Surf fishing for black drum is an annual event for many saltwater anglers in Virginia. These heavyweight members of the croaker family usually show up in the surf in May or June, with peak catches varying from a few days to several weeks.
Black drum fish often travel in schools, occasionally feeding together with red drum or other bottom feeders. In both spring and fall, anglers sometimes encounter these heavyweight fish in great numbers. When drum fish are not traveling in schools, single fish or small groups sometimes forage in the surf zone and are occasionally caught by anglers fishing for other species.
When targeting black drum, Most surf anglers prefer medium to heavy rods, equipped with 20-40 pound monofilament line, Drum fishing rigs are simple, usually consisting of a fish finder rig or a simple leader attached to a three way swivel. A variety of hook styles are popular, with large circle hooks or live bait hooks being among the most popular.
Anglers fish a variety of baits including surf clams, quahogs, peeler (shedder) crabs, soft crabs, mole crabs, squid, cut fish, bloodworms, or other choices. Some anglers claim that during the spring runs, black drum mainly feed on molting blue crabs and will go to great lengths in order to obtain high quality peeler or soft crabs for use as baits. Another popular bait is often called a “sandwich”, which is a combination of both crab and clam.
Catching black drum from the surf can be incredibly easy or very frustrating, as reasons for success may be hard to pin down. Some successful anglers feel that black drum feed best only on certain tides, while others swear that a particular time of day is critical. Still other anglers fish during almost any time of day, preferring to spread their efforts over a variety of conditions.