Fishing & Boating News

The "Bulls" Of Galveston Bay

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

(Thursday, March 04,1999 - Texas City Dike, Galveston Bay, Texas.) "Going out", warned the Little Rock Arkansas, fisherman, "alerting us of his impending cast, we quickly stepped aside to avoid his swing, Darion Hines then arched his whole body into his "bull-rod" as he flung a 2 lb sand-weight (which much resembled a Russian "sputnick") out into the incoming currents of Galveston Bay. After setting his weight to the bottom of "The Drum Hole", Darion began to review his previous evenings catch at Texas City Dike Pier.

"Oh, man, Darion wide-eyed with excitement, "my fishin' partner, Larry Vinsette, of Port Arthur TX, and I were fishing the"full-moon" tide change, when all of a sudden "all" of our rods seemed to "jump" at the same time, "man, Darion reiterated, "we must've caught 20 Gulf run Drum within an hour and a half last night, Darion grinned, adding that they were from 25 to 50 lbs or better. "But, Darion wearily smiled, we had to toss everyone of them critters back into the bay, "cause" they was all..... "OVERSIZED".

Its a bright and sunny March day, and with a brisk northeast wind, "almost" warm, late Winter day, as Galveston Bay waters begin to receive its annual migration of the Black Drum species of the Texas Gulf Coast fishery. A close cousin to the Red Drum, or Redfish, the Black Drum doesn't get as much respect as its more colorful cousin, but in early to mid Winter, the Black Drum shines as a prime gamefish as it provides some of the most exciting "toe to toe", fish -vs- fishermen battles that legends are made of. This is also the time of year when the "BULLS" of the Black Drum family arrive from the depths of the Gulf to fan out into the Galveston Bay estruaries for spawning. "Yeah" I know, the Bulls are females, "but" as they can grow to enormus sizes, such as the listed 113 lbs-1 oz fish in the IGFA-World Record book, the Black Drum can, and does, reach intimidating sizes that can reek havoc with normal saltwater fishing gear, which is why they call them "bulls"..

"Its gonna' take a good 9' to 12' specially built rod that we call "bull-rods", explained Gary Watkins of Santa Fe, TX. Gary, a shift supervisor for the Valero Oil Refinery of Texas City, was fishing off the pier earlier when he managed to catch and land two Redfish, one at 29" and another at 27 & 3/4". Gary also managed to catch and land a 36" Black Drum, but had to release both the 36" Drum and the 29" Redfish as they were both over the legal keeper-limit. "Texas fish & game laws allow us to keep 5 drum between 14" to 30", Gary informed, as he further explained that they were allowed to keep only 3 reds of between 18" to 28", but were able to keep 2 reds over the 28" limit after using the special tag system which is issued with the saltwater fishing permits. "But since I've already filled my quota for the season, stated Gary, I had to toss mine back, but still had a nice 27 & 3/4 " Redfish for tonights supper, Gary stated with smacking lips.

As I noted the volunteered info about the fishing regs in my book, another angler arrived, loaded down with "pier-gear", Leo Gutierrez of Houston TX, decided to try his luck at the Texas City Dike Pier. "I mainly fish the gulf beach areas of Galveston, Leo offered, "but today I wanted to try my luck for some "Drum-Money"...... As the Drum begin to motivate into the Galveston Bay system every year, the local businesses gather together to try and draw on some early fishing season booty, by coordinating Black Drum fishing "Rodeo's", such as what the Texas City Dike Pier offers. "We award $50 cash for the first "legal" drum, explained Pier manager, Helen Bailey, "with $500 cash for the largest, $300 cash for the 2nd largest, and $200 cash for the third biggest of the season, which runs from February 15 to April 30, of 1999. "And with the Galveston Bay waters presently holding at 65 degrees, and expected to rise to 69 dgrees by the weekend, the 1999 Black Drum run should be at "full trot" by next week, Miss Bailey advised.

This is "Big Line" fishing folks, as no less than 30 lb test lines are spooled onto wide-gapped casting reels, with 40 lb shock leaders attached to size 12 or 13 circle hooks and 1 to 2 lb sand-weights. The choice baits are live blueclaw crabs for Black Drum or 3" to 4" live finger mullet for Reds. The 9' to 12' casting rods (pier rods) used can cost as much as $300 or as little as $75, with the wide-spool saltwater casting reels running from betwixt $65 to $300. Good "upper arm" strength is necessary to be able to "fling-cast" the heavy weight to where the drum congregate at the "Drum-Hole", which is located 75 yds off the southeastern corner of the pier, but when a successful cast is made and set correctly, the rewards will most certainly be a hard & long "toe- to -toe" battle with a real bruiser of a "Bull-Drum" that have been known to snap rod eyelets from the pole, bust rods in half, and twist the spines of the anglers, "such as what was about to happen to Darion Hines, as he waited for the next tell-tale movement of a bite.

Very subtle at first, just a slight shake of the rods tip, Darion quickly moved to pick it up, and after feeling the line, he immediately set the reel, braced his feet to the pier planks, grasped the middle of the pole with both hands, and reared back "HARD", several times, until the hook was set solidly into a heavy fish, which immediatley bent the pole into a full battle position. We all jumped to help Darion as the fish barreled down the length of the pier, draggin' Darion with it, I with my camera's, Gary with his hoop-net, and Leo hurriedly gathering rods out of the way. And after a few anxious moments with the Big Fish "bulldogging" its way in and out of the pier pilings, Darion finally managed to bring it to thetop of the water where Gary quickly slid the hoop-net under it, and hoisted it up to the pier-deck. "WOW" whatta' nice fish we all breathed, as a real "toe-breaker" of a 30 lb fish lay before us, and after Darion quickly poked his fish with a special tool for releasing its inflated air bladder, the beautiful, reddish gold, Gulf of Mexico BlackDrum was immediatley released back into Galveston Bay because it was....."OVERSIZED"

For more info on the 1999 Black Drum season on Galveston Bay contact Helen Bailey at Texas City Dike Pier-(409)-948-8172 ...and bring your back braces as you'll be needing them, as these are one "tuff" breed of fish folks!