Mississippi's Gulf Coast Redfish

Flyfishing for bull redfish along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast can be a backbreaking experience.
Just ask “Fly Fishing America” host Chad Foster.
On second thought, wait a few days before giving Foster a call. You see he’s recuperating from back surgery earlier this week.
And while the surgery wasn’t necessarily a result of his fall 2002 trip to the saltwater flats near Biloxi, the experience of battling a 45-inch redfish not once, but twice, on a fly rod probably didn’t help his aching discs, either.
“I have never seen reds that large in a shallow-water, sight-fishing situation,” Foster said. “Those were literally 30-pound fish. Those are bull reds, what you normally see out in the deep water.”
“To have access to fish that big in the flats is pretty special.”
Last week, Foster and Chandeleur Outfitters guide Richard Schmidt did battle with a 30-plus-pound redfish for 45 minutes before Foster’s tippet snapped.
This week, fellow guide Rick Lauman mans the poling platform and guides Foster to another backbreaking experience with a bull redfish.
“ Hooking a big redfish is one thing, but landing one is quite another. ”
— Redfish guide guide Richard Schmidt
“A 30-pound fish in a foot of water with his back sticking out is quite a sight,” Lauman said of the real star of this weekend’s episode.
Now for the $1 million question: Does Foster land the big redfish this week? Wait and see, wait and see.
Despite growing up flyfishing in southern Louisiana, Foster admits these shallow-water bull reds along the Mississippi shoreline had him a bit frazzled.
“I think one of the most exciting aspects of redfish is that you can see the fish,” Foster said.
“You can actually see these fish; you just don’t see the tail, but you see the entire fish cruising right toward you.”
And when that fish measures more than 40 inches in length, even a seasoned flycaster is bound to get a little shaky in the knees as opportunity knocks.
“You know what you’re getting into before you cast to them,” Foster said. “Plus, you’re using 12-pound tippet, which doesn’t help.”
But if that isn’t enough to get the adrenaline pumping, Foster chuckles that he had another excuse for not landing the bull red of a lifetime.
The unheralded Mississippi coastline offers some of the nation’s best flyfishing action for redfish.
“And then my good-for-nothing guide tells me that he’s sure it is a state record the minute I hooked him, which didn’t help, either.”
Foster’s guides aren’t feeling too sorry for the ESPN Outdoors host, however. Both guided him to big redfish up to 15 pounds that actually did pose for skiff-side pictures.
“Chad Foster is the luckiest guy in the world,” Schmidt laughed. “The fish were doing back flips to eat his flies.”
All kidding aside, Schmidt admits that Foster indeed had his hands full on the Mississippi coastline. He should know, having landed a personal best bull red of 25 pounds and guided clients to redfish in the 45-inch, 30-pound range.
“Hooking a big redfish is one thing, but landing one is quite another,” Schmidt said.
“The big guys usually swim around like they’re not even hooked for awhile,” Schmidt added. “You can’t put enough force on them to move them around.”
“But once they figure out that they’re hooked, you’ve just got to hang on because you’re not going to turn him. You’ve just got to wear him down. After he makes his long runs, it’s like pulling a bucket in filled with concrete.”
Lauman agrees with his partner, having landed his own redfish in the 29-pound range.
“A big bull red 20 pounds or better is impressive on an 8-weight (rod),” Lauman said.
“A bigger fish will take off and you’ll have to chase them in the boat. You’ll gain some ground and then have to do it again.”
But a flyfisherman doesn’t have to hook a 20-pound redfish to know he’s been in a hotly contested tug-of-war, either.
“A typical (Mississippi redfish) is 8 to 15 pounds,” Lauman said. “You’ll get a pretty good run out of them and then they’ll start bulldogging you.”
While redfish often fail to get the respect of bonefish — which make sizzling runs deep into a fly reel’s backing — that’s not to say that a good redfish can’t do that, as well.
If you’re going …
For more information on flyfishing for redfish in Mississippi, contact Richard Schmidt or Rick Lauman of Chandeleur Outfitters at (228) 818-0030 or visit their Web site at
“Those big redfish I hooked in Mississippi ran 200 yards, which is a long way for a redfish,” Foster said.
Foster admits he is perplexed that redfish aren’t an even more popular species among American flyanglers, given the beautiful flats and marshes that lie within easy reach of many U.S. cities.
“I think they’re very underrated and I’m surprised that more people don’t fish for redfish on a fly rod,” Foster said.
Call them the workingman’s bonefish, if you will, but Foster thinks that redfish on the fly offer angling sport that is difficult to top anywhere in the world, especially near Biloxi, Miss.
“I can’t ever remember fighting a bonefish for 45 minutes and I’ve caught some 10-pound bonefish,” he said.
Chad Foster should know; he’s got the aching back to prove it.