Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Black Drum

June and July are good times to go black drum fishing in our  inshore saltwater areas and off of our ocean piers. Black drum are a hearty fish that do not mind high water temperatures and will hit as well (or better) in the cool of the night when it is more comfortable to fish.
Black drum are not spectacular fighters like their prized cousins the redfish, but they are powerful and usually put a sustained pull on the line once hooked. They strike relatively softly for their size preferring to take the bait in their jaws, which contain their shell-crunching teeth, and grind their food which is usually barnacles, oysters, and clams. The hit of a black drum is often light, like someone plucking on a guitar string (that's what your line will feel like as it vibrates).
Black drum are tied to hard structure. Unlike red drum they do not typically cruise the sandy beach. Black drum like inshore hard structure with strong current. Jetties, bridges, piers, and anything with barnacle-encrusted pilings are black drum territory. They also roam over oyster beds.
Big black drum often favor deep water areas under bridges and in river channels. The Intracoastal Waterway is loaded with black drum habitats (especially docks and bridges) and they gravitate to ocean pier pilings.
Smaller black drum can be taken on standard two-hook bottom rigs on standard medium-light tackle. Big black drum specialists often rely on the strength of short but powerful extra-heavy rods and 20 to 25 lb test.
For smaller drum use a 2 or 3 ounce bank or other rounded sinker (pyramid sinkers hang up frequently around structure) and #1 or 1/0 J-hooks. Big drum are sought with fishfinder rigs, big barrel weights, and hooks 5/0 or larger. Currents in the deep channels where big drum lurk are strong so heavy weights and leader (but not wire) is required.
Some anglers prefer traditional ‘drum rigs’ over fishfinders. They tie their running line to one loop of a three-loop swivel, with leader line (heavy mono or fluorocarbon) attached to one other loop and running to the hook. A snap for the sinker is attached to the third loop.
Small black drum are taken most often on fresh cut shrimp. Many are caught incidentally by bottom anglers fishingfor other species this way. Live or whole dead shrimp will work as well and you can use previously frozen bait shrimp (though fresh is better).
Black drum will hit almost any natural bait on occasion, including squid, cut bait, and minnows, but they prefer shellfish and that is the way to target them. Fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and clam meat are good baits, as are pieces of cut blue crab.
Black drum are not normally taken on lures but may hit a weighty bucktail jig if it is tipped with shrimp and fished very slowly. White and yellow are the best colors for this. They may occasionally strike synthetic shrimp-imitation baits like the Gulp! lures and they hit the Fishbites synthetic baits well.
Black drum get huge and the biggest copper-tinged giants go into the triple digits. Big black drum are not good to eat and are often infested with many parasites. At that size black drum are actually a dull gray and they should be released.
Black drum under about eight pounds are white with big bold stripes (which fade as the fish get older). Striped black drum are delicious to eat and good in many recipes. You should still release very small drum, however.

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