Black drum is one of my favorite species to target here in Sarasota because we just don’t see a lot of them. Even though they look somewhat like their cousins the red drum “redfish” they have many differences that make them unique. The average black drum we see cruising the grass flats here are 5-30 lbs but this breed is the largest of the drum family and can reach over 90 lbs! The juveniles look very similar to the sheepshead. They are a silver-grey color with 4-5 vertical black bars running across their body. The main difference is that sheepshead have crazy human like teeth and black drum have chin barbells. After about 24 inches the black drum start to lose their black bars. Their mouths are on the bottom of their face with whisker looking things under the chin, making them the ultimate bottom feeder.
For the next few months you will find black drum slowly scouring the grass flats looking for their next meal. Usually I will see them in pods of 2-5 fish but don’t be surprised if you run into a huge school of them mixed in with a school of red drum. Any shallow water area near an oyster bar is an excellent place to look for them as well. If you're lucky they will be waving their giant flag looking tail out of the water saying “I’m over here!” Another way to target the larger adult ones that we call the “Big Uglies” is by fishing pilings under bridges, piers, and docks. The reason we call them “Big Uglies” is because once they have reached full maturity, most of them lose their beautiful stripes and turn a dull grey color. They also have GIANT heads with a mouth full of crazy whisker looking things, so really they are quite incredible looking.
The first way I enjoy targeting them is with artificial soft-plastics like the Monster 3X X-MOVE on 1/8 oz. jig head. The larger ones are especially smart, but some type of scent like Pro-Cure helps to entice them. My next favorite way to catch them is on flies with a fly rod. They can be extremely picky about the size and color, but darker crab pattern flies work best for me. And if you really want to get’er done… a blue crab chunk or claw will get them chewing just about every time!
Larger black drum can be like pulling in a dump truck and really aren’t worth eating. But, under 15 lbs. they can put up a pretty good fight and are absolutely delicious! Till next time, be safe! Tight lines and tight knots! Eric Henson is the owner of Casting Kayaks LLC a guided kayak fishing company out of Sarasota Florida. He specializes in inshore light tackle or fly fishing from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor. To book a guided fishing trip with Eric check out his website www.CastingKayaks.com or give him a call at 941-504-1349