Slim Pickins’

Early spring means that the big, black drum, Pogonias cromis, 20 to 40 pounders, will be coming into the shallow water to spawn. Early spring also means that fisherman who’ve sat out the winter hunting or watching football and basketball launch their boats, or unlimber their bank fishing tackle to go after these early arrivals. These big drum aren’t spectacular fighters, aren’t particularly good table fare, but they sure pull hard and after a hard winter spent hunting (and working), they liven up things until the specs and reds get active.

The run of the big drum was heating up so Carl Parkinson, a neighbor and fishing friend, who lived 5 houses down from me in Bayou Vista, had picked this mid March, Saturday morning to try our luck with these bruisers. Luck was with us because the wind was light out of the southeast and the seas should be almost flat. Our destination was Fleenor Flats, between the Galveston Jetties so we launched my 22 foot, boat, chugged down the canals, opened it up in Jones Lake, sped under the causeway, through East Galveston Bay, through the harbor and out to the flats. Fleenor Flats is a sand bar around 13 feet deep that causes a tide rip, since the gulf currents come swirling between the jetties and the much deeper Houston Ship Channel, this provides a smorgasbord of bait fish for the finny predators.

For the 2 hours that we soaked our split crabs threaded on circle hooks, we were hoping to find the drum stacked up there awaiting a favorable tide before they moved inshore. What we found was slack water with minimum movement and no fish. Our tackle was medium weight rods and reels loaded with 30, pound line which should be sufficient for these bruisers.

Pulling up the anchor we cruised around the South Jetty looking for a tide line that we found about 9 miles out. With nothing better to do, we flipped our crab baited, rigs behind the tide line and waited. Our wait was short lived when I had a big strike and the fish took off making a long run. My guess was a jack crevalle, Caranx hippos, or jackfish, bruising fighters, but poor table fare. After a 20, minute fight with a lot of pulling, Carl reached down and lifted the jack up by its tail and removed the hook, guessing it was a 15-18 pounder, he slid it back into the water.

Another bait, another cast, another short wait and then I was jarred with another big hit! The fight was similar to the first one, a lot of runs and pulls and after about 20 minutes the jackfish finally tired and Carl tailed this one, probably 20-25 pounds, then the jacks moved on and we sat for another 30 minutes, before heading back toward the jetties.

Half way back in something, that looked like a good sized, fish, was floating belly up and pulling up to it we saw that it was a black drum, almost expired. Carl grabbed the fish, keeping it in the water, righted it and to resuscitate it, gently rocked it back and forth. Very soon Carl’s efforts paid off and the 30-35, pounder flopped around and then headed for safer climes. We felt good for saving this fish, probably exhausted from a long fight, but we could not figure our why the jackfish hit the split crab, slim pickins’ we guessed?