Roger Brown of Cape Carteret is a regular at Bogue Inlet Pier and catches a lot of big fish there. However, even he was surprised when he landed an 82-pound black drum on the morning of Nov. 6.

“I was trout fishing just beyond the surf,” Brown said. “Suddenly, we noticed there were some big fish in the water, and they weren’t sharks. We thought they were red drum, so several of us reeled our rigs in and jigged the baits right in front of them.” 

Brown was fishing a tandem rig that had a Billy Bay Halo Shrimp and a green curlytail grub. He said one of the big fish sucked it in and spit it out three times before he was able to set the hook. At that point, things happened really quickly for a few minutes as the fish first headed offshore and then under the pier and broke off.

Several other fishermen also hooked the large fish, but all of them got broken off. Brown quickly tied another tandem rig and moved in position to try again. 

“When I moved back to the railing, one fisherman said there were a couple of big fish on the west side of the pier,” Brown said. “The first one I hooked was on the east side and all the other fishermen were over there, so I had to work my way around their lines as the fish ran. I thought things would be easier if I was on the other side of the pier from the fishermen, so I moved over there.”

It was, too. Brown said he dropped the rig down, and one of the fish grabbed it immediately.

Brown often fishes for kings and cobia on the pier’s end and isn’t a stranger to big fish; he caught a 52-pound king mackerel several years back and placed third in the king tournament held this past October. Brown said this fish was strong, real strong, and it first headed out the pier and ran to about the middle. At that point it turned and headed away from the pier towards Bogue Inlet. It was taking line at will, but without fishermen on that side of the pier, Brown could follow it easily.

Brown was fishing with an Abu Garcia baitcasting reel filled with 20-pound Berkley Fireline braid on a Shimano Convergence Rod, so he had some backbone, line strength and enough line – barely – to handle the big drum. After playing tug-of-war for a few minutes, Brown led the fish back to the pier, but that brought another challenge as he then had to work to keep it from swimming around a piling and cutting the line.

Finally, some fellow fishermen joined Brown with a pier landing net. They didn’t know how big the fish was at the time, but they quickly found out it was as big as the net they were trying to get under it. Brown breathed a sigh of relief when the drum turned and swam into the net. When the other fisherman lifted the net, it was tired enough that it rolled over into the net, rather than out of it.  

That’s when Brown began to realize how heavy the big drum might be. The net, which was designed for flounder and lighter fish, had a ¼-inch lift rope, and it was cutting into Brown’s hands and the hands of two fishermen who were helping lift it. They slowly inched it up towards the pier and finally they got it to where one of them grabbed the steel ring of the net and pulled it over.

“I couldn’t help but think this was just one of those things that was supposed to happen,” Brown said. “There were so many things that could have – and probably should have – gone wrong. I lost my first one, and several other fishermen lost them, too. There were so many things that needed to line up to catch this fish and luckily, they did. It began with the drum moving to the west side of the pier where there weren’t any fishermen and ended with it rolling into the landing net instead of out of it. 

“Seriously, this catch was a fluke,” Brown said. “I’m really happy to catch it, but it certainly wasn’t what I went to the pier that morning to fish for. We had been catching trout in the mornings, and I was fishing to catch some trout for supper. I thought the odds of catching one were too much when we saw them, but I had to try.” 

Brown’s black drum weighed 82 pounds and is the Bogue Inlet Pier record for the species. The fish was 47 inches long and 40 inches in girth. It hit the Billy Bay Halo Shrimp on the tandem trout rig Brown tied after the first drum broke his line and escaped.

The state record for black drum is a 101-pound, 1-ounce fish that Chuck Dycus of Sanford caught near Southport in 1998.