How to Catch Redfish

Redfish will take live bait fish, crabs, shrimp, and fresh dead or cut bait. Live shrimp and minnows make the best baits for shallow coastal inshore fishing; live Pinfish, finger Mullet or similar baitfish for fishing deeper water.

cranka crab

Georgia Redfish Migration Patterns

Basically it boils down to this: Bulls like the surf zones in the winter and spawn and lay eggs on the strong incoming flood tides in September and October. They also tail inshore during summer and hide from dolphins. During the fall season reds eat anything that moves. Rat Reds stay inshore the first couple years until they are big enough to run with the big bulls. Learning how to anticipate the pattern is the key to being a great redfish fishermen.

Top Tips on How to Find Redfish

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How Much Tide Movement?

The first step to understanding tides is knowing how big the tidal change is in the area you are planning to fish. Tidal changes can easily be reviewed on a tide chart by measuring the change in feet from high to low tide. Big 6′ to 9′ tides 4 times a day are the norm along the East Coast of Georgia. That is a lot of moving water, therefore catching redfish in Georgia means understanding the tides like a pro all depending on seasons, moon phases and winds. Once you determine the amount of tide change you have, here are some other other inshore tidal tips to help keep you frosty:

Do Not Go Crazy and Over Analyze Tide Charts

This tidal gem is one of the fundamental rules for redfish. Of all the saltwater fish we fish for inshore, redfish are the least affected by tides when compared to other species, like snook and trout. In Louisiana or Texas, tides are not the primary concern but you better believe they are in Georgia and the Sea Islands. Generally there are 2 tides you want to avoid; dead high tide and dead low tide. These are known as slack tides with very little water movement. Think of slack tides like a fish break time.

The Greater the Tidal Change, The More the Redfish Will Move

A redfish that lives inshore in a Savannah Georgia salt pond, with an average tidal swing of 6-9 feet every six hours, is going to move around a lot more than a redfish in a stagnant Louisiana marsh pond. Georgia Golden Islands fish get a lot more exercise than Louisiana fish. Georgia redfish live in inshore tidal creeks and bays, as opposed to stank mosquito ditches or swamp flats, and they make daily migrations back and forth like clockwork. Georgia fish are constantly on the move, and as a coastal angler, you’ve got to be on the move to find them and get ahead of them.

The Bigger the Tide Change, the More Predictable Fish Become

The good news is that the cyclical tidal migrations of redfish are very predictable and repeatable. Red drum are known to travel the same exact routes to and from their favorite haunting grounds with such punctuality, it is predictable. Knowing exactly what time a school of redfish is going to pass a certain point on an outgoing tide is exactly the kind of local knowledge that is needed. Many fishing spots in Georgia are basically ambush points where we intercept reds coming and going with the tides.

I like to stay on a point and wait for an outgoing school of fish to come by the boat. I’ll catch a few from the school and then set up on another spot and repeat the methods. Many times you can set your watch by the redfish, if they come by a point at 3 p.m. today, they will be there again at 3:50 p.m. the next day, and 4:40 p.m. the next day. (Normally the same tide stage will be 50 minutes later the next tide stage)

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Most channel bass live their whole life in the same immediate area. This results in them using the same tidal routes and the same schools of reds running the same routes everyday making it easy to predict where they will be on a given tide stage.
Extreme High Tides Bring BIG Fish to New Hunting Grounds

During an abnormally high tide, redfish like to move into the newly flooded flats and eat anything that moves – mostly fiddlers, small crabs and snails. Check the local tide charts for extreme high tides during tournaments. When we get higher-than-normal tides from a new or full moon, redfish will go on a foraging run into the newly flooded grass. We actually call these tailing tides because so many reds move up on the fresh banks and tail or grub.

High Tides Scatter Fish and Low Tides Concentrate Fish

The lower the tide falls, the more fish congregate as they are pulled out of the tidal creeks and grass flats with the falling water. When they rise up with the rising tide, big schools are split into smaller schools as they all disperse deeper into the newly flooded locations.

Think Points on Falling Tides and Pockets on Rising Tides

Schools of redfish use structure and points as they move out of creeks on a falling tide. Many times this will mean staging on the down current points of oyster bars and rakes. When they are returning on the incoming tide, they roll into pockets, sloughs and cuts along the grass line. Anywhere that provides quick access to the flooded grass is where redfish will pause until the water gets high enough to get into the grass to tail.

What is the Best Tide for Redfish?

That is the 20k dollar question in redfishing and always has been: which is better, high or low tide? Many a redfish pro will favor a low tide except for: extreme high tide, which put redfish in a tailing mode and situations where high tides are needed to access a shallow area. Redfish don’t necessarily feed better on outgoing tides but the lower water simply squeezes them closer together for anglers to catch them. In terms of determining the best tides in a particular area, I like the incoming tide right after the dead low up to slack high tide. Dead low tide is like the reset button for redfish. When the water starts to come back in, most redfish can’t wait to get back to their high-water spots, and you can learn their migration paths when pushing back inshore to the creeks and flats.

Redfish caught on Gulp DOA shrimp in the cooler
Redfish caught on Gulp shrimp in the cooler