What’s That Fish?

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The human race is generally a bit, dare it be said, ‘uneducated’ with regards to the ocean and all that she holds. Leisure Boating will look at different ocean species every month with the aim of giving our readers a closer look at the wide range of life forms that lurk below.

Redfish goes by quite a few names, including red drum, school drum, channel bass, red bass, red horse, spot tail bass, or simply, ‘reds’. They are exceedingly popular in sportsfishing circles as they put up huge fights for their relatively small size and make blistering, rod-bending dashes that leave anglers adrenalised and thrilled.

Redfish, as the name subtly suggests, have coppery red upper halves which fades to a silvery and sometimes white hue on the belly. It has an elongated body that is streamlined for speed and unlike their cousin, the black drum (Pogonias cromis), they don’t have chin barbels. Probably the most distinguishable feature of the redfish is the spots on their tail. It has a large black spot about the size of its eye on either side of the caudal peduncle, just before the tailfin. Often there are more than one spot on each side and occasionally they may be found on other parts of the body. It’s been alleged that these spots are to fool predators into attacking the redfish’s tail instead of their head and therefore giving them a better chance of escaping.

Adult redfish of about three years tend to weigh around six to 10 kg and any redfish measuring more than 70 cm in length are generally referred to as ‘bull reds’ – regardless of the gender of the fish. These may weigh anything from 20 – 40 kg. The current IGFA record for the largest redfish still belongs to David Deuel who caught a 42.69 kg monster in North Carolina in 1984. It measured 144.78 cm! He caught this trophy while bottom fishing with mullet as bait.

Redfish get their other popular name, ‘red drum’ from the drumming/croaking sound they emit when distressed by using muscular contractions to vibrate the swim bladder. It is said that male redfish also make this sound when trying to attract females.

Adults mature by three to five years of age by which time males normally measure approximately 70 cm in length and females more than 80 cm. Mature redfish spawn close to shorelines from August to October near estuary inlets and passes along barrier island beaches.

Redfish are bottom feeders and they use their downturned mouth to forage for food such as molluscs, shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans through a method of ‘vacuuming’ and biting. It also eats small fish such as mullet, pinfish, sea robin, lizardfish and flounder. They like to feed in inlets as incoming tides will bring with it baitfish and other food. Small crabs and shrimp also become more active on the incoming tide, offering redfish another treat to feed on. Similarly, redfish will feed on whatever is carried out by the outgoing tide as the water withdraws.


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