September 24, 2012

Outer Banks Angling: Seeing red


Saturday was the first day of fall, so it’s officially time for red-drum hunters from all over the Eastern Seaboard to begin their chase for the spot-tail devils.

The red drum is the North Carolina state fish.

The current world record red drum of 94 pounds was taken right here on the Outer Banks, specifically on the Avon beach. The current record has stood for 30 years. Its predecessor was caught 10 years earlier from Rodanthe pier and weighed 90 pounds.

Oddly enough, both records were set on the exact same day – Nov. 7.

Now as we enter autumn, the race for more big reds starts.

Channel bass – also called drum, reds, redfish, or spot-tail -- is a highly sought after inshore game fish.

From Maryland to Texas, this favorite of recreational anglers produces a lot of coastal communities a fair income.

Red drum are a formidable opponent at any size. Whether 2 pounds or 50 pounds, they put up a heck of a fight, pound-for-pound.

I have been hooked on chasing them since I caught my first citation 10 years ago off Rodanthe pier.

I’ll never forget how hard that fish fought and how it made my 12ft rod bend over and almost beg for mercy.

Drum can be found and caught throughout all the different levels of the water column.

I’ve caught them from boat and kayak on the surface using lures and top-water plugs and also just below the surface on lures and live baits. Most commonly in these parts, the drum are caught off the bottom using pieces of cut bait and what is known as a drum rig.

Red drum have natural crushers in the back of their mouths for picking up clams, oysters, crabs, and just about all crustaceans and shattering their outer shell.

Drum can hit a fishing line in a variety of ways, but they usually hit hard and those who have caught a few generally know when they are hooked-up with one.

Drum have been at the center of Outer Banks inshore fishing for decades and decades.

There are You Tube videos of old footage dating back 70 years, and you can numerous articles about Outer Banks red drum fishing going back 60 years.

Communities on the Outer Banks rely on these fish as a shoulder season draw for out-of-town anglers. Now is the time that area business’s hope that the weather and fish will cooperate and bring the anglers, fish and dollars all right here.

You can chase these fish from pier, boat, surf and kayak, which allows an avenue to just about all anglers.

Seasonal migrations of bait fish have slowly begun and so has the red rum fishing.

Reports of fish of all sizes have been scattered from one end of the Banks to another.

Different size drum generally get called by different names.

A rat or guppy drum generally refers to drum that are under 18 inches. Puppy drum are generally 18-27 inches long or just there over. Yearling drum are often 30-39 inches long.
Citation drum begin at 40 inches.

Some states refer to large drum as bull reds, but most around here do not use that term. A supremely large drum will be called a stud or slob.

The guppy drum have been pretty thick on the Outer Banks for the past few weeks. Some yearlings have begun to show up in the surf, along with a scattered citation.

Inshore boats out of Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets have been catching a variety of sizes, but they have managed quite a few citations when the weather has allowed.

Some of you may be asking how I catch one of these fish.

Well, my best advice is to go into a local tackle shop and talk with one of the employees. Most the tackle shop owners and employees on the Outer Banks are hardcore fishermen and they can help you.

While there are some tried and trued methods of catching these fish-- some things just work better for some then others. If you go into a local shop, they can give you a variety of options and choices. And if you spend a few dollars, they will probably throw in a few extra secrets.

Now, we move on to other fall fisheries.

The bill fishing from Hatteras to Oregon inlet has been absolutely, positively, ridiculously insane. Some boats have managed multiple grand slams in just one day. 

The release flags fly at the docks daily like the boats were getting paid per flag.

It’s crazy. If you ever wanted to catch a white marlin, blue marlin, or sailfish, now is the time. Stop reading this column right now and pick up the phone and call a local marina or your favorite captain. The season will not last much longer.

Other then that, it’s fall. From pier and surf, the fish are on the move.

Both warmer and cooler water fish are being caught.

Warm-water fish like pompano and Spanish mackerel will be making their final appearances in the coming weeks, while fishing for sea mullet, spot, croaker, bluefish, flounder and speckled trout should only get better and better in the coming weeks.

The season is right. Local businesses are open and the welcome lights are on. The fish are biting.

The only ingredient missing -- is you.

(Rob Alderman is the owner of the Hatteras Island Fishing Militia website and is a kayak fishing guide. Rob has 10 years of fishing experience on the Outer Banks, and is host of the “Outer Banks Angler” television show. You can follow more of his extreme adventures or contact him at

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