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Black Drum Fishing

Catching One of these Monsters is a Spring Time Ritual for Some

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Photo © Ron Brooks

Black Drum in the Inlet

Photo © Ron Brooks
Every spring – actually late winter and early spring, the black drum make their way into the inlets up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This is the time of year that the big breeder fish come in to spawn.

Black drum fishing enthusiasts make plans months ahead of time, tuning up their tackle, and their boats. Although the average “big” drum catch is around 40 pounds, these fish can reach weights over 100 pounds, and annually many fish that size are caught.

This is really a relatively simple fishing experience. You don’t really need any special tackle other than a heavy rod and reel with 50 pound test line. Simply put a bait on the bottom and wait.

Each inlet has specific spots that anglers have found over the years that seem to produce more fish. The easiest way to find one of these spots is to get out there on a weekend and look for the gaggle of anchored boats. With channelized inlets, they will generally be anchored along the edge of a channel that is often the deepest water in the inlet. Sometimes they will be just inside the inlet, around an eddy that slows the current a bit.

In non-channelized inlets, they can be found fishing the deep holes on the inside of the sandbars. The breakers are crashing the bar in front of them, and they have baits down in the deeper holes.

Speaking of bait, there are two primary baits that the “experts” use. While anglers usually prefer one or the other, both baits will work equally well. These baits are clams and crabs.

A whole or half blue crab on an 8/0 hook is about as good a bait as you can get. If the crab is small, use the whole crab. If it’s a big crab, cut it in half or even quarter it. Some anglers say that the cut crab works better because it can be found easier with the scent in the water. Some of them will crunch a whole crab to release those scents.

Clams have to be cut out of their shell and tied to the hook. Bread tie twists work here. If the clam is big, you only need one, but smaller clams mean using the meat from several of them.

While these are the primary baits, these fish can be caught on other baits. Sometimes whiting fisherman , fishing with small shrimp will hook into a big drum. I think about the only bait I have not seen work well is cut bait. That said, I will now get a ton of people telling me that cut bait works just fine. Maybe so, but not in my experience.

The technique is simple. Anchor over the fishing spot and put a line or two on the bottom. Set the clicker on the reel, and then sit back, drink a cup of coffee and wait for the bite. It is really a relaxing fishing experience – until that reel goes off!

Fighting a big drum is something akin to fighting a big rock. You have to pump and grind and get them off the bottom. They fight hard, but they also fight slow. You won’t have any long fast runs. You will have a slug fest to get him to the surface.

The fishing is fun, but the fish itself is, in my opinion, not so much fun. There are anglers out there that swear by the meat from these big fish. Many of them ‘pickle” the meat and can it for later meals. In my experience, the meat is extremely fatty and coarse. I had a hard time getting past the smell after I cleaned one – and all it took was one for me.

I do eat smaller drum – those under ten pounds. They are actually quite good. But, the big boys are not even on my radar. I will take someone drum fishing for the experience, but I do everything in my power to convince them to take a picture of it and let it go. Some of those who kept one anyway ended up calling me and telling me I was right.

But – as the saying goes – to each his own. To all you folks out there that love them, I say more power to you! I hope you catch a record fish! To those who don’t want to eat them, I say take care of them and release them to fight again another day!

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