LOOKING TO HOOK UP with a big fish in one of the Texas coastal bays? How about Old Nasty, or as I have heard anglers call them, “Old Rubber Lips.” Of course, I’m referring to big black drum, fish that will easily go 20, 30 pounds, or more.
It’s been reported that large black drum can eat more than two commercial-sized oysters per kilogram of body weight each day. Doing the math, a 20-pound drum can eat approximately 44 oysters a day. That’s a lot of oysters.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says that a black drum will reach a length of six inches in their first year, 12 inches the second and 16 inches the third. Increases of about two inches per year occur after that. The largest black drum on record weighed 146 pounds. The Texas record taken by a sport angler is 78 pounds.
The black drum can adapt to a wider range of habitats than any other important Texas food fish. Drums are found in the clearest water of sand flats and in the muddiest waters of a flooding slough. They thrive in water so shallow that their backs are exposed, and also in the Gulf waters more than 100 feet deep.
They are found in extremely warm shallow flats of the Laguna Madre during summer and survive better than many other fish in freezing weather. They are attracted to freshwater runoff from creeks and rivers, yet can live in waters twice as salty as the Gulf of Mexico. This adaptability makes the black drum available to more anglers than any other bay fish.
Large black drums are not considered a “food fish” by Texas anglers. The smaller drum in the one to four-pound range are good to eat.
Most drum feeding is done by feel and smell. Cut fish, squid and shrimp are used, with peeled shrimp tails (preferably ripe and smelly) the most popular.
Since feeding is done on the bottom, the basic technique is simple – put a baited hook on the bottom and wait for the drum to swallow it. For the popular smaller fish light tackle is more sporting, but for 40-pounders, a heavy rod with plenty of backbone is needed. Use a strong single hook with line and leader of appropriate strength. For more sport, try light tackle using a single drop with no sinker, allowing the bait to move along the bottom with the current. If the bait will not sink, a few split shot on the leader will help.
A conventional bottom rig with sinker and one or more drops with single hooks is most common for bank, surf fishing or fishing from an anchored boat. The absence of weight increases the fight of the fish.
Capt. Jack McPartland says the anglers who go with him in search of the big-’uns are going for the sport. “We use our typical bay gear; it’s a 20-30 minute fight, dead shrimp or sea lice for bait.
Big Black Drum will be in the Aransas, Redfish, Corpus Christi and our other bays until at least mid-March.” McPartland said to look for deep channels and fish on the bottom.
“Carolina-style rigged, length of leader is not important,” says McPartland. He uses an eight- to sixteen-inch leader with a 6/0 Circle hook. “Leader material is the same as the line spooled on my reels. Ninety-nine percent of the times it’s a lip catch.”
Fish along channel slopes. “I fish on the edge of the Corpus Christi Ship Channel,” shares McPartland.
A word of caution: “Don’t fish in the middle because of the ship channel usage,” says Capt. Jack. “Every year I see fisherman, fishing from boats, get into serious trouble when the wake from a tanker passing by does its best to flip their boat. One year, I saw a boat located between two ships—not a smart move.” Even when wading the shoreline, be careful with a passing tanker. An angler out too far can be buried and sucked under by the wash from a super tanker.
Other locations that have been historically good places to seek out both small and large drums in the Rockport-Fulton area are: Mack Reef, Long Reef, Big Island and the Jay Bird area. Other good black drum fishing spots are Yucca Cut, California Hole, Hog Island and the Morris & Cummings Cut.
Drum will often “mouth” the bait for some time before swallowing it. Be patient; wait until the fish moves off with the bait, then jerk the rod tip up to set the hook.
Then be prepared for a 20-30 minute fight. It makes for a great fish story to tell your angler friends. Don’t forget the camera.
Location: Wisconsin Cut
GPS: N 27 42.011, W 97 11.203
Species: Speckled Trout, Redfish
Tips: Freeline live bait, preferrably croaker; start in 3-inch water and work deeper, looking for pockets.
Email Tom Behrens at [email protected]