Fishing for Bull Reds in Alabama's Dixey Bar | Great Days Outdoors

One of coastal Alabama’s most famous fisheries, the Dixey Bar attracts big bull reds. 

Sitting in the shade cast by my boat’s T-top and sipping on iced tea, I’m able to ignore the August heat. My anchor is holding well on the sandy-mud bottom of Dixey Bar where Mobile Bay empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf breeze makes the experience even more pleasant. My rod tip suddenly jerks toward the water passing over the bar and toward the Gulf’s open water. The reel squealing as line is ripped from the spool tells me that one of Dixey Bar’s most famous residents has come to call. What a life!

How to Rig for Big Reds

There’s no resting in August when the bull reds find me and today was their time to play.

Many anglers try to see how light a rig they can use to catch big Dixey Bar reds. True, some very big reds can be caught on pretty light rigs if everything works out right. I’ve caught big reds on 10 lb test line and medium-weight spinning rigs. Lightweight fishing is fun, but fishing light rigs really stresses big redfish.

On a too-light rig, anglers can’t work the hooked fish in quickly, and the fish has to pull against pressure for a long time. Especially when the water is hot, as it is in August, making big reds fight too long on a really light rig can stress them past the point of recovery and live release.

It’s much better to go with a heavier rig, say a 25 to 30 lb line and rod and reel to match. Work the hooked reds in quickly and then release them in good shape for survival. Both spinning and level-wind rigs work just fine, as long as the reel’s drag system is up to the brutal power of a hooked 30 lb redfish. Big reds don’t require a special leader. A two-foot length of 30 lb. fluorocarbon or monofilament will work just fine.

Here’s proof that big reds can be caught by anyone. Photo submitted by Ed Mashburn.

Bait for Dixey Bar Reds

Although the schools of big reds will sometimes chase bait to the surface and create a feeding frenzy, I have much better results in August fishing deeper in the water, often right on the bottom.

Although it’s very possible to catch August reds on artificial lures, one-ounce jigs with scented plastic bodies are great on the big reds when they are schooled up and chasing bait.

“Extra-large shrimp will not be turned down by reds, but everything in the Gulf will eat a shrimp, so catfish and ladyfish may eat up a large share of shrimp baits intended for bull reds.”

However, the best results on the Dixey Bar redfish in August will come with live bait.

Extra-large shrimp will not be turned down by reds, but everything in the Gulf will eat a shrimp, so catfish and ladyfish may eat up a large share of shrimp baits intended for bull reds.

For good live bait at any time, try half of an eating-size blue crab pinned on a circle hook. Use a stout long-bladed knife to cut the crab right down the middle. Remove the pinchers first—carefully—and hook the half-crab where the pincher claw came out of the shell. Use a half-ounce slip sinker and fish this right on the bottom. If a bull red is in the vicinity, that yummy crab won’t last long.

The prime bull red bait for August fishing is a live croaker. These baits can be caught around nearly any dock or oyster bar in Mobile Bay, and many local bait and tackle shops sell croakers. Big reds will take croakers eight inches long or bigger, so don’t be shy when getting bait. Big bait equals big fish. I like to put a croaker on a large kahle hook and use just enough weight to get the croaker down in the water column.

Where to Find ‘em

The Dixey Bar is a pretty big place, and not all places on the Bar will hold fish at all times. For the fastest and most reliable fishing for big reds on the Dixey Bar in August, anglers will want to fish an outgoing tide.  This moving water pulls bait of all kinds off the bar and sweeps it out toward the Gulf where redfish are waiting.

I have good results fishing about a half-mile south of the Fort Morgan Point. By using a fish-finder, an angler can find the drop-off where the water goes from five-feet deep on the bar to eight or ten feet or deeper.  This drop-off is the place to find the schools of big reds. Let the bait drift across the shallow water of the bar and then fall off the drop.

It may take a little while to prospect around and find the particular place on the drop-off where the reds are holding, but they will be somewhere on this Gulf-side structure. It’s a five-minute run from the docks and ramps at Fort Morgan to this Dixey Bar hotspot, and it’s the place I always start a redfish expedition.

Big schools of reds can often be found on the side of the Dixey Bar closest to the ship channel. This is the side toward Dauphin Island. Use your fish-finder to locate the drop- off or edge of the bar and drift down the length of the bar dragging a croaker or half-crab.  Mark the spot where the first red hits, circle back and fish the area again. The big reds will almost always be in schools.

Redfish are not always easily caught, and these fish put up a fight. Photo by Ed Mashburn.

Little Bit of Warning

It’s a given that thunderstorms can spring up very quickly in August here on the ‘Bama coast. An advantage of fishing the Dixey Bar is that it’s a five-minute run back to the Fort Morgan ramps and perhaps a 15-minute-or-less run back to the Dauphin Island ramps at Billy Goat Hole. When the first roll of thunder is heard, Dixey Bar anglers should start making preparations to run for safety.

Also, anglers anchored up on Dixey Bar need to be very careful when the tide is running out, as it does when fishing is at its best. An angler in the water on a strong outgoing tide will be swept away from the boat very quickly. Most folks can’t swim well enough to fight the tide and make it back to the boat. Wear life jackets and watch the footing to avoid slips and falls overboard.

When the tide is running out and there’s a wind from the south building up big breaking waves, it can get really rough on the shallow water of the Bar. It may simply be too rough to fish Dixey Bar some days when the water is moving in opposite directions.

 

Alabama Redfish Regulations

When we’re in the middle of a hot bull redfish bite on the Dixey Bar, it might be easy to forget the laws and regulations and keep too many fish or the wrong size fish. That could be very expensive if the Fish and Wildlife folks happen to check us. Let’s look at the regulations regarding redfish in Alabama. Anglers are allowed to keep three redfish between the size of 16 inches and 26 inches in length. Anglers are allowed to keep ONE oversize redfish as part of their three-fish limit. The bigger reds are not as good to eat, and they are the breeding stock that keeps our fantastic redfish fishery going. Instead of keeping a bull red for a trophy, anglers can take measurements and a good photo of the fish, and an artificial but absolutely accurate reproduction of the fish can be produced in most taxidermy shops. This allows us to have our wall-mount trophy and the fish is still swimming in the Gulf making more baby redfish. That’s a winner all the way around.

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