By Capt. Mike McNamara, Big Ben Coastal Angler Magazine
Catching big Black drum in the Florida Panhandle by kayak is a summer staple. Or for those of you who do not have a big Black drum picture on their bragging board, it should be a “must do”. I am referencing “big” when tying it to Black drum, because these fish can be huge! Thirty pounds is a great fish, but fifty pounders are very likely. I have not seen proof of a kayaker catching a true Black drum giant, but I have seen these fish up to eighty pounds caught in our area. Here are a few tips to get you started in on your Black drum kayak adventure.
A great place to start looking for these fish is Indian Pass. Even if you don’t have a boat or kayak, you are not left out. Kayak fishing the surf off the beach by Indian Pass boat ramp is good too. Fish the channel between shore and St. Vincent Island. Indian Lagoon and Big Bayou and areas around St. Vincent Island is where you’ll find these beast feeding.
Now, let’s talk gear. Black drum is not a light tackle fish. You will need to upgrade to medium heavy to heavy rods. You will also need a reel to match. These fish are strong, and you will be fishing around structure. You will need some stopping power. My rods are eight foot Shimano Teramars in the medium heavy class. The reels are 4000 Shimano Baitrunners. This is about as light as you should go, but still be able to power out a monster from the pilings. I am fishing 40-pound braid with 40-pound fluorocarbon leader. Going even bigger makes sense, but you get the picture.
Once you get your gear loaded, it’s time to find some bait. You can catch drum on artificial, but the bait of choice will be the Blue crab. Dead Blue crabs are fine, frozen will work, but fresh is best. Use a knife and cut your blue crab in half. Take a number six circle hook and grind it through the corner of your crab shell. Use enough weight to keep your bait on the bottom especially in stronger currents. Find your spot and cast your crab and sit tight. This is a cast and wait game, not a hunt and search game. If you are in the right spot, they will find you.
Landing a big Black drum by kayak is work. I will repeat, these fish are very strong, and once boat side, they are a challenge to get your hands on. Fish grips work, but I would recommend a small lip gaff. If you can get your fish to open his big lips, gaff him from inside and down. Now if you have a buddy around, snap your photo and release carefully. This is possibly a buddy fishing plan if you are looking for the photo shot. If not, enjoy the fight and the experience. Black drum are a summer time jewel, when all else gets slow. So, go big and enjoy!