Fishing for Tampa Bay Brutes March 2021
By Capt. Sergio Atanes
Black Drum (Pogonias Cromis)
Black drum are like the redfish in shape but are distinguishable by their color and barbells or feeders on the underside of the lower jaw. Smaller drum in the 6 to 8-pound range are usually as tasty as redfish.
Black drum start to migrate towards the bridges of Tampa Bay and the many artificial reefs after their spawning ritual is completed. The big brutes are now ready to eat and populate our waters and show local anglers a great fishing time.
Black drum are known for their ability to produce a “croaking” or “drumming” sound. They also produce a high intensity sounds that are associate with spawning.
Habitat: Inshore fish common to bays, river mouths, oyster beds and bridge pilings.
The older and bigger fish prefer saltier water and tend to migrate into the Gulf of Mexico. Young tend to live inshore around structure.
Size: Reported up to 70 inches. Black drum mature at 4-years old and can live 40-years or more weight over 100-pounds in Gulf coast waters. Atlantic coast they can reach 60-years and weight close to 120-pounds.
Appearance: Juveniles have vertical bars on sides often mistaken for sheepshead. Large scales and powerful teeth used to crush oysters and shellfish.
Black drum make a great sport for kids and adults. Excellent table fare in the 14-to-24-inch range and considered some of the best seafood around.
March: Is the kickoff month for these brutes as they work their way into Tampa Bay for their spawning ritual. Weather plays an important rule some years they are in by mid-February on the average March seems to be my best time to land the big ones.
Early March I start fishing the sand bar in front of Pinellas Point this seems to be their stopping area to spawn before they work their way into upper Tampa Bay.
Late March, April, May, June are my peak times to fish under the bridges or oyster bars.
On a good day you can spot the fish on the sand bar and as you can see on the attached picture, they cover the bottom of the boat. The clear white sandy bottom makes them stand out and easy to find.
They will move into deeper water along the sand bar later in the month and you will need your depth finder or a tower boat to spot them.
April through September:
Under bridges or around oyster bars. Bridge fishing offers the best of both worlds, keeping you cool under the shade of the bridge during the day and nighttime dry when those late evening showers come by to wet things a little.
Sand Bar Fishing: First find the fish second use the correct rig. I like to use a jig head anywhere from 3/8 oz to ½ oz depending on the depth of the water. Live shrimp hook from the tail and work slowly through the school. Drifting with the motor turned off not to spook the school. Once hooked use the trolling motor if needed to hold you spot until the fish is landed.
Here you have two options. One live shrimp on a ½ oz banana jig dropping it along side of the pilings working it with a slow up and down movement no more than several feet from the bottom this will give you a chance both pompano and black drum.
Second choice a 3/0 circle hook with ½ oz knocker rig heavier if needed to keep the bait on the bottom. Fresh blue crab either in half or quarter according to the size of the crab.
Oyster Bars and Channel Fishing:
I find most of the wondering black drum in 2 to 4-foot of water after their spawn. I will use a 2/0 Circle hook with a medium to large live shrimp free lined. I cast ahead of the school and use a slow retrieve; these fish are normally feeding so put food in front of them does the trick. One thing I have found is the like clean water.
Key Things To Remember:
· Shrimp and Blue Crabs are top of their list for food.
· Use circler hooks let them hook themselves.
· The like structure and moving water.
· Primarily bottom feeders.
Sand bar and Channel fishing.
· 7’.6” Okuma SRTE-S-761H inshore spinning rod.
· ITX-4000 Okuma spinning reel.
· 30-Pound Fins Windtammer braided line.
· 7’0 Okuma CJ-S-701M Cedros spinning rod.
· 6000H Okuma Azores spinning reel.
· 50-pound Fins Windtammer braided line.