May is black drum month for a lot of anglers as they visit the shoals and mussel beds just off the eastern shore of Virginia for a chance at these enormous fish. During late April and early May, black drum migrate in the bay and may be caught for just a few days or for several weeks. Virginia black drum vary from younger fish weighing 20-30 lbs to very large adults, often exceeding 80 lbs.
Reaching productive drum fishing areas can be accomplished by leaving from Hampton Roads ports and making the long trek across the bay, or by much shorter runs from Cherrystone, Cape Charles, Kiptopeake State Park or the Eastern Shore Of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. In some cases anglers fish throughout the day and into the night.
Black drum baits include surf clams, hard clams, peeler crabs and other baits. Tackle is simple but stout, with anglers using 20-30 lb line, a few sinkers from 3-8 oz and a single hook rig. Many top anglers use circle hooks which work well with these fish.
Areas near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay such as the mussel beds off Kiptopeake and Fisherman’s Island are known for hard running currents. Being in place when a change of tide occurs may bring success, with schools of fish often showing up suddenly. At times the fish may even be heard “drumming” beneath the boat from some distance away.
Other Virginia fisheries occur for black drum, especially around barrier island inlets and in the surf, where anglers fish cut baits and catch black drum from 15-50 lbs. Popular rigs for surf fishing are fish finder type leaders, armed with circle or live bait hooks. As with other black drum fishing, preferred baits include surf clams, quahogs and peeler crabs.
Further up the bay, black drum can also be caught in Spring along channel edges and in grass beds where soft crabs are found.