Fishing & Boating News

Twins - Black and Red Drum

by: Ed Snyder, Ed Snyder Outdoors

Frank Bunyard of Tarkington Prairrie TX shows off this Bull Black Drum he caught & released.
Photo by Ed Snyder
This Huntsville Comedy Team racked up this big drum (released) and redfish (menu) using old punch lines-
Photo by Ed Snyder
(Dec. 30, 2012 - Gilchrist on Bolivar, TX.)

Black and Red Drum are cousins when considering their twin genetics, traits and habits of the species, BUT, that's as far as it goes when actually looking at the two. On recalling the popular movie "TWINS" the resemblance between these two species are about the same as the stars of the film. The underdeveloped, unappealing look of Devito as opposed to the more developed and striking image of Schwarzenegger. And as in the film both are as different as night and day when it comes to their image as twins.

Black Drum- (Pogonias cromis), Alias Texas drum, channel bass, saltwater drum, gray ghost, or gasper-goo are related to both the Atlantic croaker and redfish and unique in its ability to create drumming sounds from its air bladder, a capability most developed in the black drum. Smaller drum (under 14inches) 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 along the Gulf Coast states to Mexico, and most plentiful in Texas bays and inshore Gulf waters. Drum adapt to a wider range of habitat than any other species thriving in the shallow fresh water sloughs as well as the salt waters of the Gulf of Mexico over 100 feet deep.

The most notable black drum migrations are the annual runs in February or March, when bull drum provide an outstanding opportunity for anglers to catch big fish. Many anglers look forward to these early-season fishing adventures to shake the winter dull drums off to enjoy a chance to go "toe to toe" with these brutes that can weigh over 50-lbs. It is probably the best chance many people will have to catch and land a 30 to 50 pound fish from the piers, shore, or small boats.

While most anglers prefer the more appealing qualities of the redfish, some anglers know that black drum, especially the Bull Drum over 30inches, are a hand full when hooked and fought on a rod and reel. Those drum of less than 10 pounds, cleaned and prepared properly, will provide a tasty meal matching that of the redfish.

Fish caught in cold waters tend to be firmer, than those caught in the warmer summer waters. Drum weighing over ten 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 a 5 fish creel limit per day.

Unlike redfish that spawn only in the Gulf, black drum will spawn in either bay or Gulf waters. Free spawning (random released of eggs) occurs mostly in February, March, and April. Hatchling 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 fishing a rod and reel weighing 78-lbs.

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, but do have pharyngeal teeth in their throats, which are used to crush mollusks and crabs before swallowing.

Red Drum- (Sciaenops ocellatus) Alias Redfish, Rat Red, Bull Red, Or Just "Red" The most distinguishing mark on the redfish is a large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon and usually means that the red is a hatchery fish. The color of the red ranges from a deep coppery color to nearly silver. The most common color is reddish-bronze. Red drum are fast growing fish reaching approximately 11 inches and one pound in its first year, 17-22 inches and 3 1/2 pounds in two years, and 22-24 inches and 6-8 pounds in three years. The record redfish was 94 pounds caught on the East coast. The current Texas record is 59 1/2 pounds.

In the first three years redfish live in bays, sloughs, or the surf near passes. Evidence from tag returns show that reds generally stay within 3 miles from where they were tagged. As they mature, they move from bays to the Gulf of Mexico where they remain, except for infrequent migrations into the bays. During seasonal migrations, anglers will find reds in rivers and tidal creeks during the winter. Daily movement from the shallows to deeper waters is influenced by tides and water temperatures, especially during the fall and stormy weather, when large adult reds (Bull Reds) move to the gulf beaches, possibly for spawning. During this time they can be caught from piers and surf anglers as the "bull redfish run" occurs. This often happens in September along the upper Texas Coast of each year.

Young reds feed on small crabs, shrimp, and marine worms. As they grow older, they feed on larger crabs, shrimp, small fish. They are normally bottom feeders but will feed on the surface at times. A phenomenon called "tailing" occurs when redfish feed in shallow water with their heads down in the grass with tails exposed to the air. This is a sport anglers dream when locating these tailing reds for fly fishing pursuits.

Between the third and fourth year, the red reaches sexual maturity. Spawning season is from mid-August through mid-October in Gulf waters, near the mouths of passes and shorelines. Eggs incubate for 24 hours. Larvae are carried into tidal bays by the current. They move to quiet, shallow water with grassy or muddy bottoms to feed on decomposing plant or animal matter. The oldest recorded red was 37 years old!

During spawning, redfish males attract females by producing a drum-like noise by vibrating a muscle in their swim bladder. They sometimes swim in water so shallow that their backs are exposed.

Reds are related to black drum, spotted seatrout, weakfish, mullet and croaker, most of which also make drumming sounds. Scientists believe that the black spot near their tail helps fool predators into attacking the reds tail instead of their head.

Redfish prefer shallow waters (1-4 feet deep) along the edges of bays with submerged vegetation such as sea-grass. They are found over all bottom types but they seem to prefer areas with submerged vegetation and soft mud. These fish are also commonly found around oyster reefs. Breaks in continuity of shorelines such as coves, points, jetties, old pier pilings, and guts attract them. They prefer soft mud along jetties, pier pilings and jetties.

Red drum range from Massachusetts to Key West, Florida, and along the Gulf Coast to Mexico. One attractive characteristic of the red is its willingness to take both natural and artificial baits. The best natural baits are live shrimp, finger mullet, croaker, and small live blue crabs. Live shrimp under popping corks or "free shrimped" by using a small weight and letting the shrimp swim freely. Live fish are best on the bottom using a slip-sinker type rig with the bait fish hooked through the lips or hooked in the back behind the dorsal fin. Small blue crab are fished on bottom hooked through one of the swimming legs or cracked in half and hooked through the shell. They are also tempted by artificial baits that resemble natural baits such as shad, crab, or minnows.

Stalking shallow grass flats for reds is the ultimate challenge for the wade anglers. Artificial baits such as 1/2 and 1/4 ounce shallow-running gold, copper, or silver spoons are favorites. A weedless spoon is used in areas of heavy submerged or floating vegetation. Fly anglers also do well when spotting reds on the flats tailing.

Fish-shaped plugs, both floating and shallow-running, are effective over the grass flats. Shrimp-like plastic baits and jigs are deadly when fished under corks or bounced along the bottom. Soft plastics such as Berkley gulp and saltwater assassins work especially well for enticing the redfish bite around the slat marsh and shell bank areas.

On one memorable wade-fishing trip between Surfside and San Luis Pass, TX, I spotted a large school of redfish moving and feeding along the 2nd sandbar. I rigged with a spoon and stuck extras in my pocket then waded out ahead of them. I was immediately surround and intimidated by this large pod of reds swimming and feeding around me which were all over 20 Lbs. My first cast resulted in a busted line after the hooked red sped off across the 3rd bar. My extra spoons all suffered the same fate traveling across that 3rd bar and beyond! I exited the water spooled, bruised with a deflated ego!

The surf provides excellent redfish action on spoons and slow sinking fish shaped plugs. Soft plastic lures are also effective when bounced along the bottom. Spoons are deadly on big reds, especially gold or copper colored spoons. My best red, a 48incher, hit a gold spoon immediately stripping 200 yards of line from my spool in about 2.6 seconds. It took me 20 minutes to turn and land that awesome fish where I then snapped a photo before reviving and releasing it.

Saltwater fly-fishing for redfish is a very popular method for a more sporty way to tangle with these excellent sport fish.. Fly-fishers sight-cast small surface popping plugs, streamers or shrimp and crab imitation flies to "cruising" or "tailing" reds. Rod lengths range from 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 feet casting weight forward, floating line from six to nine weight. Leader lengths can be from seven to 9 feet with a tippet strength from eight to 15 pounds. Once hooked, a redfish on fly-fishing tackle is a worthy, and very exciting adversary. Fly-rod reds can range from 4 to 20lbs in the bays with one early morning memorable trip I experienced that produced 29 redfish hooked, landed and released in a 4 hour fishing period.

"Bull" reds are best caught with natural bait. Fresh cut mullet, larger live mullet (6-8 inches long) and blue crab are the best baits. Both single and double-drop bottom rigs are good. A heavy grabbing surf sinker is needed to keep baits stationary on the surf bottom.

Tackle varies according to angler preference. Surf and pier fishers for "bull" reds prefer rods more than 10 feet in length and with enough backbone to set the hook in a reds boney jaw as well as to handle heavy terminal tackle. Reels with good drag systems and large enough to handle hundreds of yards of 25-40 lb test line are recommended.

For smaller reds (less than 10 lbs), the best rod to use is a 6 1/2 to 7 ft long medium action, and has a two-handed grip to help anglers cast, hook, and fight a big fish . Reels should be able to hold at least 100 yards of line. Line strength will vary depending on what type of habitat is being fished. Heavier line (17-25 pounds) is needed when fishing around oyster shell, rocks, or pilings. Lighter line (10-12 pounds) is favored when fishing the grass flats. Leaders are optional, depending on line weight and fishing occurs.

Anglers must remember that there are bag and possession limits and minimum-maximum size limits on redfish. Be sure to be familiar with the regulations each year when fishing on the Texas Gulf coast. Presently the TP&W regs are slot limits of 20 to 28inches with one over 28inches when tagged and added to your 3 redfish limit.

There are many differences between these two popular fish but "Viva La Difference"!

Article sponsored by - Miss Nancy's Bait Camp- - Stingaree Marina & Bait Camp- Beach Triton- Info-Guides- Wikipedia, Encyclopedia & Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.
Redfish with multiple spots usually means it's a hatchery fish.
Photo by Ed Snyder
Redfish with single spot usually means it's a native red.
Photo by Ed Snyder