While being home over winter break I spent a lot of time out on the water fishing with my family. We caught many different species, from speckled trout to a mangrove snapper here and there. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about one of the species that we caught, which is one of my favorites. The redfish, also known as a Red Drum, is one of the most striking (and tasty) fish of the Everglades. Their coloring is a reddish or bronze tone that fades into a white belly. The most distinguishing mark on their body is a black spot, usually located on the part of the fish near the tail. This is called an eye-spot and some redfish will have one while others can have multiple on their body. I found this so fascinating and just recently learned this after catching one with three eye-spots on one side. My uncle, who is a guide fisherman and has fished in the Everglades since 1958, caught one that had 101 eye-spots on its body! He claimed it was the most that he ever counted on one before. Redfish have this marking on their body to mimic their eye, which is a part of their head or the most vulnerable body part. Having it be near their tail causes predators to think that is their eye and it will draw them to that rather than their head allowing them to escape so they are able to survive. Redfish range from up in Cape Cod all the way down to Florida, including the Gulf of Mexico.
Another interesting fact about redfish is that when they are distressed they will make a croaking or drumming noise. They make this noise when they are spawning as well as when they are taken out of the water. This brings reasoning to why they are also called a Red Drum. The sound travels from deep within their bellies, when their muscles are rubbing against their air bladder. Not only are these fish attractive to the eye, they’re musically inclined! Their life span can surpass 40 years and majority of their life is spent in inlets or nearshore waters. Redfish are also not equipped to swim long distances, so they don’t often stray that far from where they were born.
Redfish can be as long as 45 inches and weigh as much as 51 pounds in Florida waters. Although you are able to catch one this size, this does not mean you are allowed to keep it. The Florida size limit regulations on them state that you cannot keep one less than 18 inches and no more than 27 inches. Redfish mainly like to feed near the bottom of the water and their diet consists of shrimp, crab, fish and other marine critters. You’ll find them in nearshore waters and they’re often located near some sort of structure. Reefs, oyster bars, sandbars, mangroves and grass beds are all examples of where they would be located, especially when looking for their next meal.
Speaking of meals, I wanted to also add what redfish taste like when you bring one home to cook! Redfish have a very mild taste and turns snow white when cooked. The meat has a smooth, sort of medium-firm texture. It is not very flaky and if you’re looking for another fish to compare the taste to, I would say one that is similar to it is red snapper. My family loves to cook and eat fish either fried or blacked, so when we catch keeper reds we normally cook them that way. You can cook redfish however you want, either way you do it, it’s going to be good!
So if you ever find yourself wanting to catch a redfish or any one for that matter, head on down to Everglades City and Chokoloskee for the best fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands.