Why was a 47-inch redfish weighing in at 35 pounds caught in Copano Bay in May of 2006?
This fish represented the fourth time in three years that the Redfish Lodge record was broken and was also recognized by the State of Texas to be the largest redfish ever to be taken from this bay system!
In recent years, Rockport anglers have been the beneficiaries of a fishing trend that has everyone scratching their heads and smiling. Oversized reds, which are redfish in excess of 28 inches in length, are being caught in the bay systems of the Coastal Bend with greater size and frequency than ever before. While they have always been residents on the jetties and near shore rigs, bull reds (as they are commonly known) can now be found in great numbers throughout the shallow bay systems of Central Texas. While no one is complaining about this trend, several anglers and biologists alike have began to wonder why this is happening.
The natural life cycle of a redfish calls for the fish to be born and grow to maturity in the bays and estuaries and then permanently migrate to the Gulf of Mexico by the time they are 7 to 10 years of age and 28 to 32 inches long. The spawning portion of their life begins after this migration and can last in excess of 20 years.
When this trend first began in the late 1990s, biologists suggested that it had to do with an error in the hatcheries. The reds, which the hatcheries began releasing in the late 1980s, may have been born into water that was too warm. Therefore, the first few graduating classes from the hatchery preferred the warmer bay over the cooler gulf and never left. By the time these fish reached ten years of age, they were noticeably larger than the wild redfish in the bays. Stocked redfish had no genetic markers to positively identify them from wild reds, however, so this theory was never proven. Additionally when the water temperature problem was corrected, the trend seemed to stay the same.
The introduction of the oversized redfish tag on a Texas fishing license in 1994 suggested that the trend was here to stay. The spawning population in the gulf was not declining, as a matter of fact it was steadily on the rise. With the number of keeper size and undersized reds was also increasing, but not as significantly as the bulls. Biologists now suggest that the influx of big reds may be “migratory” fish moving in and out of gulf passes with the huge masses of baitfish such as menhaden and mullet, and may stay in the bays until the food supply runs out. Another theory is that the population density of the gulf is at an all-time high and that they are simply not needed out there.
The fact of the matter is that the abundance of big redfish is due to a perfect growing recipe:
Oversize Redfish Recipe
1. Close the commercial fishing industry.
2. Add one CCA stocking program.
3. Season with healthy baitfish population,
4. Skim out a significant freeze.
5. Simmer for 17 years, and enjoy.