by Capt. Charles Newton
Some say "it's" fun and some say "it's" dumb. Call it what you want but they are all talking about the annual drum run. To me it is the second most exciting fish to catch. The first being a redfish. The drum run has begun and fighting a black drum for 20 minutes to an hour is a whole lot of fun and dumb. I love to see the excitement of people's faces. The first expressions are "WOW" I've hung the a boat headed for China or anywhere but here. Then next you hear complaining that the fish is wearing the fisherman out, complaining of hurt hands from gripping the rod or aching shoulders or tired arms. Then the excitement kicks back in and they can't wait to see this monster of the deep. But the final smile when I net the HUGE fish is a sight to behold, as you can see in the pictures. They can't believe that they actually caught this fish. Then the complaining begins again when I make them pose for a picture holding the black drum up. Try holding 40-65 lbs. up either sideways or up and down. It's not easy, especially when someone behind the camera is trying to focus or have you move over out of a shadow or yea, you've been there. Another interesting thing about this fish is the unique sound they make when laying on the deck of the boat. They make a croaking or drumming sound with the air bladder, which is the reason for the common name drum. You can sometimes hear these sounds while in the boat coming from the water while a school passes underneath.
The black drum is perhaps the most notable drum for it's annual run of "bull" drum. In many of our deeper bays, ship channels and some jetties in the Gulf, the large drum gather in schools before spawning. This all occurs in late February and during the month of March each year. Some compare landing a 50 lb. drum with trying to rise a sunken log, (dumb) but most anglers are devotees of this kind of fishing in Texas. It is probably the best chance many anglers will have to land a 30 to 60 pound fish. Drum are found in the clearest of waters off the sand flats to the muddiest of waters. This adaptability makes the black drum available to more anglers than any other bay fish.
The puppy drum which are often called "choice fish" are great for eating and 5 can be kept if they are over 14" and under 30" per day. Rather than eating these larger drum, anglers are encouraged to release them to spawn and fight them another day. "Spaghetti worms" common in speckled trout are present in larger drum and, while unappetizing, they are not harmful to humans. Remember after the huge fight these awesome fish have fought they bloat themselves up and have to be what I call "de-flated", have a small bladed knife on board to punch a hole just below the lateral line to let the air out, while the fish is laying on the deck. While the knife blade is still inserted turn the blade slightly and you can actually hear the air being released, or press down on the fish slightly to release the air. Return the fish to the water and gently move it up and down until it swims out of your hand. This process keeps them from floating away to a certain death.
The black drum is has whiskers under the lower jaw, and is a chunky, high backed fish. They range in coloration of light gray to golden to black. The bellies of the older fish are white. The black drum grows from 6" the first year to 12" the second and 16" the third. Increasing of about 2" per year after that.
They eat a variety of baits and often "mouth" the bait for some time before swallowing it, and the fisherman must be patient and wait until the fish moves off with the bait before jerking, and at this point you don't have to ask "Did I get a bite?" Their diets include small crabs, algae, small fish, mollusks and shrimp. I usually fish with crab or shrimp to catch them. They have no canine teeth like those of the trout but they do have highly developed pharyngeal teeth (in the pharynx or throat) which are used to crush the crabs or mollusks before swallowing.
Fighting these drum can be done on almost any type of rod and reels. I usually equip my boat with light to medium light tackle. Part of the fun is seeing the fight between angler and fish. I enjoy seeing anyone sweat while tying to land these action packed fighters. The lighter the tackle the longer the fight. I usually use 12 lb. test line and a 7 1/2' medium light rod.
Unlike speckled trout that spawn only in the bays, and redfish or red drum that spawn only in the Gulf, black drum will spawn in either the bay or Gulf or in the connecting passes. Free spawning (random release of eggs) occurs mostly in February through April with some later spawning occurring in June and July.
Just for the records from Texas Parks and Wildlife
the Rod & Reel record for Black
drum is 81 lbs. measuring 51.18" and caught in 1988 from the Gulf of Mexico. The largest black drum on record weighed 146 pounds.
When the drum run is going on you can choose to fish for them all day or fish for them 1/2 day and fish for Redfish the other half day. To book a fishing trip my wife, Beverly will be happy to discuss any questions about your trip or bookings with you. My website www.redfishcharters.com has lots of information on it including a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page. As well as a link to Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Beverly has a complete list of motels and places to stay if you need that information. She answers the phone 24-7. Give her a call @ 800-862-7987 or 361-729-8220.