Fishing & Boating News

"The Bully's of Rollover"

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

Gilchrist Community Assn; Invites you to enjoy the pass.
Photo by Ed Snyder
Rollover Pass IS the place to be when the drum run is on-
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Mar. 03, 2011 - Rollover Pass, Gilchrist, Bolivar Peninsula, TX.) Starting as just a nibble at first, the lady angler picked up her rod to set the hook into what she thought would be but a small fish. But seconds later she was straining and screaming for help to keep from being pulled into the water. Her husband, quickly racing over to help, grabbed her around the waist, yelling, "HANG ON HONEY!!"

Black drum (Pogonias cromis), Known locally as Texas drum, channel bass, saltwater drum, gray ghosts, or gasper-goo, black drum are members of the croaker family and is related to the Atlantic croaker, redfish, and speckled trout.

Uniqueness with this fish is its ability to create drumming sounds from its air bladder' a capability most developed in the black drum. Small drum (a pound) are called "puppy drum" while adults of 20 pounds or better are referred to as "bull" drum," which can be either male or female.

Black drum are found along the East Coast south to the Gulf states to Mexico. It's most plentiful in Texas bays and inshore Gulf waters. Drum can adapt to a wider range of habitat than any other species. They live in shallow fresh water as well as Gulf waters over 100 feet deep. Drum live in freshwater of creeks and rivers, as well as the Gulf.

The most notable drum runs are the annual runs of "bull" drum in February or March, when these large fish provide an outstanding fishery for anglers looking for big fish. Many anglers look forward to these early-season fishing adventures in Texas to enjoy a chance to go "toe to toe" with these brutes that often can weigh over 50-lbs. It is probably the best chance many people have to catch and land a 30 to 40 pound fish.

While some anglers prefer more appealing fish such as flounder, redfish, or speckled trout, many anglers know that black drum less than five pounds, cleaned and prepared properly, provide a better meal than the so-called "choice" fish.

Fish caught in cold waters tend to be firmer and in better than those caught in the warmer summer waters. Drum weighing over five pounds usually have coarse flesh; the larger the fish, the coarser the flesh. Rather than eating these larger drum, anglers are encouraged to release them to spawn and fight another day. The Texas fish & game rules protect the black drum by enforcing strict conservation limits of these fish with 14inch minimum and 30inch maximum size limits for 5 fish creel limits per day.

Unlike speckled trout that spawn only in bays, and redfish that spawn only in the Gulf, black drum will spawn in either bay or Gulf waters. Free spawning (random release of eggs) occurs mostly in February, March, and April. Larval drum are found in the surf and along bay shorelines in March and April, and by early summer one-inch juveniles are common in shallow, muddy creeks, sloughs and boat basins. Growing to six inches the first year, 12 inches the second, and 16 inches the third, with increases of two inches per year after that. The largest drum on record weighed 146 pounds with a Texas record by a sport angler weighing 78 pounds.

Young drum feed on worms, shrimp, crabs, and small fish. Larger drum eat crabs, worms, small fish and mollusks. Barbels (whiskers) are used to find food by feel. Drum often root out buried mollusks and worms while feeding in a head-down position. A process called "tailing" and creates small craters in the bottom which anglers call "drum noodles." The black drum have no canine teeth like sea-trout, but do have pharyngeal teeth in the throat, which are used to crush mollusks and crabs before swallowing.

Fishing for drum can be enjoyed by anyone compared with other fishing which requires experience and expensive tackle.. Anyone can catch drum, whatever their skill levels or budgets. Tackle can be rod and reel, trotline, hand line or cane pole, and bait is cheap.

Black drum rarely take artificial baits with most feeding done by sense of smell. Cut fish, squid and shrimp are used mostly. Since feeding is done on the bottom, the basic fishing method is simple - put a baited hook on the bottom and wait for the drum to eat it.

For small drum, light tackle is more sporting, but for 20 to 40-pounders, heavy rods with plenty of backbone are needed. Use a strong single 5/0 hook with 20 lb line and leaders. A conventional bottom rig with sinker and one or more drops with single hooks is most common for bank and surf fishing or fishing from an anchored boat.

Drum don't jump or make long runs like their cousins, the redfish, however they are very powerful and will fight all the way in. Many lines and leaders have been snapped reeling these fish in, so take advantage of your drag systems and take time reeling them in.

Do not let your fish die on a stringer but place in a cooler with ice. Drum can be prepared in many ways, rolled in cornmeal and fried, grilled, or ground up into fish patties and fried. A popular way to prepare them is drum on the half-shell. Just split your fish in half, (do not scale or skin), lay scale side down, wrap in aluminum foil, season with cajun style seasoning, add sliced onions, and butter, then slow cook over charcoals in your smoker grill. This method is very, very good and does well for redfish as well. But whichever you choose to prepare drum you'll be surprised by the flavor.

Rollover Pass at Gilchrist TX, is famous for its fish runs, especially the early spring drum runs. This 200 yard long by 50 yard wide saltwater tidal basin between the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston East Bay is located on the Bolivar Peninsula, 8 miles south of High Island or 11 miles north of Crystal Beach, on Hwy-87. Fishing is FREE to the public courtesy of the GCA and can be easily accessed by all vehicles. Call Nancy's Bait Camp at 484-560-9323 for more info;
Bullys of Rollover.
Photo by Ed Snyder
Photo by Ed Snyder