Red drum fish (or redfish) are one of the most popular gamefish in the southeastern states. They are aggressive eaters and will strike at many different types of lures and bait you throw at them. They also grow fairly large, which begs the question: are they good for eating? What does red drum fish taste like?
The short answer is yes – red drum fish taste great and are good for eating if prepared correctly. In this article, we’ll start with what exactly red drum are, where you can catch them, and what kind of tackle you should use.
We’ll then dive into what red drum fish tastes like as well as some of our favorite recipes for red drum.
In a hurry? Here’s a quick summary as to what red drum fish tastes like:
Red drum fish tastes like many other saltwater game fish. It has a mild, sweet flavor with firm meat that flakes into large chunks like cobia. Younger fish tend to taste milder (and we think are better for eating), while larger red drum fish have a robust fish flavor and firmer texture. It tastes very similar to what black drum tastes like.
Many people also compare the taste of the redfish as being similar to haddock, red snapper, and sea bass.
What is Red Drum?
Red drum fish (or redfish) is a saltwater gamefish found on the east coast of North America from New England to the Gulf of Mexico. They are close cousins to black drum but grow slightly smaller. Red drum are dark red and orange in color with several black spots on their tail and behind their dorsal fin.
People believe their spots are an evolution similar to snakehead; the spot tricks predators into attacking their tail instead of their actual head, which allows the red drum to escape.
They’re called red drum because they’re red, but also because they make a drumming sound during their spawning season by vibrating their swim bladders. The sound is used to attract a mate. They often grow to over 20 lbs with the record red drum fish weighing in at 94 lbs.
Author Note: Red drum fish enjoy eating small baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and mullet. In the winter when food is scarce, redfish enjoy eating mud minnows and other bottom-dwelling creatures.
What Does Red Drum Fish Taste Like?
Red drum fish tastes similar to black drum and many other predatory saltwater white meat fish – which means it’s good to eat too! It has a mild, sweet flavor with firm meat that flakes into large chunks.
Red drum have whitish-green flesh when juvenile that turns darker and grey as they grow older. Younger fish tend to taste mild and sweeter (a lot like cobia fish), while larger red drum fish have a more robust and fishy flavor.
We think that the younger fish tend to taste better, and often let large redfish go instead of taking them home to eat.
Tackle Needed for Red Drum Fish
Before you can think about eating redfish, you’ll need to catch one! Red drum can grow to be quite large so you need to be prepared with the correct size fishing tackle to fish for them.
Rod & Reel
We recommend using a medium-large saltwater fishing reel and a medium to large fishing rod. Surf fishing rods work especially well if you plan on fishing far from shore, otherwise use a medium/heavy inshore rod for redfish. If you’re trying to decide between a normal spinning reel and surfcasting reel, check out our redfish reel buying guide.
As far as redfish fishing line goes, we recommend staying away from fluorocarbon and using monofilament or braided line. If you use braided line, be sure to tie a thick monofilament leader of at least 4 feet onto the end. Redfish have great eyesight and will be able to see the colored braided line.
Leader & Hooks
If you’re planning on using live bait, mullet and sardines work great for red drum fish. Use a medium-sized circle hook and a 40 lb monofilament leader for extra strength in case you hook into a monster redfish.
For artificial lures, we recommend using large topwater jerk baits, spoons, Rapalas, or fly fishing. Red drum limit laws vary by state, but in Florida, you can keep one red drum fish per day per person. Red drum have to be between 18 and 27 inches in order to keep it.
Be aware if you’re fishing for red drum with sharks nearby. A hungry shark would love to take a bite out of your recently fought redfish!
Where to Catch Red Drum
Red drum can be caught inshore, nearshore, or in the surf. The biggest red drum tend to hang out where the shallow inshore water becomes deep, as this is where their prey like to live.
If you’re fishing for red drum fish in the surf, look for troughs and deeper pools in the break. This is where larger fish like to hang out while looking for baitfish to swim near them from the waves.
Top Tip: If you have access to a boat, look for red drum near river inlets and sand flats. They can often be seen nosing through the sand looking for crabs or other crustaceans as food. Cast your bait or lure past where they are feeding, then slowly retrieve it by them to attract their interest
Probably one of the most popular areas to fish redfish in the Gulf states is to fish areas like estuaries, river areas that lead to saltwater, and marshes.
These areas are shallow and anglers can easily sight fish for redfish, making them a very popular target species for fly anglers.
When fishing the marsh and estuaries area that contain redfish, it’s very similar to bass fishing, though the soft plastics and lures used are typically shrimp or small crab imitations.
It is important to check on the safety concerns of eating fish where you are fishing them, and many agencies such as your states’ department of natural resources will likely have this information.
Fish can contain unhealthy levels of mercury, and some regions are worse than others. For example, in the Tampa area, 94% of all adult redfish from offshore waters have been found to contain mercury levels greater than or equal to .5 parts per million and 64% contained levels greater than or equal to 1.5-ppm which is the “no consumption” level and is dangerous for consumption.
With that being said there are plenty of redfish that contain low levels that are safe for consumption in other areas, just be sure before you harvest.
How to Prepare Redfish
Since red drum fish taste mild, there are many different recipes that pair well with its meat. In the 1980s, chef Paul Prudhomme created a redfish sensation when he cooked a cajun-styled blackened filet at his flagship restaurant.
For a time, red drum fish was actually overfished due to the popularity of his dish.
Since then, redfish have remained a popular dish at southern seafood restaurants. Below is our favorite recipe that easy to make and tastes great! We use it for redfish as well as other white meat fish like grouper and Spanish mackerel. Get ready to eat some delicious redfish.
Baked Cajun Redfish
- ½ cup of melted butter.
- 4 teaspoons of Louisiana Fish Fry Cajun Seasoning.
- 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- 3 or 4 filets of red drum fish.
- 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Melt butter in a glass bowl in the microwave.
- Dip your redfish filets in the melted butter.
- Dredge the filets through the dry ingredients.
- We like to leave the scales on, but you can remove them if you like.
- In a large pan, throw in a knob of butter and sear the filets on each side for 2 minutes.
- Put the seared filets on a baking sheet with aluminum foil and bake at 350 F for ~30 minutes.
- Let cool, and enjoy!
We hope that after reading this article, we’ve convinced you that redfish tastes really good and is great for eating.
We also hope that you now know enough to catch your own and prepare a delicious meal!
Got another recipe for red drum fish you want to share with us? Shoot us a note in the comments below.