Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sciaenops Ocellatus or The Red Drum : Part 1

Today I'm beginning a two part series on fishing for Red Drums , also known as the Channel Bass , the Redfish or Spot Tailed Bass. One of the most popular game fish on the East Coast , this species has a strong , almost cult like , group of followers who prefer to catch these noble fish over anything else. They are a protected species , with slot limits and no posession rules in many places. They are the state fish of North Carolina , which offers some of the best Drum fishing in the world off the coast of the Outer Banks. The current world record Red Drum weighing 94 lbs 2 oz. was caught off of Hatteras Island in 1984 and the previous record holder was also caught in NC waters 11 years prior. Red Drum can be caught on the East Coast from Virginia to Florida and along the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas.

Currently the larger specimens are valued more for sport than as a food source , though smaller slot fish are often eaten. They are a source of income for many charter captains along coastal waters because catching a trophy sized Red Drum is truly a once in a lifetime experience. These hard fighting behemoths are released after a few pictures and a couple measurements to fight another day. Many Drum fisherman cringe at the thought of killing these fish that so many people enjoy catching , and handle them respectfully and very carefully. This wasn't always the case. I've heard horror stories of dead Drums being piled in dumpsters , unwanted because of their coarse flesh and strong flavor , killed only because the angler wanted to weigh it or have his picture made.

Thankfully , today's anglers are a more enlightened bunch , having learned from our predecessors that fish are a finite resource. Certainly many of us eat fish , but the practice of keeping only what you will eat and releasing the rest has taken a firm hold in the minds of most fishermen. Many anglers can testify to the increase in fish stocks since the implementation of regulations. Stocks of Red Drum have increased significantly since these regulations were put in place and it's now possible to catch them year round in many areas.

There are three generally accepted " Classes " of Drum. Younger fish measuring less than 30 inches are called " Puppy Drums " or simply " Pups ". The next size up , ranging from 30 inches to 40 inches are called " Yearlings " regardless of the fact that they are probably 10  years old or older. The trophy sized fish over 40 inches are " Red Drums " or just plain " Drums ".  Studies done on the otolith bone from large Red Drums indicate the largest of these fish are capable of reaching 30+ years of age , another reason conservation of this magnificent species is so important.

There are many effective ways to catch these fish from the surf. They cruise along the shoreline in schools feeding on just about anything in their path. Red Drum actually prefer rougher water than most other species and can often be caught right where the waves break. Because of their preference for rough water , anglers targeting these fish must use  heavier weights and shock leaders , both of which I'll explain in depth in my next post.

Have a great day!

3 comments:

  1. Interesting story, can't wait to read Part 2.

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  2. Great blog! I'm sure there will be many more than I who bookmark this page. Concerning red drum: Do you know if otolith bones are also referred to as drum stones? I saw a reference to drum stones at http://fishmilitia.com/jam/page/2/.

    Congratulations on the cool blog, Bob

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  3. Thanks for reading! Otolith bones are the same as drum stones as far as I know. They have " growth rings " like a tree if I remember right. Trees have winter and summer growth and fish have warm/cold water rings. The otolith bone is similar to the ear in other animals if I remember right.

    Worth mentioning about the world record drum : the previous record was caught off of the pier in Rodanthe. I've heard they were both caught on November 7th , but I can't verify it.

    Thanks again for reading!

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