These salt and brackish marshes, largely populated with Spartina grass, serve as the breeding ground for a litany of resident and migratory fish species. From microscopic phytoplankton to massive bullsharks, the aquatic world uses these marshes as a nursery–with the adults coming to drop the kids off to learn how to hide, eat, and generally fend for themselves.
Working our way marginally up the food chain of the Lowcountry marsh, we come to one of the Southeast’s predominant game fish, the Redfish (which is regionally known as a red bass, red drum, puppy drum, spot, spot tail bass, channel bass, and a whole host of others). The Redfish will typically spend its first few years in the salt and brackish estuaries and marshes before becoming sexually mature and moving further offshore.
In their youth, fish from 12-25 inches will school up by the hundreds moving through the creeks, rivers, sounds, and bays. They will feed on crustaceans and small baitfish like mullet and mud minnows in their formative years. These fish invariably can be found lurking in predatory positions along with shell rakes or deep bends or can be seen cruising along with shallow mud or sand flats, where sight-fishing is both possible and often profitable.
While generally a fun species to target year-round, the low country reds are exceptional game to chase when, on high tides around the full or new moon, they move into the spartina marsh to feed on small crustaceans called fiddler crabs.
The marshes are littered with fiddler crabs and as the tide creeps up, Redfish cruise onto the flats to feed on the buffet. Those familiar with the sport will refer to them almost exclusively as “tailing” reds, as these fish come up and feed nearly vertically in the marsh, sucking the crabs off the bottom and exposing only their tail in the air–which resembles a small black triangular flag moving back and forth in the sparse grass.
Tactic wise–a little map research and your favorite traditional or fly set-up is all you should need. The tailing reds tend to follow small feeder creeks into high-marsh pockets or sand deposits nearer to land. [insert picture]. Many spots can be accessed by walking from land or more easily from either a kayak\canoe or poling skiff. One of our favorite ways to chase them is to take a larger bay boat (22’ Key West) and scout potential “flats” until the fish start to rise–a quick power-pole or anchor later and you’re stalking fish in wading boots or waders (in chillier conditions).
For the live bait fishermen, any shrimp, mullet, or mud minnow setup will do. And dead bait fishing with cut blue crab or mullet is extremely productive. For those who like to chase after their query with artificial lures, we recommend a weedless setup with a brightly colored soft plastic, and preferably one with some scent. If you are a purist (or at least handy with one) a fly rod is typically the best tool for this game though. A weedless crab pattern slightly stripped in front of a feeding Redfish is a recipe for a violent strike and exceptional show.
These fish can be targeted year-round in the marsh, but typically have the best numbers and size when the water temps creep into the mid 60’s in the spring, tapering out when the water gets into the low 80’s in late summer, then re-igniting when the water temps start to drop as summer turns into fall.
A DIY trip for tailing Redfish can generally be rounded out with lots of other fishing opportunities in the area, depending on the time of year. Give us a shout if you have any questions or concerns about a potential area, and in the meantime check out these listings to book your next adventure chasing redfish in the low country.