How to Catch Red Drum: Surf Fishing Tips

Red drum are a popular game fish that can be found in the surf zone along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. They put up a good fight and are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle. Today we will discuss some tips for surf fishing for red drum.

About Red Drum

Red drum (also known as redfish) are a member of the drum family, which includes black and spotted sea trout. They have silver sides with reddish-bronze backs. Their distinguishing feature is their large black spot near their tail, hence the name “red” drum or redfish. Redfish can grow as long as 43 inches and weigh as much as 41 pounds.

side view of a red drum fish against a white background

Red drum are common in the surf zone, but they also can be found around piers, jetties and other fishing structures. They like to feed on shrimp and crabs that inhabit the shallow water of the beach area. Redfish live most of their lives along sandy beaches or in salt marsh estuaries.

When to Fish for Red Drum

The best time to fish for redfish from the surf is in the early morning and evening. The tide also has a big impact the best tide for surf fishing is period leading up to high tide. Try to get out about 2 hours before high tide.

The peak season for catching them is spring through fall. In winter when water temperatures drop, they tend to move into deeper waters and are harder to catch.

Where to Fish for Red Drum

One of the most popular places to fish for redfish is on a sandy beach near an inlet or pass. Another good spot is around piers, jetties and other fishing structures that are exposed at low tide. You can also find them around sand bars or oyster beds along the coast.

An aerial view of a beach

When casting for red drum, try to keep your bait in the shallow water near the beach. When they are feeding, you will see them breaking the surface of the water as they take your bait. Be patient and wait until they start to pull line from the reel before setting the hook.

Best Tackle for Red Drum

Rod and reel

When fishing for red drum in the surf, it is best to use light tackle. A good setup is a medium-action rod with six to eight pound test line. You can use spinning or casting gear, depending on your preference. Learn more about the best rods for surf fishing.

A diagram showing different rods that demonstrate rod action


Two of the commonly used line types for red drum are fluorocarbon and braided line. Let’s talk about each one.

What is Braided fishing line?

Braided fishing line is a type of line that is made up of several smaller strands of line that are woven together. This type of line is very strong and durable, making it a good choice for targeting larger fish.

Closeup of fishing line stacked

What is Fluorocarbon?

Fluorocarbon fishing line is made from a material that is similar to plastic. This type of line is very strong and resistant to abrasion, making it a good choice for fishing around structure or in areas with lots of vegetation.

So, which type of line should you use for red drum?

The best type of fishing line to use for red drum is braided line. This type of line is very strong and durable, making it a good choice for targeting larger fish. Plus, it doesn’t stretch, which means it’s more sensitive and you’ll feel even the smallest bites.

Best hook

There is no one “best” type of fishing hook for catching red drum, but there are some that work better than others. Some of the most popular hooks for targeting red drum include circle hooks, J-hooks and Aberdeen hooks.

Closeup of a circle hook on white background
A common circle hook

We recommend using a 1/0 circle-hook when fishing with live bait. You can size up a little bit depending on the size of the redfish you’re targeting and what bait you’re using.

Best Live Bait

Red drum, like many fish species, have a great sense of smell. For that reason, nothing attracts red drum better than live bait.

Closeup of a hooked shrimp

The most popular bait for red drum is live shrimp. Shrimp are a big part of a red drum’s natural diet and they work great as bait.

Other popular options are crabs and small fish, like finger mullet

When using live bait, it’s important to make sure that the bait is fresh and lively. Furthermore, you’ll want to make sure that the bait is the right size for the red drum you’re targeting.

If you’re not sure what type of live bait to use, or if you’re having trouble catching red drum, it might be a good idea to consult with a local fishing guide. They’ll be able to offer advice on the best baits and techniques for catching red drum in your area.

closeup of a hooked mullet

Other popular baits for red drum include minnows, pinfish and squid. You can use a sabiki rig with small hooks to catch them at the beach or pier.


The most popular lures for catching red drum are spinnerbaits, soft plastic worms and jigs. A good way to start is by using a spinnerbait with silver blades and red body.

For soft plastics, use a six-inch black worm or green lizard imitation. Jigs can be any color but the most popular colors are white, chartreuse and pink.

Redfish Surf Fishing FAQs

Can You Eat Red Drum?

Yes, red drum can also be eaten. They have a mild flavor and are good when grilled, smoked or fried.v

Is there a limit to how many red drum you can catch?

It depends on where you are fishing, but many states do have a limit. Be sure to check state regulations before fishing for red drum

Have fun and good luck catching some redfish from the surf!

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