Inshore Fishing for Red Drum in South Carolina

From 8/10/00</font id=blue>

by Capt. J.R. Waits

Red drum, Redfish, puppy drum, channel bass, spot-tail bass, Sciaenops ocellatus, or whatever you want to call them are one of South Carolina’s most popular inshore gamefish. Most locals call them “spot-tails,” but we will refer to them by the common name, red drum, in this article so the out-of-towners will know what we are talking about. These fish are popular in our area due to their ability to bend rods and send drags screaming. They are also very hardy, and with proper care, can be caught and released several times without harm. Red drum can be caught year round in most of South Carolina’s beautiful coastal areas. In this article, I will explain the basic habits and characteristics of the red drum, and then give some tips on how and where to catch one yourself.

Red drum range in color from silver to dark reddish brown and most have a characteristic black spot at the base of the tail; hence the name, “spot-tails.” Their color is attributed to the color of the water they live in and can change from dark copper to silverish blue when a fish moves from the darker water of the estuary to the clearer water of the ocean. The black spot is believed to imitate the eyes of the fish. Predators are sometimes fooled and mistakenly attack the tail instead of the head, allowing the redfish to escape. Most red drum have one spot on either side of the tail, but some have many more and some may not have a spot at all. The most spots that I have encountered on a red drum are 46, 26 spots on the left side and 20 on the right.

In South Carolina, inshore red drum range in size from just fingerlings to over 38" and more than 20 pounds. The average red drum caught on my boat is 24" and 5 pounds with most of the fish being between 16 and 33 inches. The fish that live offshore can grow much larger. Surf and nearshore anglers commonly catch red drum in the 30-50 pound range. The South Carolina State Record is 75 pounds and was caught out of Murrells Inlet in