Following beat to the black drum Fishermen delight in middle bay rite

OUTDOORS

June 13, 1993|By PETER BAKER

There was a snarl of boat traffic off the northwest edge of Poplar Island Friday morning, a fisherman's rush hour. The morning rush southbound on I-95 was never like this.

Virtually all aboard the couple of dozen boats circling an area of shell bottom on the eastern edge of The Hill were smiling.

The reason for the crowd of boats and the good humor of the fishermen was that the black drum were biting -- and the anglers were catching fish, some of which weighed more than 80 pounds.

The black drum run in the Stone Rock and Poplar Island areas has become something of a rite of early summer, a fathers' day gift for middle bay fishermen between the end of the spring trophy rockfish season and the arrival of the summer blues.

On Friday, charterboats from Annapolis, Chesapeake Beach, Kent Island and Tilghman were mixed in a series of circles, each trying to track the movements of small schools of drum.

When one boat was able to find a school feeding on the bottom, the captain or mate would call out, "Drop 'em!" and all aboard would drop their baits to the bottom in 18 to 22 feet of water.

When the call would go out on one boat, other boats would crowd around -- big boats, small boats, sportfishermen, bay builts, runabouts and walkarounds -- and several dozen lines would go quickly to the bottom. The lucky ones would bring a fish in.

From within the mass of boats, there appeared to be little rhyme or reason to the movements of the boats. But when outside of the crowd, an apparent pattern could be seen.

Take, for example, the four boats operating out of Harrison's Sport Fishing Center in Tilghman last Friday morning. While two or three boats fished, it seemed, the other one or two would circle, increasing or decreasing their radius while looking for other small schools of drum.

This team approach seemed to keep them on fish, and the private boat owners who tagged after the right part of the team kept on fish as well.

Capt. Bud Harrison, skipper of Beaudacious, called from his 48-foot charterboat, "Game of follow the leader? You bet it is -- and this morning the fishing has been great."

Capt. Ed Darwin, who runs the charterboat Becky D out of Annapolis, had a full party aboard and by 10 a.m. had one drum over 80 pounds aboard along with several smaller ones.

Aboard the Halcyon out of Tilghman, the fishing had been good and the party was practicing catch-and-release.

The Lucky Duck, out of Chesapeake Beach, also was living up to its name.

Capt. Buddy Harrison called out from the helm of the Pleasure Merchant, "C'mon, jump right in the middle of this mess. The fishing can't be beat."

A stiff boat rod spooled with 30-pound mono and a heavier shock leader will work fine. The best bait to use is a half soft crab, with just enough weight to get it to the bottom.

Some people prefer to fish with an open bail and allow the drum to take the bait and start to move off before the hook is set.

On Friday, the drum fishing was unusually good. There will be days when the fish will not bite and still others when they will not be found, being away from their normal June haunts for days at a time. And by the end of June they will be gone.

But during the next week to 10 days, the drum fishing should be reasonably good, and following the leader can turn up a big catch.

If you are going to either Poplar Island or the Stone Rock, throttle down well away from the pack of boats and idle into the pattern.

A5 Don't spook the fish and don't rattle the leader.

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