A multitude of species migrate in and out of the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay throughout the year, and there's nothing I anticipate more than the return of redfish. Also known as red drum, channel bass, spottail bass, or simply reds, this popular game fish is celebrated for its distinctive flavor and challenging fight. Renowned for their beauty, redfish fight fiercely and taste so good that if we didn’t regulate them, there probably wouldn’t be any left by the time you’re done reading this article. Let’s get into the meat of things so you can fill your fish box with Chesapeake gold. 


When to Target Redfish:

Redfish migrate into the Maryland portion of the Bay in the spring as our water temperatures rise. These fish are very temperature dependent, with reliable numbers being caught as water temperatures in the shallows reach the mid 60’s and into the 70’s. I generally begin to target redfish locally in April and May, and will continue to until October or November depending on how warm autumn is that year. 


Locating Redfish:

When people think of fishing for redfish, shallow water sight casting generally comes to mind. While this is possible, most of the reds I’ve caught in the Maryland portion of the bay have been sitting tight on structures like oyster beds, rock piles, or docks in four to fifteen feet of water. Slot-sized fish are few and far between once you get north of Solomons. If you’re looking for dinner, plan on fishing in southern Maryland. The Patuxent, Potomac, and the tributaries and islands of the Tangier sound are your best bet. Wherever you end up fishing, finding clean, moving water is imperative. Don’t waste 20 minutes casting at the same area, even if there were fish there yesterday or it looks like your next honey hole. These fish move quickly, and are generally willing to eat. The hardest part is finding them. Plan on covering water, and bouncing between spots quickly until you find something that produces, then try to find spots that replicate those conditions nearby.  


Tackle for Redfish:

Redfish are ferocious feeders, and generally will eat anything that smells like or vaguely resembles a meal if you put it in front of them while they’re hungry. This opens us up to a world of different options to target them, using bait or artificials. Soft plastic jigs in the 3-5” range will catch fish in just about every scenario you can find them in. I always keep one tied on to cast under docks, at oyster beds, to a school of fish that showed up on the electronics, or any other situation where I want to be precise about my bait placement and presentation. If you’re fishing shallow water grass flats or other structures in around three to six feet of water, popping corks and spinners are great search baits to call in the spot tails and send them swimming straight for your lure. Topwater lures are an ideal option during low light situations, and jerkbaits are perfect if you’re trying to cover shallow water and locate fish. If you want to soak bait, soft crabs or live minnow rigged on bottom or under a popping cork will trick the wariest redfish. There are a plethora of different ways to target these fish, choose a couple you’re confident in and focus on those. However you decide to target them, you’re going to want a fast action, medium-light rod. Pair that with a 3000 size reel spooled with 10-20lb braid and topped off with a 20lb fluorocarbon leader and you’re ready to rumble with redfish.


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