Thanksgiving is the start of what could be considered the real Carolina southeastern coast black drum fishing season. Black drum will hit around structure like docks and bridges inshore all year, but when the water gets cold and the pinfish begin leaving it gets much easier to target them with natural bait like cut shrimp.
The rest of the year when the water is hotter, the very numerous pinfish are adept at stripping your bait before the slower black drum can locate it. That means the serious black drum fishing is best done in the cold water between Thanksgiving and early spring.
Black drum hit any shellfish bait fished around the pilings near the bottom. They will hit almost any bait when really hungry (even live minnows) but most are caught on shellfish baits. I like to use cut shrimp backed with artificial Fishbities squares or fresh clam meat.
They’ll strike fiddler crabs and cut blue crab as well. I’ve cleaned many black drum that had stomachs full of whole, small crabs. You can catch the largest ones on live shrimp until the live shrimp are gone for the winter.
Black drum are not a grab and run fish when they hit a bait. A black drum has its teeth in its throat and goes around swallowing crabs, clams, mussels and oysters then grinding them slowly up and spitting (most of) the shells back out.
There are times a black drum can have your entire bait in its mouth for a good stretch and you won’t even know it, unless you have a finger on the line and are feeling for the tell-tale vibrations on the line.
Feeling for that strumming and then setting the hook is the key to black drum fishing. Otherwise you will miss a lot of fish. Yes, black drum do sometimes hook themselves and then you have a strong pull on the line. But for every one of those there are likely three that come along and taste your bait without you knowing it, spitting out your hook.
Black drum can get huge, up to over 100 lbs, but most of the ones caught are smaller fish of a few pounds. Smaller black drum are a white fish with large bold black stripes and are very tasty eating. Larger black drum are a darker brown or gray, not good to eat, and should be released alive.
For plenty of additional tips on catching and cooking black drum and all Carolina inshore saltwater fish check out my new book Surf and Saltwater Fishing in the Carolinas, a perfect Christmas present for a Carolina angler.
For plenty of free fishing and seafood articles check out my fishing blog A Dash of Salty