There is something awe-inspiring about seeing a massive school of large fish moving as one while working across a flat actively feeding. Every year in the spring and fall anglers are treated to the sight of black drum congregating in Tampa Bay. During this time anglers get a chance to sight cast fish in these large schools. They can also be caught year-round near the bridge structures throughout the Tampa bay area.
Adult black drum regularly top 30+ pounds. They are similar looking to large redfish, but mostly grey or bronze, have taller bodies and have barbels under their lower jaw. Black drum predominantly feed on crustaceans, and their massive tails are often seen waving above the water as the root around for crabs. They also make a loud drumming noise, which can easily be heard from the boat when schools are approaching.
Light spinning gear is all that is needed to land black drum, although a sturdier setup will ensure a quicker landing near structure or other anglers. Black drum are strong fish that typically bulldog towards the bottom and pull consistently until they are brought to the boat.
One strategy that can be successful to locate the schools is to head out to the flats in 2-4 feet of water near oyster or clam bars at low tide, in preparation to fish the incoming tide. Once the fish are located, fishing dead bait or small crabs on the bottom is the most effective technique. This includes dead shrimp, cut blue crab, chunks of ladyfish, and squid.
These baits should be rigged on a circle hook, typically 2/0 to 5/0 depending on the bait size. To target them on artificial lures, anglers can use a small paddle tail or imitation crab, cast in front of the fish, and worked slowly across the bottom towards the incoming fish.
Smaller black drum, generally under eight pounds, are excellent to eat. Many people cannot tell it apart from redfish. Anglers can keep five black drum from 14 to 24 inches in length, with one fish over 24 inches.
Captain Kevin Walton with Non-Stop Fishing Charters grew up fishing in the water surrounding St. Petersburg mastering the patterns of black drum and other game fish. When you would like to experience the thrill of sight casting to a school of huge black drum, and their tenacious fight, book your spring season trip now before they fill up.