Black drum fishing shares plenty of similar aspects with red drum fishing, it has its own specifics. However, if you’ve ever fished for red drum, you can basically use the same tackle and bait that you would normally use for reds, to catch black drum. Anyway, here are a few aspects regarding black drum fishing, tackle, baits and habitat.
Black Drum – Habitat and Habits
Black drum are distributed along the Atlantic Coast, from New York to the waters of Gulf of Mexico, with a very high abundance in Texas area. They are highly adaptable fish, and can be found in quite a wide range of habitats. From clear waters with sandy beds, to muddy waters of flooding sloughs, from waters so shallow that their backs come out, to depths over 100 ft., from extremely high water temperatures such as in Laguna Madre, to the colder waters of the northern coast, black drum can often surprise the angler with their presence, offering conditions for quality fishing.
They prefer though, waters with temperatures between 53°F – 91°F (12°C – 33°C), however, it’s important to know that suddent temperature drops often drives them to deeper waters. They prefer sandy or muddy bottoms where they can find plenty of food, but if you’re looking for prize black drum, best places to start with are oyster reefs.
Fishing Methods for Black Drum
Black drum can be caught via various methods, but in general, black drum fishing does not require extreme finesse, skill or expensive, special gear. Depending on what fish size you’re targeting, just get an appropriate rod, have a sinker heavy enough to get the bait to the bottom, and simply wait for the fish to bite. Therefore, surf fishing or down-dropping from a pier or boat are two most often used methods.
However, since black drum can be found in very shallow waters, fly fishing is always a very fun option. They can also be caught with other artificial lures, but this method requires a lot of patience and perseverance. That’s because they are not voracious predators such as striped bass for example, they tend to nibble and “taste” their food before actually taking it, and once they see it’s a fake, they move on.
Baits and Lures for Black Drum
Black drum’s diet consists mainly of annelids, mollusks and small crustaceans. Therefore, some of the best baits for black drum are fiddler crabs, shrimp, mussels, ragworms, fish strips or other cut-baits.
If you want to try catching them with lures, it’s best to go with crab, shrimp or squid imitations. Scented lures make a huge difference though. This being said, some of the best lures to try on black drum are DOA Softshell Crabs, DOA Shrimp, Gulp! Peeler Crabs or Bass Assassin Blurp Shrimp.
Tackle for Black Drum
Rods. Depending on the fishing method and the drums you’re going after, different rods may be required. For example, for smaller fish, lighter rods can work just fine, but for a 40-50 pounder, you’ll be needing a heavy rod, with some sturdy backbone. Therefore, a 6’6″ – 7’6″ heavy rod, medium-fast, or fast action, 50 lb. line rated, such as a Shimano TLC70HBBL Tallus Blue Water, or a Daiwa Daiwa Saltist Boat Spinning STW70MHFS Rod should do. If you’re fishing in the surf, you should opt for surf rods though. So, in this case a Daiwa EC1202MHFS Emcast Surf Rod, or an Okuma Tundra Surf Glass Spinning Rod should be excellent choices.
Reels. For a rod 50lb. line rated, you’re going to need the appropriate, 50lb. (braid) reel. An Okuma Avenger ABF 50-65, or a Penn Squall SQ60LD, are excellent choices. Evidently, lighter tackle calls for a lighter reel.
Line. As mentioned above, 40-50lb. pound test braided line, is the best choice for big drums.
Hooks. Circle hooks, or Kahle-style hooks, 5/0 – 8/0 are the ones you should be opting for if you’re going with crabs and mussels. If you opt for ragworms, or fish strips, J-hooks (same size range) are more appropriate, however, they tend to swallow these, and it will make it very difficult to unhook the fish without considerably harming them, if you practice catch and release.
Rigs. One of the most used rigs for black drum is the Carolina rig. However, this only works best in conditions of minimal tidal movement or low current. Strong currents will make this type of rig to move a lot, resulting in poor control of bait placement. So, in case of stronger currents, “3-way” rigs, with pyramidal sinker which keeps the bait in place is a better options. Anyway, whatever rig you use, make sure the line moves freely when taken, without opposing a lot of resistance, as black drum are quite sensitive to pressure, and will spit the bait out if they sense something’s not right with it.