F&S Hook Shots, Episode 3, Season 3: Hard Knocks Black Drum
Cape May, New Jersey, sits at the point where Delaware Bay slams into the Atlantic Ocean, and with this location...
Cape May, New Jersey, sits at the point where Delaware Bay slams into the Atlantic Ocean, and with this location comes great fishing. Though the Cape is most noted for its offshore shark, marlin, and tuna fishing, in June the bay is invaded by spawning black drumfish. But “Hook Shots” host Joe Cermele learns quickly that sometimes these drum are more interested in making babies than eating baits.
The Deal: Beginning in mid-May and lasting into mid-June, the unique Delaware Bay population of black drum move in from the deep ocean to breed. While this species is largely considered a trash fish in the rest of the country, Cape May and Delaware anglers get frenzied over the annual run and duke it out to cash in on this short, unique fishery. Unlike Gulf and southern black drum, no one is quite sure where the Delaware Bay fish go once spawning ends.
When To Go: The best thing you can do is be ready to hit the Cape on short notice, tracking the reports in May and June. But if you have to peg a time, try to strike during a full or new moon phase, as this is when the fish are most active.
What To Bring: Though many local anglers lean on broomstick rods and big reels to beat drum quickly, the fun of catching them is increased greatly by scaling down your tackle. Ultra-light gear may not work considering these fish can hit 100 pounds, but medium-strength conventional outfits spooled with 20- or 30-pound braid have both the backbone to win the fight, and the responsiveness to make it more interesting. Depending on your preference, large 10/0 or 12/0 circle or J hooks work well. Tie the hook to a long piece of 80-pound leader, and use a sinker slide to create the classic “fishfinder” rig. As for bait, it’s all about fresh surf clams, and most Cape May tackle shops can reserve a bushel if you call ahead.
How/Where To Fish: Get yourself a chart of Delaware and likely drum spots will appear before your eyes. Just look for bottlenecks and channels on the bottom in water ranging from 12 to 40 feet deep. Make sure your fishfinder is set to read bottom density, as drum prefer super-soft mud as opposed to hard sand.
Where To Stay: Given that Cape May is a very popular tourist destination, everything from fancy Victorian hotels, to cheap motels, to bed-and-breakfasts abound in this quaint old town. There is a bed for every budget, so visit Capemay.com and find the spot that’s right for you. (By the way, if you want a great fishing destination that also has charm, shopping, and other activities for the wife and kids, this is it!)