Pursuit of this big, powerful fish tends to lure large crowds of anglers
If you’ve never fished for black drum during their springtime “run,” then you’ve definitely been missing out on some hard tugs, memorable times and monster fish. Adult members of the species’ population are schooling along channels and passes right now as their spawning season kicks into high gear. This pattern provides anglers with an opportunity to tangle with a strong, hard-nosed bull of a fish that could tip the scales to 30-40 pounds or more. Do I have your attention yet?
This annual gathering of large drum in predictable locations tends to bring anglers out of the woodwork, and for good reason. Targeting these heavy fish is just plain fun, not to mention there’s really not a whole lot to it.
From now through the end of April, black drum will be schooling in a variety of areas in the central parts of the Galveston Bay complex that are accessible to both bank anglers and those fishing from a boat. One of the best hot spots for hooking up with these fish for shore-bound anglers lies at the end of the Texas City Dike. A deep gut is within casting distance of the rocks that line the tip of the dike and it’s often referred to as the drum hole. Another excellent place where bank anglers can pursue oversized drum is Seawolf Park, which is on Pelican Island along the edge of the Galveston Channel.
The Bolivar Wells, the Galveston jetties, the Galveston Channel and deep areas near the Pelican Island Bridge can be some of the most productive fishing grounds to target mature black drum during the spring for those with access to a boat.
Regardless of where anglers are fishing, one of the biggest keys to catching plenty of black drum is water movement. The fish just don’t seem to cooperate well during a slack tide, so timing a trip based on when the current is going to be moving in or out is extremely important.
All of the areas mentioned will receive strong surges of tidal movement. Anglers fishing from a boat will need to make sure they have an effective anchor with an ample amount of line. The stronger the current, the more it will be necessary to let out plenty of line for the anchor to hold a vessel in place.
Getting a bait down to the bottom and keeping it there also is vital. The faster the current is moving, the heavier the weight on the bottom rig will need to be to keep the bait in the strike zone.
When it comes to choosing a type of bait, live blue crabs rule. If live blue crabs aren’t available, then fresh, frozen blue crabs can serve as a decent substitute. The best way to fish with a blue crab is to peel its top shell off and then cut it into quarters. Each of these chunks makes a great bait that drum can’t resist.
If crabs can’t be found at any of the local bait shops, then live crawfish is a good alternative. So is fresh or frozen shad and large dead shrimp.
As far as tackle is concerned, a large boat rod that sports the stiffness of a broomstick, paired with a decent sized conventional reel, is definitely the way to go. This type of setup will help anglers wear out these muscular fish quickly. Not only do large drum pull like a tank, they can seem even stronger when they have a deep-water column and swift current to swim in. After a few battles with some large specimens, anglers will be glad they didn’t use lighter gear to pursue these fish.
When it comes to terminal tackle, a single drop, bottom rig with a 3/0 “J” hook tied above an 8- to 16-ounce weight will do the trick. The leader for this rig should be heavy enough to withstand the strength of these fish, and I recommend using a 60- to 80-pound test monofilament at the very least.
Additional locations along the upper Texas coast are experiencing similar patterns, as large schools of black drum are stacked up to spawn in and around them. The Sabine jetties, Sabine Pass, the San Luis Pass and the Freeport jetties are all great options for finding piles of these aquatic beasts.
Keeping a vent tool handy is also a necessity when targeting oversized black drum during their annual spring run. Oftentimes, the swim bladder in these fish becomes bloated from the rapid change in pressure as they’re brought from the depths to the surface. The air in this bladder must be bled out before the fish is released, otherwise the fish won’t be able to swim properly and won’t survive.
Anyone looking to spend an unforgettable day on the water battling powerful fish until their arms are sore should gear up for the black drum run immediately. Pursuing these brutes is an absolute blast and it’s something that everyone should experience this spring.