A different drum, Black Drum
Mention “Drum fishing” and most anglers are automatically going to think “red drum”, also known as the redfish, which is a very popular game fish especially on light tackle. But if you are looking for big drum, on big tackle you need to consider “the other drum”, the redfish’s cousin the black drum.
Although the black drum is often found in close proximity to its cousin, which it often interbreeds with, being neighbors is where the similarities end. Trophy redfish, called red bulls, are anything over 27 inches. A trophy black drum can be as large as 80 pounds, although the average fish is more likely to be in the 30-40 lb. range. This means that light tackle will not work and simply hauling that much fish to the surface can be a challenge before what you’ve hook even decides it doesn’t want to see sun light.
Finding black drum is not that difficult as they are creatures of habit. Their normal range includes the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays as well as the Jersey Shore backwater areas. In the spring they migrate to shallows near mussel or clam beds, so start by targeting shoals or channel edges near these nature feeding grounds. As summer approaches the fish move deeper and cluster near natural or manmade rock structures. Once you’ve located a likely area drop a fish finding rig and a little bit of clam chum over the side and see what happens. If you do not feel any hits in 20-30 minutes adjust your position and try again.
Due to its potential size you need to make sure your gear can handle even the biggest fish down there. For spring fish you will need a heavy boat rod coupled with a high power reel spooled with lots of 60 lb braided line. Then you need to get your rig to the bottom and this will require a heavy, 6 or 8 ounce, sinker clipped to a fish finder rig. An 8/0 circle hook holding a large, fresh clam will complete the set up and allow for easier release later. For summer fish you can switch to a heavy spinning rodheavy spinning rod outfitted with 50 lb. braid, bouncing a 1 ounce jig/ soft plastic on the bottom.
While young black drum have a taste which closely resembles that of the red drum, which some anglers find very delicate, larger black drum take on a tougher texture and are often plagued by worms. This means that most anglers will choose to release rather than harvest larger trophy size fish, allowing them to be caught again and again.
While the red drum is the more popular member of the family the black drum should not be written off as a black sheep. Both species are fun to catch and can offer hours of angling memories. So regardless of which you pick, black or red, you can always be a winner.
Good luck, good fishing!