Ultimate Guide to the Best Bait for Redfish in St. Augustine: Proven Techniques for Success

May 12, 2023 CptKennyR No comments exist

What is a Redfish and why are they so popular among anglers?

Redfish, also known as red drum, are a highly sought-after species among anglers for several reasons. These fish are primarily found in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and along the southeastern coast of the United States. They are known for their distinct coppery-red coloration and the characteristic black spot near their tail.

Redfish are popular among anglers due to their aggressive nature and strong fighting abilities. They are known to put up a good fight when hooked, making them a thrilling catch for both novice and experienced anglers. Additionally, redfish can grow to impressive sizes, with some individuals exceeding 40 inches and weighing over 30 pounds. Their size, combined with their sporting nature, makes them a challenging and rewarding target for anglers.

Moreover, redfish are known for their delicious flesh, which is often compared to the taste of snapper or grouper. They are a popular game fish, both for catch-and-release purposes and as a culinary delight. Their popularity in recreational fishing and their culinary value contribute to the overall appeal of targeting redfish.

Are you currently in St. Augustine and eager to hook a redfish right away? Look no further! We recommend considering the option of booking an exciting inshore fishing charter. With an experienced guide at your side, you’ll have the opportunity to explore the prime fishing spots, learn expert techniques, and increase your chances of landing that prized redfish.

Understanding Redfish feeding habits

Importance of choosing the right bait for Redfish:

Selecting the appropriate bait is crucial when targeting redfish. These fish are opportunistic feeders and will readily take a variety of bait options. However, understanding their feeding habits and preferences can significantly improve the chances of a successful catch. Here are a few key points highlighting the importance of choosing the right bait for redfish:

Matching the prey: Redfish are known to feed on a diverse diet that includes crustaceans, shrimp, crabs, baitfish, and various other small marine organisms. Observing the local forage and selecting bait that mimics their natural prey can be highly effective. This might include live shrimp, small crabs, mullet, finger mullet, pinfish, or other baitfish commonly found in the area.

Adjusting to conditions: Different environmental conditions, such as water temperature, tide, and time of day, can influence the feeding patterns of redfish. For example, during colder months, when redfish become less active, using cut bait or natural baits that emit a strong scent can help attract their attention. On the other hand, during warmer months or when targeting actively feeding redfish, using lures that mimic the movement and appearance of prey can be more effective.

Location-specific factors: Understanding the specific habitat and behavior of redfish in a given area can help in bait selection. For instance, if fishing in marshy areas with oyster beds, using lures or bait that can be worked effectively around these structures can increase the chances of enticing a strike.

Explanation of the feeding habits of Redfish:

Redfish are opportunistic predators that exhibit a diverse range of feeding habits. Understanding their feeding patterns can greatly enhance an angler’s ability to successfully target them. Here are some key aspects of Redfish feeding habits:

Diet: Redfish primarily feed on small crustaceans like crabs and shrimp, as well as baitfish, mollusks, and other invertebrates found in their habitat. They use their strong jaws and sharp teeth to crush and devour their prey.

Feeding behavior: Redfish are bottom feeders, often foraging near the seafloor or in shallow water. They use their acute sense of smell and keen eyesight to locate food. Redfish are known to create small craters or depressions on the seabed while feeding, stirring up sediment and disturbing their prey.

Ambush predators: Redfish are also skilled ambush predators. They often lie in wait near structures such as oyster beds, mangroves, bridges, docks, and submerged rocks, where they can conceal themselves and pounce on unsuspecting prey. They rely on stealth and surprise to capture their meals.

Factors that affect Redfish feeding habits:

Several factors can influence the feeding habits of Redfish. Understanding these factors can help anglers anticipate when and where Redfish are likely to be actively feeding. Here are some key factors to consider:

Water temperature: Redfish are cold-blooded creatures, and their activity levels are influenced by water temperature. They tend to be more active and feed more aggressively in warmer water. During colder months, their metabolism slows down, and they become less active.

Tides and currents: Redfish are highly responsive to tides and currents. They often feed actively during incoming or outgoing tides when baitfish and other prey are swept along with the current. Understanding the movement of tides and currents in a particular area can help anglers predict the feeding windows for Redfish.

Time of day: Redfish are known to be more active during certain times of the day. Early morning and late afternoon are generally considered prime feeding times, as Redfish are more likely to be actively searching for food. However, it’s important to note that feeding behavior can vary depending on the specific location and environmental conditions.

Seasonal variations: Redfish feeding habits can also change with the seasons. During spring and fall, when water temperatures are moderate, Redfish are often more active and feed more aggressively. In contrast, during the hot summer months or colder winter months, their feeding patterns may become more sporadic or subdued.

Types of baits that work best based on Redfish feeding habits

Choosing the right bait based on Redfish feeding habits is crucial for enticing strikes. Different bait options can effectively mimic the natural prey of Redfish and trigger their predatory instincts. Here are some types of baits that work well:

Live bait: Live bait is a popular choice for targeting Redfish. Shrimp, particularly live or freshly dead ones, are highly effective as Redfish find them irresistible. Other live baits such as small crabs, mullet, pinfish, or finger mullet can also be productive. Presenting the live bait near the bottom or suspending it under a popping cork can attract Redfish.

Cut bait: Cut bait refers to pieces of dead fish or shrimp. It releases scent and oils into the water, which can attract Redfish even from a distance. Cut pieces of mullet, menhaden, or other oily fish are commonly used as cut bait. Anglers can present the cut bait on a Carolina rig or fish it near the bottom using a weight to keep it in place.

Artificial lures: Artificial lures are versatile and can be effective in enticing Redfish strikes. Soft plastic baits, such as shrimp or baitfish imitations, can mimic the appearance and movement of natural prey. Jig heads paired with soft plastic bodies, spoons, and topwater lures like poppers or surface walkers are popular choices. Varying the retrieval speed and incorporating pauses can imitate injured prey and trigger a Redfish’s predatory instincts.

Flies: Fly fishing for Redfish is a specialized and exciting technique. Flies that imitate shrimp, crabs, and baitfish can be effective in attracting Redfish. Popular fly patterns include Clouser Minnows, crab patterns, and shrimp imitations tied with natural-looking materials. It’s important to match the size and color of the fly to the local forage and present it in a manner that imitates the natural movement of the prey.

When selecting baits based on Redfish feeding habits, it’s essential to consider the specific conditions and preferences of the fish in the target area. It can be beneficial to observe the local environment, study the natural prey of Redfish in that location, and adjust bait selection accordingly.

Live Bait:

There are various types of live bait that are effective for targeting Redfish. These include:

Shrimp: Live shrimp is a go-to bait for Redfish. Their natural scent and lively movement make them irresistible to these fish. Hook the shrimp through the tail or just behind the horn to allow it to swim freely.

Crabs: Small live crabs, such as fiddler crabs or blue crabs, are excellent Redfish bait, especially when targeting larger specimens. Use a small hook and present the crab near the bottom, allowing it to scuttle and attract attention.

Mullet: Finger mullet or small mullet are prime Redfish bait. They are commonly found in coastal areas and are a natural part of the Redfish diet. Hook the mullet through the lips or behind the dorsal fin to keep it alive and swimming naturally.

Pinfish: Pinfish are a common baitfish found in the coastal waters. They are effective live bait for Redfish, particularly when targeting larger individuals. Hook them through the back or lips to keep them lively in the water.

Tips for using live bait effectively:

Choose lively bait: Select bait that is lively, active, and healthy. Redfish are attracted to the movement of their prey, so ensure that the live bait is swimming or moving naturally in the water.

Match the bait size: Use bait that matches the size of the prey Redfish are feeding on in the area. If there are small shrimp or baitfish present, choose smaller live bait accordingly. Similarly, if larger prey is prevalent, opt for larger live bait.

Vary the presentation: Experiment with different techniques to present the live bait effectively. This may include using a popping cork to suspend the bait at different depths, free-lining the bait without additional weight, or rigging it with a Carolina rig to keep it near the bottom.

Be patient: Allow the live bait enough time to attract Redfish. Sometimes, it may take a while for the scent and movement of the bait to entice the fish. Give it time and remain attentive to any signs of a strike.

Artificial Bait:

Artificial baits can be highly effective when targeting Redfish. Some popular types of artificial baits include:

Soft plastic baits: Soft plastic shrimp imitations, paddle-tail swimbaits, and jerkbaits can effectively mimic the movement and appearance of natural Redfish prey. Opt for colors that match the local forage, and use various retrieval techniques such as slow retrieves, jigs, or pauses to entice strikes. My go to soft plastics are a Slayer 3.5″ SST Florida 420 paired with a white 1/4 ounce Jig head or a 3.25″ Vudu Shrimp Natural Color.

Spoons: Silver or gold spoons with a wobbling action can imitate injured baitfish, attracting the attention of Redfish. Cast the spoon near structure or along grassy flats and retrieve it with an erratic motion to mimic a wounded fish.

Topwater lures: Surface lures like poppers, walkers, or prop baits can create enticing surface commotion, mimicking the sound and movement of prey. Use these lures during low-light conditions or when Redfish are actively feeding near the surface. My favorite topwater lure is the Heddon Super Spook Jr. Redhead.

Tips for using artificial bait effectively:

Understand the retrieve: Different types of artificial baits require specific retrieval techniques. Experiment with varying speeds, pauses, and jerks to imitate the movement and behavior of the prey. Observe the water and adjust the retrieve based on the Redfish’s response.

Match the hatch: Choose artificial baits that closely resemble the natural prey found in the area. Pay attention to the size, color, and profile of the bait to match the local forage. This increases the chances of attracting Redfish.

Use scent attractants: Redfish have a keen sense of smell, and adding scent attractants to your artificial bait can make it more appealing. Apply fish-attracting scents or use scented soft plastic baits to enhance the bait’s effectiveness.

Target structure and feeding areas: Redfish often inhabit areas with structure such as oyster beds, docks, or submerged rocks. Cast your artificial bait near these structures to increase the chances of attracting Redfish. Additionally, focus on areas where baitfish are present or where you have observed Redfish feeding in the past.

Pay attention to the conditions: Consider the prevailing conditions such as water temperature, tide, and time of day when selecting and using artificial baits. Adjust your choice of bait and presentation techniques based on these factors to maximize your chances of success.

Cut Bait:

Cut bait is an effective option for targeting Redfish, especially when you want to release scent and attract fish from a distance. Some popular types of cut bait for Redfish include:

Mullet: Cut pieces of mullet, particularly the head, are commonly used as cut bait for Redfish. The oily flesh and strong scent make it enticing to these fish. Cut the mullet into chunks or strips and present them on a 3/0 circle hook, either on a Carolina rig or free-lined.

Menhaden: Menhaden, also known as pogies or bunker, are oily baitfish that work well as cut bait. Cut them into chunks or fillets and use them similarly to mullet, either on a bottom rig or under a float.

Blue crabs: Cut sections of blue crabs, such as claws or carapace, can be effective cut bait for Redfish. The strong scent and texture of crab can entice Redfish to bite. Hook the chunk of crab through a join with a 3/0 circle hook.

Tips for using cut bait effectively:

Freshness matters: Use fresh cut bait for the best results. Redfish are attracted to the scent and oils released by fresh bait. Avoid using spoiled or freezer-burned bait as it may not be as effective.

Size and presentation: Cut the bait into appropriately sized pieces, considering the prevailing size of the Redfish and the local forage. For smaller Redfish, use smaller chunks or strips, while larger pieces may be suitable for targeting larger individuals. Present the cut bait on a hook and adjust the depth based on the feeding behavior of the Redfish.

Be patient and observant: Allow the scent of the cut bait to disperse in the water, and be patient while waiting for Redfish to locate and strike the bait. Pay attention to any signs of activity or subtle movements on the line that indicate a bite.

Refresh and reposition: If you don’t get any bites after a reasonable amount of time, refresh the cut bait by removing any deteriorating or less attractive parts and replacing them with fresh pieces. Additionally, consider repositioning the bait to different areas or depths to increase your chances of attracting Redfish.

By understanding the characteristics of different bait types, whether live, artificial, or cut, and implementing effective presentation techniques, anglers can increase their success rates when targeting Redfish. Adapt the choice of bait and techniques based on the prevailing conditions and the specific behavior of Redfish in the target area.

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