming for all it was worth. I know if I had used some of my lesser quality reels, the gears would have been broken and the reel would have been smoking. As it was, the fish pulled our 18 foot center console as I was frantically taking up the anchor. When the fish got close to the boat we could identify it as a red drum measuring nearly 4 feet. Then it broke off. Uggg!
Use line that is at least 30 pound test. Line of greater strength is not a bad idea. Be sure your swivels are heavy duty too. I have seen swivels give out, leaving anglers frustrated!
I remember being on a charter boat and we were having the time of our life trolling around and reeling in Spanish mackerel and bluefish one after the other. All of a sudden, the captain got in a tizzy and started yelling for us to wind all the lines in as fast as we could. I was puzzled, thinking that there was no way we had yet reached our limit of Spanish and blues.
The captain saw HUGE marks on his fish finder as we were trolling and he feared for the expensive tackle and rods we were using on the smaller fish. Just as we got to the last of eight rods, two of them bent over nearly to the water. It was too late.
One snapped off like a .22 rifle and the other, we managed to wind in, and net the big drum. It was over 40 inches. The swivel was bent and the hook on the small spoon was bent too. We avoided losing most of his gear though.
Fortunately for us, he had a few rods rigged for the big reds and we hurried to find the school again and lucked into a few before they scattered. Keep in mind that these big fish are to be released if over 26 inches in Virginia waters.
These monster fish prowl the bay in late summer looking for schools of menhaden or crabs swimming along. Anglers that pay attention can often see the feeding frenzy as the schools of big reds crash into bait. Watching a fish finder along the edges of the shipping channel is another good way to find them. Big marks, big fish!
Sometimes anglers prefer to actively catch a red on a rod that is not like a pool stick. You can jig live spot to them with quality gear that is sized down a bit but the fight will be furious. Setting up on the end of a shoal or along a ledge and dropping a live spot or even small croaker or menhaden over the side will result in quick strikes if the fish are nearby.
Let the fish take the bait fully before setting the hook. A big circle hook is a good idea since nearly all of the big fish will be too big to keep. Get a quick photo and then release them headfirst into the bay. Take care to not wipe off their protective slime when handling and don’t put your fingers in their gills.
When fighting the fish, stay away from the stern and the prop or sharp edges as you bring the fish in. Use a big net and watch out because these fish are huge and can hurt you as they flop around. I got smacked by more than a few over the years and they can leave bruises!