Do’s and don’ts for coastal bullfights

Late in the summer, anglers often target bull redfish along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Here are some do’s and don’t to remember when engaging in these bullfights.

One big fish.

That’s what many anglers will be searching for in August during a few tournaments naming bull redfish as a category – or even the sole fish to be taken.

August is a great month to search for redfish as many of the larger specimens – 27 inches and larger – will be heading through the Passes to the Gulf of Mexico where they will take part in the annual spawn lasting through October.

To assist competitors and others who seek these thrilling bull fights, three seasoned anglers offer some helpful do’s and don’ts toward enjoying your trips anywhere along Louisiana’s coast.

Do’s

1. “Do fish shallow water rigs, right offshore especially this year,” said 55-year-old captain Sal Gagliano with Southeast Charters, 504-782-7593.

Big bull redfish will be the target for tournament anglers and others during summer’s hottest months. Captain Sal Gagliano with Southeast Charters displays a healthy bull red that the coast near Venice is noted for.
Big bull redfish will be the target for tournament anglers and others during summer’s hottest months. Captain Sal Gagliano with Southeast Charters displays a healthy bull red that the coast near Venice is noted for.

Gagliano said that bull red anglers usually head for the Passes, but if you’re fishing Venice – you may have to run a bit farther due to the record high waters of the Mississippi River.

“Saltwater is heavier than freshwater,” he said “And I am finding redfish on the bottom of the shallow rigs.

2. “Do use live croakers,” Gagliano said. “Croakers swim to the bottom and hang there. Redfish absolutely love them. I’ll also fish for bulls with live pogies on a Carolina rig.”

3. “Do fish the Passes – especially in the Grand Isle area,” said 54-year-old captain Daryl Carpenter with Reel Screamers Guide Service, 225-937-6288. “The redfish will be hanging on the shelf of those Passes, so fish the drop-offs.”

4. “Do also use artificial lures,” Carpenter said. “I had some customers who used SteelShad Lures (lipless crankbaits) you don’t normally see around here. They used the 5-inch versions and caught a great number of redfish.”

Other artificials that work well for big reds include Strike King’s Red Eye Shad, spoons, bladed spinnerbaits and plastics of all sorts. In the shallows, the use of a loud, clacking popping cork has been noted to entice redfish to attack cracked crab and artificials aggressively.

5. “Do fish rock structures – especially rock jetties,” said 76-year-old Cajun Phil Broussard of Paradise Lodge and Charters on Calcasieu Lake, 337-274-0788.

6. “And do fish during tidal movement, both incoming and outgoing,” Broussard said. “You will have to move around to find the big reds as they will be in different places with the varying tides.”

Cajun Phil Broussard and his son Kevin will target structures such as rock jetties and fish tidal movement for bull redfish during the late summer.
Cajun Phil Broussard and his son Kevin will target structures such as rock jetties and fish tidal movement for bull redfish during the late summer.

Don’ts

1. “Don’t skimp on the tackle,” Gagliano said. “At a minimum use 30-pound braid for the bulls spooled to 4000 series spinning reels on medium-heavy rods. These fish are strong, and you want to be able to make sure you get them to your boat especially during a tournament.”

2. “Don’t fish dirty water,” he said. “Find the cleanest water you can which mean you may have to travel a bit farther the closer you are to the Mississippi River.”

3. “Don’t use straight shank hooks,” Carpenter said. “Use circle hooks as they increase the chances that bulls will be released alive at 99.9% of the time in my experience.

4. “Don’t waste the fish,” he said. “After some of these tournaments, we see dead floating fish in Grand Isle. There are many ways nowadays to clean bulls and cook them to be quite edible.”

In Louisiana, there is a favorite saying – “Cook some rice.” Big redfish meticulously cleaned with bloodlines and fat carved away fare quite well in well-seasoned, roux-based tomato sauce gravies known colloquially as “courtbouillion” or “couvillion” depending on your area’s vocal traditions. There are many such recipes offered online.

5. “Don’t fish the shallows,” Broussard said. “In August, the majority of your bull redfish will be in deeper waters in Passes and along ship channels.”

Keep bulls alive

Carpenter’s concerns about fishing for bull redfish are shared among many veteran bull red anglers. Perhaps the model for keeping bull reds alive during tournaments is the use of tournament chase boats as accomplished during Louisiana CCA’s annual Ride the Bull Kayak Fishing tournament. During the tournament, these boats will ferry anglers’ bull red catches to the official weigh-in site at Bridge Side Marina in Grand Isle.

As often as he can, Major League Fishing professional angler Greg Hackney of Gonzales will make late summer runs to the coast to engage in some summer bullfights.
As often as he can, Major League Fishing professional angler Greg Hackney of Gonzales will make late summer runs to the coast to engage in some summer bullfights.

“We do all we can to keep these big fish alive,” said Ride the Bull tournament director Rad Trascher with Louisiana CCA. “We have well-oxygenated tanks with cool, rejuvenating waters at Bridge Side Marina along with the professional assistance of personnel with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

“We have multiple chase boats, so we are pretty quick to get to anglers who have just taken a big redfish.”

For more information regarding the 10th Ride the Bull Kayak Fishing tournament scheduled Aug. 23-24, visit Louisiana CCA’s website.

Anglers are reminded that Louisiana’s redfish limits are five per day at 16-inches minimum total length with only one allowed over 27 inches. Anglers cannot possess redfish of any size in federal waters.