Mine deep water around Charleston Harbor jetties for black drum

black drum
Guide James LaVanway (left) targets black drum with big chunks of bait in deep holes around the Charleston Harbor jetties. (Picture by Brian Cope)

Target black drum with these tips

Black drum are usually a by-catch for anglers fishing for sheepshead or redfish. But it’s possible to target them, and one place South Carolina fishermen can catch them from keeper-sized to trophies is around the jetties that line Charleston Harbor.

James LaVanway of Reel Fish Finder Charters catches plenty of these fish in May. He has a strategy for pinpointing them.

“If you’re just anchored up alongside the jetties and fishing on the bottom, you will catch a variety of fish, including plenty of black drum,” he said. “A Carolina rig with a 1- to 3-ounce sinker and a 3/0 to 8/0 hook loaded with any kind of fresh bait will do. Of course, you’ll catch a variety of fish on that rig at the jetties.”

But when LaVanway has an angler aboard who specifically wants to catch a black drum, he moves to between the north jetty and Sullivan’s Island. He watches his electronics for deep holes, then sets his trolling motor on anchor lock. Using the same Carolina rig, he casts either live shrimp or fresh cut bait.

Don’t skimp on bait here

“There’s no need to be stingy with bait here,” he said. “I’ll put three or four live shrimp on a hook — whatever I can fit. Big chunks of cut bait work just as well. Bigger baits will discourage small bait thieves. I’ll use as little weight as I need to keep the bait on the bottom. Sometimes a 1-ounce weight works, but sometimes you might need 3 ounces.

“When the black drum are here and hungry, you’ll know it right quick. Your bait won’t sit for long. The key is finding the deeper holes. The water is fairly deep off the Sullivan’s Island beach, so you’ve got to look around. Find holes that are at least slightly deeper than the surrounding water.”

LaVanway (843-697-2081) uses 4500 to 6500 series spinning reels on medium-heavy rods, and he uses 50- to 80-pound line.

“Even if you’re hoping to catch some keepers (five per day, 14 to 27 inches), you’re going to hook into some really big fish along the jetties and in these deeper holes away from the jetties. If you come out here with 15-pound test line, you’re going to get broken off a lot, lose a lot of fish, and lose a lot of time retying,” he said.

LaVanway said anglers need to have a venting tool on board and know how to use it.

“We’ve caught black drum up to 40 pounds here. And with them coming from deep holes, you need to take a quick photo, then vent them quickly before returning them to the water. These are trophy fish, and we need to do all we can to protect them,” he said.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1873 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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