( Red Drum)

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Name: Redfish
Scientific name: Sciaenops ocellatus
Range: Texas Gulf Coast, from Atlantic seacoast ranging from Mass. to Fla. continuing along Gulf of Mexico.
Habitat: Saltwater to brackish water. including marshland, coastal rivers, and bay areas.  Prefer shallows.  Flourish in water temperatures in the 70's and 80's.
Status: Not threatened.  However, fishing limits on both commercial and recreational fishing are in place.
Diet in the wild: Bottom feeds off of mollusks, crab, shrimp, crustaceans.  Surface feeds on small fish.
Diet in the zoo: shrimp, crustaceans, small fish, meal.
Location in the zoo: Texas Wild exhibit, Gulf Coast Bait Shack
  • Physical description: 
    • Body length usually 24 to 36 inches
    • Weight commonly up to 20 lb.  (Texas Record 51 1/2 lb.)
    • White underside with a copper/grey body color 
    • Tail is accented by at least one black spot 
    • Males develop approximately 2 years faster than females. Females first spawn at approximately 5 yr..

    General information:

     The Redfish is notorious as a bottom feeding animal.  However, it can also be seen on the surface, feeding on schools of fingerling baitfish.  It prefers shallow grass beds and and structures where small fish and crustaceans are abundant.  There was a drastic decline in Red Drum populations in the late sixties and early seventies.  Through conservation efforts the species has once again reached abundant levels.  The first hatchery established to restock the Redfish population was here in Texas near Port O'Conner.  In 1983, they released 2.3 million fingerlings into the San Antonio Bay.  This is an amazing sport fish to pursue. 

    Special anatomical, physiological
    or behavioral adaptations:

    The only three truly unique feature this animal possesses is its prominent spot or multiple spots on the dorsal edge of the tail fin.  It does have strong jaws and the ability to grind its food, aiding in the consumption of mollusks and crustaceans ( a  major food source ).  Its unique behavioral feature is that this fish likes to dig its nose into the sandy ocean bottoms, allowing its tail to splash the top of the water, known as "tailing". 


    Comments about the Redfish of the Fort Worth Zoo:

    The Texas Wild exhibit has on display 5 Redfish.  They are typically a schooling fish which allows them to be more efficient during feeding.  Typically Redfish like to corral their prey into the shallows and feed in waves.

    Personal Observations:

    This is a feisty, fun fish to pursue on regular fishing tackle or a fly rod.  They are amazing fighters.  Due to continued conservation efforts, the Redfish is continuing its resurgence in the wild.  The exhibit at the Ft. Worth Zoo contains five fish in varying stages of maturity.  The immature fish typically contain four or five spots on their tail section whereas the mature fish typically have only one.

    Source Materials and Related Links:

    Page author:Larry D. Renfro

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