Catching and releasing the oversized “Bull Red Drum” has been a very popular fishery for decades here in the Golden Isles. These fish invade our coastal waters every fall season (nice little run in the spring as well). They are here to feed and spawn and tend to congregate in large schools along rip lines. sandbars, and dropoffs. Good current flow is a key to success. When the temperatures drop to an uncomfortable level, they work their way back offshore stopping by local wrecks to feed as they go.
A good day of Bull Red Fishing yields multiple hookups and fast action on these fish that average between 20 and 40 pounds. Fresh live or cut bait is the key to success. Menhaden, mullet, whiting, bluefish, and cracked blue crab are the baits of choice. GIANT circle hooks on very short leaders fished on the bottom are essential to avoid gut hooking these fish. When they are in feeding mode, they tend to bite very aggressively and take the chunk bait deep into their crusher plates. The big circle hook will minimize the damage caused by hooking these fish deep. Also use stout tackle to minimize the stress put on these fish. It will help out in our heavy currents as well.
Remember that the Bull Red Drum are here to spawn and handle them very gently. They represent the future of our redfishery. Take pictures of a couple of fish while supporting their bellies. (don’t hold them up by a lip gaff or lip gripping device). Try to leave the majority of your fish in the water and unhook them if possible. Fortunately, we generally catch these fish in shallow water so there is no need to vent them to keep them from floating. A head first toss will give them a burst of oxygen and they will be on their way. If you catch them offshore, carry a venting tool with you as it may be necessary to puncture their air bladder.