The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 24, 2012

Spawning red drum is your opportunity to catch a big fish

Rick Goines

TARBORO — Red Drum season is late summer/early fall in eastern NC.  Like most fish they go by different names in different regions.  The official name is Sciaenops ocellatus, but who in the world can pronounce that?  Red Drum are called Channel Bass, Spottail Bass, Reds, Big Reds, Bull Reds, and Redfish.  The smaller, immature fish are referred to as Puppy Drum.  Anglers targeting flounder and speckled trout frequently hook Puppy Drum.

 Stomping grounds for the Reds include the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts around to the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas.  This fast growing fish can live up to sixty years.  Forty pound fish are not uncommon.  The world record is a little over 94-pounds caught off the North Carolina coast at Hatteras Island in 1984.  It’s surely only a matter of time before someone catches a hundred pound BIG RED.  Why not you?

 Redfish are basically a dark red almost golden color with a white belly.  Their most distinguishing mark is a large black spot on the upper part of the tail.  Some have several spots, but it is rare to find one spotless.  During spawning season males produce a drumming sound using muscular contractions to vibrate the swim bladder.  This is done to attract females.  I tried it, and it didn’t work for me.  Go figure.

 Like most big bottom dwellers, the big reds are not picky eaters.  They feed on crabs, shrimp, and other fish.  They tend to “mouth” the bait a few seconds before taking a serious bite.  Conventional wisdom dictates counting to 5 after the initial bite before trying to set the hook.  That can be a real l-o-n-g 5-seconds!  Equipment ranges from spinning gear to stout rods depending on the size of fish you are targeting, and how sporty you want to be.  Similar size fish can usually be found schooled-up together.

 Years ago, my first experience catching Big Reds was with professional guide George Beckwith, and my son Rich, while night fishing in the lower Neuse River below Oriental.  It was quite a memorable experience.  We caught and released some big fish that night.  Holding a Big Red he caught that night, Rich was on DEGS brochure cover picture that year.  Check out Captain George Beckwith and Down East Guide Service online at  or call  252-671-3474

 My Havelock pal, Jerry Jackson, who usually likes to chase his Reds at night, was pleased to find some daylight action at the mouth of the Neuse River recently.  Vanessa Hess, a pharmacist from the Winston-Salem area, aboard JJ’s 31-foot Contender, had the right prescription for her first-ever Red Drum, cut mullet.  The crew was repositioning some of the baits, and she was holding the right rod at the right time when it hit.  Surprise!  The 30-something-pound fish was quickly released.  Jackson’s crew went on to catch & release three more Big Red later that afternoon off Oriental.

 Care to share?  Tight Lines welcomes your fishing success stories, snaps, tall tales, and outrageous lies at

See you on the water, my friend!