April has arrived and with it some warmer weather and that has had a positive affect on the waters in our sloughs and back waters. Once the waters start to warm, the inshore species we all like to go after can’t be far behind! One of those is the Red Drum, the smaller version of which we call the Puppy Drum. The big brutes also show, but normally don’t venture into the back waters. If you want to catch 40 and 50 pounders and up, you need to be fishing the ocean side of Eastern Shore.
The best times to fish for puppy drum are from mid-April to mid-June and then again in the fall from September through October. Puppy drum will stay in the inlets and back waters throughout the winter and can be caught almost year-round if the water temperature is not too cold.
Look for sloughs, holes, deep water breaks, marsh bars, channels, cuts and oyster beds. The puppy drum will chase bait up into the grass on a rising tide and then fall back into holes on an outgoing tide. Explore the area you want to try when there is a low tide and it will help you read the cuts and holes, then fish the incoming tide while you are there, and then fish the outgoing tide the next trip.
Some of the more popular areas to fish include: Lynnhaven Inlet, Rudee Inlet, Owls Creek, Poquoson Flats, Eastern Shore creeks both bayside and seaside, Elizabeth River, and Mobjack Bay. They can also be found around the piers at the ocean front and Sandbridge when there is a northeast wind in the fall and along the surf from Sandbridge to False Cape.
As for tackle recommendations, I would recommend a 9’ or 10’ fly rod capable of handling a 6-9 weight line. You want to be using weight forward lines and I personally like an intermediate sinking line. You will normally be fishing in shallow water and that type of line will let you fish from the surface to the bottom. Another advantage is it will sink beneath the surface and will not be affected by wave action and your fly at the end of the line won’t be either. Sometimes you will be fishing heavy tide flows and then you might want to try a sinking line like a 250, 350 or 450 sinking line. The reel should be matched to the rod and capable of holding 150 to 250 yards of backing. It should have a good disc type drag system. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but you can get by with a 3’ to 8’ section of 10-pound test leader line. You can also purchase tapered leaders or make your own.
There are numerous flies that can be used to catch puppy drum and you will want to experiment with them until you find the pattern that is working that day. I know the following work: deceivers in sizes 4, 2, 1, and 1/0 and colors of red/white, black, chartreuse, chartreuse/white, red/yellow, black/pink/white, black/orange and blue/pink/white. Bend backs in sizes 2, 1, and 1/0 and colors of red/white, chartreuse, yellow, black, pink/chartreuse, and black/orange. Clousers in sizes 4, 2, 1, and 1/0 and colors of red/white, chartreuse/white, chartreuse/yellow, brown/yellow, black black/white, tan/white, and black/orange.
The “Golden Gladiator” with the black spot is invading our waters. It is time for all good men and women to take up rods and do battle! Time is short! Tight lines to all! mike buss