Several keys exist to prevent deep hooksets while fishing for old drum.

"You try to keep your lines tight, even when you use rod-holders, and not let in much slack," said Adam Jones, an Engelhard-based guide. "That way you can tell right away when a fish picks up the bait and moves off with it in his mouth. You can set the hook before he has a chance to swallow it."

With a heavy sinker, a circle hook often will hook a drum in the mouth before an angler can grab the rod.

Jones also recommends heavy rods and reels spooled with at least 30-pound line.

"You want to get a drum to the boat as quick as you can, so you need a rod that's strong enough to do the job," he said.

Long fights create lactic acid in a drum's muscle tissues and can cause a fish to die, even after it appears healthy upon release.

"You have to use Lupton rigs as terminal tackle for Pamlico Sound drum, but I always like to use circle hooks, day or night, because you just about never get a deep hookset with a circle hook," he said.

Jones also said someone must keep an eye on lines all the time.

"You've got to watch the lines and rod tips," he said. "That's why I like having at least two people, including myself, on the boat when we go drum fishing at night. And I use yellow Sufix line because it shows up better in lights at night."

After an angler reels a drum to the side of his boat, Jones grabs its tail, then supports its belly while he gently lifts it aboard.

"If I can't see the hook or I can't get it out easily, I'll just cut the line below the weight," he said. "Don't use stainless-steel hooks. Other types of hooks left in a drum soon will dissolve in saltwater."

After taking photographs, he'll ease the fish over the side, still holding it by its tail, then move it back and forth in a swimming motion. Drum are hardy fish and soon will revive and swim away.