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Ultimate Guide • Updated Fri, Jan 5, 2024

The Ultimate Guide to Florida Redfish

This Ultimate Guide is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge necessary for a successful and memorable redfishing experience. Get ready to explore the behavior, strategies, and best fishing spots in Florida for targeting redfish. This is also your one stop shop to find and book the best inshore redfish fishing guides in Florida to help ensure a fun and successful day on the water.

A healthy bronze colored redfish from the flats of Mosquito Lagoon, Florida.

A healthy bronze colored redfish from the flats of Mosquito Lagoon, Florida.

This article covers:

  • Florida Redfish Behavior
  • Florida Redfish Hotspots
  • How to fish for Redfish in Florida
  • Florida Redfish Gear
  • Florida Redfish Seasons
  • Florida Redfish Regulations (2023)
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Redfish

Florida Redfish Behavior

Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus), also known as red drum or spot tail bass, are among Florida's most popular saltwater sport fish. They get their name from their coppery bronze bodies. Their coloration fades to a lighter belly with dark, ocellated spots near the base of their tail. Florida redfish average between 11 to 24 inches in length, but can reach over 60 inches and weigh well over 30 pounds. The Florida state record redfish was 52 pounds and 5 ounces, caught near Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1996.

As primarily bottom feeders, redfish rely on their keen sense of smell to locate their food. Often, redfish can be found "tailing" on the flats, a behavior where they tilt down to pick up food off the bottom, exposing their tails to eyes of attentive anglers.

These fish are often found working along shorelines, grass flats, sandbars, oyster bars, and tidal creeks. Adult redfish spawn offshore, forming large schools. However, they return to coastal rivers periodically to feed. During the wintertime, you can find redfish in areas with warmer waters as they prefer water temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Farenheit. During the redfish spawning season, typically spanning August to December, females release millions of eggs along Florida's coasts in passes, inlets, and estuaries.

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Florida Redfish Hotspots

Anglers can fish for redfish all along Florida's diverse coastline. The most exciting redfishing experiences are often found in the shallow flats near mangrove shorelines or grassy areas in waters between one and four feet deep. Listed below are a few of the hottest redfish fishing spots in Florida.

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The coppery flank of a healthy Florida Everglades redfish caught by a client of Capt. Evan Noponen. Courtesy of Evan Noponen.

The Everglades

Redfish in the everglades are abundant year-round, with peak season extending from August to February, in the Everglades' shallow waters and marshland. Fly fishing and light tackle are popular strategies for targeting redfish in the Everglades. Redfish in the Everglades tend to range between three to eight pound, although fish are frequently caught ranging into the high teens. You can book the top fishing guides in the Everglades through AnyCreek.

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Capt. Kevin Grainger of Fort Myers with a healthy fly caught redfish. Courtesy of Kevin Grainger.

Fort Myers

Anglers visiting the Fort Myers area can explore the Pine Island sound — with it's extensive backcountry of turtle grass flats, mangrove shorelines, and oyster bars. Redfish thrive year-round here but the redfish fishing in Fort Myers is somewhat seasonal. May through November are typically peak season. You can book the best fishing guides around Fort Myers here.

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A client of Capt. Alex Tejeda casting to tailing redfish on the flats of Key Largo during a guided kayak fishing charter. Courtesy of Alex Tejeda.

Key Largo

With it's vast network of flats, wrecks, reefs, and tidal backcountry fishing, Key Largo, Florida is one of the best spots for Florida redfish. Redfish thrive in the warm waters of the Florida Keys, a region which boasts some of the best inshore fishing and fishing guides on the planet. Plan your fishing trip during the peak redfish season from January through April, or in December to maximize your chances of catching redfish. Book a guided trip and find your Key Largo fishing guide through AnyCreek.

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Capt. Drew Naeckel hoists a trophy redfish on fly from the backcountry of Marco Island, FL. Courtesy of Drew Naeckel.

Marco Island

Florida redfish are abundant all around Marco Island — whether fishing the Ten Thousand Islands' backcountry, or along the Gulf of Mexico's coast. This beautiful backdrop for shots at tailing redfish make Marco Island a must-visit destination for any angler seeking a scenic, sight-fishing experience. Book your next trip during peak redfish season in Marco Island — from late spring into early fall — and find the best fishing guides in Marco Island through AnyCreek.

How to fish for Redfish in Florida

Baits, lures, and flies are all effective options for Florida redfish. For bait, consider using shrimp, mullet, marine worms, mud minnows, or pinfish. When fishing in deeper drop-offs, pinfish and small mullet are excellent live bait choices, while shallower fish to smaller baitfish and crustaceans.

If you prefer using artificials, stock up on imitations of shrimp, crabs, and small baitfish. Consider using small jigs, shallow running spoons, and saltwater swimbaits. In the early mornings or overcast days, topwater plugs and flies can yield explosive strikes from redfish in shallow water. Remember that seasonal changes may influence the optimal bait. It's never a bad idea to ask around at a local tackle store or fly shop.

When heading out to fish for redfish, remember that presentation is key. No matter your lure or bait, it won't be effective unless presented correctly to the fish. A good guide can help you master the art of imitating the natural prey in the area, both with your bait selection and your casts. 

Florida Low Tide Redfish

The most opportune tide for Florida redfish tends to be the incoming tide. During this transition, redfish eagerly move onto the flats with the influx of water, seeking baitfish, shrimp, crabs, and other small invertebrates that thrive in these shallow areas. Redfish strategically position themselves in deep potholes and channels to stage, awaiting the incoming tide to feast on the flats. Tidal creeks and flats are prime areas to focus on during this tidal phase.

Florida Flood Tide Redfish

Flood tide fishing for Florida Redfish is an exciting and rare opportunity where a larger than normal tide pushes water into short spartina grass flats, giving redfish access to areas that are usually dry land. These flood tides occur around the new and full moon phases. Learn more about Florida flood tide redfish from one of our own AnyCreek guides in this article.

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Florida Redfish Gear

Selecting the right rod and reel combo is essential to achieving the the finesse and fighting power necessary to land redfish. For over slot redfish, we recommend a 4500 size reel paired with a 7-foot, medium-heavy strength, fast-action rod. Fill the spool with a 15-pound braided line and use a 20-pound leader. For smaller redfish, use a 3500 size reel, medium strength rod, 10-pound braid, and a 20-pound leader. 

Penn Spinfisher series reels are highly praised for their smoothness, toughness, excellent drag systems, and sealed bodies, which protect against the elements. Although they come with a higher price tag, they are well worth the investment, especially for surf fishing, wade fishing, and kayak fishing. Alternatively, Daiwa BG reels are a great option for flats fishing, providing reliability without the need for a sealed design.

When packing the proper fishing clothes for a day on the water in search of redfish, it's essential to protect your eyes and skin from the sun's harmful rays. Polarized sunglasses are a must, particularly for sight-fishing on the flats. Wear a brimmed hat, and clothes with UPF protection. You may want to also consider packing a neck gaiter and sun gloves for extra protection against sunburn.

Florida Redfish Seasons

In Florida, redfish can be found year-round, but their numbers fluctuate depending on breeding and seasons, with the best being from August to November. Below are two charts that offer information based on region and season to help you figure out the best time and place to plan your next redfishing trip.

RegionPeak Redfish Season
Gulf CoastOctober
Southern FloridaAugust and September
Florida KeysOctober
Central FloridaJuly through October
SeasonBest Time
SpringMarch — as the waters start to warm up from the cooler winter weather. Calmer waters also allow for better navigation and tailing conditions on the flats.
SummerAugust and September — peak of the spawning season for redfish and when they are more active and aggressive. Early morning and late afternoons are typically the times with the most activity.
FallOctober — when the water has cooled down from the summer heat and redfish are replenishing their energy post-spawn.
WinterSunny days — when the fish seek out warmer waters. During colder days, focus on areas with darker colored bottoms, as these areas will warm fastest.

Florida Redfish Regulations (2023)

In 2022, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission implemented a comprehensive management approach for redfish, concentrating on smaller management regions. This new strategy incorporates six management metrics: escapement, relative abundance, habitat, harmful algal blooms, fishing effort, and valuable stakeholder feedback. These metrics help inform management decisions to ensure the sustainable management of redfish populations. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the current regulations before heading out on your own, and you can always look to your guide for the right information.

Licenses

 If you are fishing with a licensed charter captain, you do not need to purchase your own fishing license to fish with them. You will need a Florida saltwater fishing license to fish in saltwater without a guide. Children under 16 years of age do not require a license.

Florida Redfish Limit

The chart below offers information on slot limit and daily bag limit for redfish on the 9 coastal regions as provided by the FWC (last updated July, 2023).

RegionBoundariesSlot LimitDaily Bag Limit
Panhandle Regionwestern boundary is located at the Florida-Alabama border and the region extends east near Alligator Point. 

Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length

 

 

1 fish per person per day; 4 fish vessel limit"
Big BendThe western boundary is located near Alligator Point. Includes all waters of the Ochlockonee Bay, the Ochlockonee River, and its tributaries. The region extends east and south to the Fred Howard Park, near the border of Pasco and Pinellas counties. This region includes all waters of the Anclote River and its tributaries.Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length1 fish per person per day; 4 fish vessel limit
Tampa BayThe northern boundary is located at Fred Howard Park, near the border of Pasco and Pinellas counties and extends south to State Road 64 in Manatee County. Includes all the Braden River and Manatee River waters, and its tributaries.Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length1 fish per person; 2 fish vessel limit
Sarasota BayThe northern boundary is located at State Road 64 in Manatee County, and the region extends south near the Venice Municipal Airport. Includes Palma Sola Bay.Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length1 fish per person; 2 fish vessel limit

Charlotte Harbor

 

The northern boundary is located near the Venice Municipal Airport, and extends south to near Vanderbilt Beach Road in Collier County.Not less than 18" and no more than 27" total length1 fish per person, 2 fish vessel limit

Southwest

 

The northern boundary is located near Vanderbilt Beach rd, in Collier County, and extends around the Florida Keys to the Monroe/Miami-Dade County line.Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length1 fish per person per day; 2 fish per vessel limit

Southeast

 

The northern boundary is located at the Martin-Palm Beach county border and the region extends south to the Miami-Dade/Monroe County line. This region includes the Loxahatchee River and its tributaries.​

Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length

 

*Special Regulations apply for this species when fishing in Biscayne National Park.

1 fish per person per day; 2 fish vessel limit

Indian River Lagoon

 

The northern boundary is located at Lytle Avenue/South Causeway in New Smyrna Beach and extends south to the Martin-Palm Beach County line.N/A: Catch-and-Release only.N/A: Catch-and-Release only.
NortheastThe northern boundary is located at the Florida-Georgia border and extends south to Lytle Avenue/South Causeway in New Smyrna Beach.

Not less than 18" no more than 27" total length

 

 

1 fish per person per day; 4 fish per vessel limit

Frequently Asked Questions about Florida Redfish

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