New River black drum are perfect targets for summer fun, especially for kids
Many southern youths were introduced to fishing by a relative or older friend at farm ponds or small streams, usually at around 5 or 6 years of age. The kids used easy-to-handle cane poles with cork floats, bobbers and red wigglers on tiny hooks to catch feisty bluegills, shellcrackers or sunfish, an experience that left many hooked for a lifetime.
But what if, instead of weighing a pound or less, their catches had weighed 2, 5, 20, 30, even 50 pounds?
Welcome to Ricky Kellum’s world, where he hooks kids on fishing by targeting black drum in North Carolina’s New River.
Kellum, a guide based in Jacksonville, N.C., is best known for putting his clients on big speckled trout. But his biggest satisfaction comes from hooking up youngsters to juvenile black drum.
“Any bridge pilings hold ’em,” said Kellum (910-330-2745). “Black drum go there because crabs like pilings. Actually, we catch as many sheepshead as we do black drum at bridges. But where I fish depends on the tide and water depth. If you hit one in the early morning on a tide change, you can really catch ’em.”
Kellum said a falling tide is best and 15 feet of water is prime.Average black drum weigh from 2 to 15 pounds. But some behemoths are around.
Variety of baits will work
Baits may be live — shrimp and fiddler crabs — or dead. Kellum likes sand fleas boiled 30 seconds, then frozen for later use.
“I mostly use live, white shrimp because they’re easy to catch and drum love ’em,” Kellum said. “But I’d rather use fiddler crabs because little fish stay off ’em.”
Kellum’s tackle includes a 7-foot, medium-action spinning rod mated to a 4000 series Daiwa reel spooled with 30-pound braid, a 1 1/2- to 2-ounce barrel weight, 2 feet of 40-pound monofilament leader and a No. 2 Owner Octopus hook.
“I want the weight to go to the bottom, no matter how strong the current is. Then you just lift the weight barely off the bottom,” said Kellum. He prefers fairly heavy tackle to keep drum from wrapping line around pilings or to handle a huge fish. The state-record that Sanford’s Charles Dycus caught around a dock near Southport in 1998 weighed 100 pounds, 1 ounce.
But sometimes,, black drum eschew structure because of meandering food sources.
All sizes are fun to catch, but the smaller ones are better table fare
“We have a lot of white shrimp in the river some years,” Kellum said. “Once I saw a school pushing water on a flat and thought they were red drum. So I threw a topwater lure over there and they ignored it. So I put a live shrimp below a popping cork and cast to the school. It was on then, son.”
Kellum has actually seen a school of black drum in shallow water attacking shrimp. When the bite is hot, these fish will slam a bait multiple times.
“You can catch a limit in just a little while,” he said. “They’re easy to catch like that.”
North Carolina manages black drum with a 10-fish daily creel limit and a 15- to 25-inch slot limit, with only one fish longer than 25 inches allowed per day.
Fish weighing 5 to 6 pounds are best for the table, Kellum said, because bigger fish — normally those weighing more than 15 pounds — have parasitic saltwater worms in their meat.
Click here to read about the upcoming speckled trout bite on the New River.