As a lifelong Louisiana coastal angler, I’ve long felt deep-seated disdain for bull redfish.
They’re like the gang of roaming motorcycle jerks who show up to your party, shotgun all your beer, drink the dip out of the bowl and throw up in your potted plant. Someday, maybe I’ll tell you how I really feel.
Approximately 42 million times in my fishing career, I’ve gotten on a great speck bite and set the hook on what I think is another trout, only to see a deep bow in my rod and watch line peel from my reel.
Ruining the speck bite
The resulting fight sends the monster bull red zigzagging through the trout hotspot a dozen times, and scares off every fish that isn’t harboring a secret death wish.
If the big brute doesn’t snap my landing net like a twig, I drag it over the gunwale and plop it on the deck, where it sits mouth agape like the village idiot while I retrieve my bent hook and shredded lure.
I then push it over the side so it can go ruin some other trout angler’s day. Oh, and I guess go make baby reds that grow into the slot fish I don’t hate so much.
But lately — and this is surprising for me to admit — I’ve begun to see bull reds in an entirely different light. These fish have much to offer, and actually can be DESIRABLE to hook and fight when you actually target them.
On a recent trip out of Myrtle Grove, Capt. Shane York and I did just that. We left before the crack of dawn to make a long journey in twilight to the edge of Barataria Bay, where every white shrimp in North America must have been staging. The water itself seemed alive.
Schools to himself
It’s a journey York makes every year in the late summer and early fall, when absolute monster redfish soak up the groceries before moving to the deep-water passes to spawn. Remarkably, York often has the schools to himself, and we did on this day.
“I’ll be surprised if we each don’t have a bull within our first 10 casts,” York said.
That’s quite a prediction, especially considering the quarry we were hoping to mine. It’s not like we were camped next to a bream bed, where you’d expect to see your cork go down 50 times in a row.
We were targeting 40-inch fish that turn rock-hard biceps into flimsy wet noodles. To be able to call your shot with such brutes shows the quality of the bull-red fishery here in the Bayou State.
So many of us hate the fish, but anglers who fly here from other states don’t do so to catch 12-inch speckled trout. It’s bull reds that inspire them to give so much money to Delta Airlines.
We just take them for granted.
I had a blast
But even though my 30-year-old self would never believe it, I had a blast. York and I caught reds until neither of us had the strength left to battle another one.
The hot setup for me was a black/chartreuse Vortex Shad on a 1/16-ounce Deathgrip Jighead below a Versamaxx Bolt cork. Water depth was 3 ½ feet, so I had the bait set about 2 ½ feet below the cork.
We let all the fish go, since bull reds are as yummy as cockroach stew, and we went to bed that night much more tired than usual but with that warm, happy feeling that only comes from a successful day on the water.
Maybe the tourists are right.