Target bull reds in December surf

Smaller drum can be caught on lighter tackle and artificials, but it takes power to do battle with a bull red in the surf.

Big fish move up and down Elmer’s Island

Daylight began to peak through the clouds as I trudged towards Elmer’s Island Point clutching my thermos. The rain from the night before hardened the sand, thankfully, which made dragging my beach cart the mile-and-a-half to my destination an easier struggle. 

The surf was outgoing; the wind was below 10 knots, and the waves were forecasted to be less than one foot — the best conditions imaginable to surf-fish for bull reds in December.

Being at the easternmost point of Elmer’s Island isn’t required to land a sizable bull red, but it does increase your chances. I knew the tides would be converging at some point along the curve, and that’s where I set up. 

This time of year, post-spawn redfish are leaving the deep pockets of Caminada Pass and feeding up and down the beach at Elmer’s Island. Any angler, experienced in surf fishing or not, has the chance of catching his or her personal-best bull red with the right gear and under the right conditions.

Big reds are common visitors to the surf off Elmer’s Island in December.

Gear for surf redfish

What is the right gear for targeting bull reds in the surf? It includes surf rods, saltwater reels and the right rig. Strong rod holders and a durable beach cart are not necessities but are worth the investment. 

Surf rods are between 8 and 12 feet long, medium-heavy action with a fast tip. They should be paired with a mid-sized spinning reel, between the 3000 and 5000 classes, with a low gear ratio. Monofilament from 10- to 20-pound test and 20- to 40-pound braided line are good choices to spool o the reel. Bottom rigs, such as the Owen Lupton red drum rig, with live or dead bait and an appropriate weight for the tide — the faster the current, the heavier the weight — are the most-popular options. Anyone can buy a pre-made bottom rig at Moran’s Marina as soon as they come across the toll bridge from the mainland.

There’s no telling how big and strong the fish will be that bites your cut bait. Several times, even with my drag completely loosened, the bull red at the other end of my line broke the rod holder when it hit. Plastic rod holders don’t last. Investing in a metal rod holder can save money in the long run. A beach cart is a good investment, too — if you plan to walk all the way to the point at the entrance of Caminada Pass like I do. 

Peak conditions

Check tidal charts and plan your trip on an incoming or an outgoing tide. Redfish are more likely to bite and feed when the water is moving. It’s easier to surf fish when the water is calm and the waves aren’t higher than 2 feet — not to mention, you want to keep the bait, whether it is mullet or crab, past the second sand bar, which is tough if it’s being carried back in by rollers.

December is normally, cold, but there are fronts that move in and out. One day it can be t-shirt weather, the next day, you need your winter jacket. Pay attention to drastic weather changes. The day after a drop in temperature can become the best day of surf fishing you have ever had.


About Dora Lambert 29 Articles
Dora Lambert is an avid multi-species angler, fish tagging conservationist and outdoors writer.