These giants are one of those species that not too many anglers have on their top 10 list of fish to catch. The Black Drum will probably never be a popular fish among anglers and that is "too bad" because angling isn't about "justice" per se.. For strength and sheer power these specimens are hard to beat, testing any anglers' abilities. Also since Drum are caught mostly in the bay, guided trips for pursuing these beasts are relatively inexpensive. That fact alone makes the Black Drum a good candidate for the angler on a budget. Add to that the possibility of catching a specimen weighing between 50 and 100 pounds and you have a recipe for excitement. Hold on, sit tight and I will give you some information about angling for one of the strongest saltwater fish that I have ever encountered.
Some Facts About Black Drum
The Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) vocalizes by the males creating a drumming sound during mating season. This vocalization is very distinct with the sound ranging between 100 and 500 Hz. Their sound travels quite a long distance as it is transmitted with a lot of energy. The world record Black Drum is just slightly over 113 pounds. My personal best is a 65-pound specimen that gave me quite a battle lasting 25 minutes and taxing muscles that I never knew existed. The color of the fish is gray or black with juveniles sporting vertical black stripes down their sides. Black Drum have powerful jaws that along with their pharyngeal teeth (teeth in the throat) literally crush the clam and oyster shells so they can easily eat their favorite foods. During the month of May and into early June the Drum make their annual mating migration up the Delaware Bay. This is considered to be the prime time of year to go angling for these enormous fish. Oyster beds are the major fishing areas for this giant of the bay since mature Black Drum eat mollusks and crabs. Immature Drum eat mostly worms and small fish while the larvae chow down on zooplankton. The small drum are sometimes confused with a fish called sheepshead, but the fact that drum have barbels on the sides of their mouth whereas sheepshead do not distinguishes the difference between the species..
Black Drum mature after 2 full years of life and are ready to spawn in estuaries during that spring. The estuary is where these fish spend most of their juvenile time so the quality of water in these areas is paramount to the welfare of Drum. They can live to be 60 years old on the east coast but do not live nearly that long in the Gulf of Mexico. These fish are commonly caught with bait that is normally found on the bottom since that is where they get most of their food. Sometimes they can be seen with their tails almost completely out of the water while burrowing on the bottom with their mouths in search of clams. Drum are scent feeders not sight feeders, so delicate presentations with light line are definitely not needed. Using a 40 pound leader to catch these fish is quite common along with size 2/0 to 7/0 hooks.
Black Drum exhibit a very mild flavor and contain only a small amount of oil. Larger fish (those above 15#) have their flesh become more like the texture of chicken rather than being flaky just like most other fish. They are quite delicious when cooked over an open fire while camping and I can personally attest to that. For a quick and easy recipe for your catch just wrap each fillet separately in aluminum foil along with a teaspoon of lemon juice, some Old Bay seasoning and a bit of butter. Place your fish on a rack over the open fire and cook it for 5-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillet) on each side. Then you are ready to eat your fish. The same results can be achieved by the use of a charcoal grill if you do not happen to be camping. You can serve the fish with some potato chips and macaroni or pasta salad. Then all of a suddenly you will feel like royalty because this is a meal fit for a king. Cleaning these fish is by no means an easy task as removing the scales on the larger fish is cumbersome. The use of an electric knife makes the cleaning chore a little more tolerable. Be patient as this work takes a bit of time to perform.
If you enjoy fishing, time on the water or just having a great time with the company of family and friends give angling for Black Drum a try. The fish are by no means easy to catch but well worth the effort it takes to be successful at boating one of thse giants. The rates for chartering a boat are very affordable and you will come home with a memory that will last a lifetime whether a fish is caught or not. So take the plunge and give Black Drum fishing a try and you'll be hooked for life.