For the past several years, a run of bull red drum has been steadily increasing in the ocean in Long Bay, which extends from North Carolinas Cape Fear to South Carolina’s Cape Romain. The big concentration began around Little River Inlet 10 to 15 years ago and has since extended north to Frying Pan Shoals off Cape Fear.
The big drum are either holding around structure or following schools of bait and are rarely very far off the beach. Some of the structure known to hold them are the WOFES and several wrecks off Bald Head Island, the nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs off Oak Island (Tom McGlammery Reef, AR 420; Yaupon Reef, AR 425; and Jim Knight Reef, AR 230), the OIFC/Jolly Mon Reef off Ocean Isle Beach, the nearshore wrecks off Sunset Beach and Bird Island, and the Jim Caudle reef off Little River Inlet. They also often shadow schools of menhaden and mullet moving along the beaches and may only be a few hundred yards out of the suds. A few are caught by surf fishermen each year too.
Bull reds drum are almost constantly feeding and have been caught on a wide variety of baits and lures. Many have been caught while slow-trolling king mackerel, fishing small, live baits for flounder and jigging bucktails and spoons for flounder and gray trout.
Jonathan Grady of Yakn’ Off Outdoors Kayak Guide Service specializes in catching these big brutes off Oak Island. His favorite bait is the head or body of a larger menhaden fished on the bottom while slowly drifting, allowing the scent to spread and help attract the drum. Another productive technique is fishing live or dead baits or larger soft plastics 2 to 3 feet under a large popping cork.
These are almost all over-slot drum, with the majority exceeding 40 inches.
One thing most fishermen agree on is to target these large drum with 7/0 to 10/0 non-offset circle hooks because J-hooks often result in deep hooking.
This is a fun fishery, and it is possible to catch 10 to 20 big drum in a half day.