Black Drum Provide Cold Water Action
This past week brought us the coldest push of air yet this year, with temperatures staying in the 40's for several days straight. The wind and rain that accompanied it was enough to send most folks to shelter indoors. The weather was not fit for man nor beast, but I, and a few others went fishing anyways. It gave me a reason to break the wetsuit and cold gear out of the closet and get a little much needed exercise to counter-act the Thanksgiving feasts.
The anglers that would brave the weather were amply rewarded. Reports poured in of good catches of drum from Boca Chica to Corpus Christi. The quick drop in temperatures put the black drum, which are called "tambor" in Spanish, on the move and on the feed. It was easy limits for most fishermen soaking shrimp on the bottom of many area channels and passes.
I chose to catch them from my Ocean Kayak. A quick paddle and I could get to a secluded stretch of shoreline away from other fisherman. Although it isn't necessary, I think it enhances the quality of the outdoors experience to fish in solitude, alongside of birds instead of other people.
The rigging is simple. I use a double drop leader, made with 30lb test line and 2/0 hooks with a 1 or 2oz weight. A 7 or 8ft rod is ideal with a reel spooled with 10-15lb line. Black drum pull hard and lighter gear makes for sore hands and arms after catching a few. This week I was catching and releasing as many as thirty drum in a trip lasting only a couple hours.
Even though I was catching them for fun, slot sized drum make for excellent table fare. They are delicious battered and fried, baked in butter, blackened, or grilled. They can be a bit difficult to clean, but with a little practice their anatomy is less of a conundrum. Conun"drum", get it? Use a large serrated knife to outline the fillet, it will make short work of the large scales that can be a problem with a typical fillet knife. Then, use a sharp fillet knife to come back and peel the fillet from the backbone and ribs afterward. Never cutting through bone will save the edge on your knife.
The population of black drum in the Lower Laguna Madre is as good as I have seen it in the last twenty years. It was a slow recovery, but it appears they have made a good comeback from the over-exploitation they experienced during less regulated commercial fishing. As always, keep only what you will eat soon. The limit is 5 fish 14-30 inches in length. Although one is allowed over 52", a drum of this size would be a record breaking fish, so for all practical purposes, all over sized drum should be immediately released.