In the fall these drum bite best during or immediately following a hard northeast blow, as it stirs the surf and drops the water temperature a degree or two. They will readily take lures, but most are captured on natural bait. A fresh piece of mullet is a primo bait.
Finger mullet, only a few inches long, are migrating down the beach about the same time the drum are in the surf zone. These little mullets are drum candy and can easily be caught by anyone who can throw a cast net or they can be purchased from almost any local Outer Banks tackle shop,
Surf tackle for puppy drum need not be specialized, but a few of the locally popular rigs will increase chances for success. A fishfinder, or sliding sinker rig, is most often used for big drum, and a scaled down version will also work for the smaller drum. This rig is available at any Outer Banks tackle shop that sells surf tackle. An advantage is that it allows for the fish to move off with a bait without feeling the drag of a sinker, but on the negative side it also enables a drum to easily swallow the bait. A circle hook, which finds purchase in the corner of the fish's mouth and not in its gut will minimize that situation.
Several local Outer Banks anglers like a homemade dropper loop rig instead of the fishfinder. The rig is easy to make. Tie a six-inch dropper loop in the center of 30-inch piece of eighty-pound mono and a double surgeon’s loop at opposite ends of the leader. Make sure one of the surgeon's loops is large enough to accept a large pyramid sinker. Snap the line from the rod tip to the smaller top loop. Run a turned down eye hook, such as a 6/0 or 7/0 Mustad #92553, through the dropper, and the rig is complete.
When fishing with a dropper loop, set the hook as soon as the line comes tight or suddenly goes slack. A slack line means the fish has picked up the bait and is running in with it. Rarely will a drum be hooked deeply with the dropper loop rig.
Since ideal drum fishing conditions in the surf may be a bit on the rugged side, when fishing with bait on the bottom light tackle is not up to the task. A stiff-tipped nine to eleven-foot rod, either spinning or conventional, will work fine and a good puppy drum rod should be able to handle up to eight ounces of weight and bait. Twenty-pound test monofilament line is fine for a spinning rod, while twenty-five is good for the revolving spool reels. A piece of “shock leader”, such as forty or fifty-pound test monofilament tied to the line as it comes off the reel, running the length of the rod plus a few turns around the reel’s spool will help absorb the shock of casting heavy weights.
Puppy Drum in the Surf
Along the North Carolina coast small red drum are fondly referred to as “puppy drum.” These young redfish are a treat to catch from the beach, and the bite gets hot when the water cools down.
They aren’t “old drum” with battered noses worn from foraging along the bottom for food, with dull armor-like scales, hardened by more than 25 years in the wild. Puppy drum are juveniles sporting a vivid colors: bronze-red with an iridescent blue glow on the edges of their gently curved tails. These three to ten-pound drum will take a fresh bait or well-presented lure with a serious, determined pull. I love ‘em.