OTW Publisher Chris Megan and OTW TV Cameraman/producer extraordinaire Matt Rissell joined Captain Bob Cope of Full Ahead Sportfishing for an evening of drum fishing in Delaware Bay during the May full moon. I asked Matt to write up a guest post about their trip and he was kind enough to oblige
We finally made it down to New Jersey to see what black drum fishing is all about. Chris and I headed to Cape May, NJ early in the morning from Falmouth, MA. Cape May is the southern-most tip of the Jersey Shore. Despite a nasty forecast, it was a beautiful day and the quaint town and beach were bustling with activity. The beach and nature reserve near Cape May Lighthouse drew in birders and anglers alike. Chris and I walked down the beach and talked to a local angler casting rigged clams into the surf.
We left the beach and raided the local Wawa, grabbed some Italian subs and met up with Captain Bob Cope of Full Ahead Charters. It was a short run to the fishing grounds and Bob’s custom built 34-foot downeast-style fishing boat provided a smooth ride that made Chris and I feel at home.
There were 30 to 40 boats fishing in the fleet and we saw a boat land a nice fish as soon as we set anchor. We fished 6 lines with fishfinder rigs, 8-ounce weights and 2 to 3 big surf clams draped over a circle hook. Bob and Chris got the lines in quickly but the bite had died, Bob made the decision to leave the fleet and try one of his spots up farther out in Delaware Bay. Bob’s hunch payed off and a nice drum took the bait. Chris fought the 40-pound fish for a good 10 minutes as it dug for the bottom. When we first saw color I was shocked at how the big and powerful the fish seemed while rolling on the surface. Large, bright golden scales reflected in the light; I was also shocked that the fish was not black at all. Just before Bob was able to land the fish off the stern I noticed a second rod doubled over and Chris jumped on it.
As the first fish flopped over the gunnel and hit the deck letting out a loud drumming noise that startled Chris and me. Bob laughed and heckled Chris as he spent the next 15 minutes bringing the monster up from the sandy bottom. Again, as soon as I saw the fish roll I was blown away by just how massive these fish are. This fish was substantially bigger and looked like a prehistoric beast. It had huge shoulders and was glistening in the sun. It took a team effort to get it in the boat and it weighed in at around 65 pounds.
The three of us enjoyed a nice night out on Delaware Bay and as the sun was starting to set. Bob called us down to the berth to listen to the drumming. We could hear the fish calling out from 20 feet down.
They were directly under the boat drumming away. The distinct noise comes from their air bladder and sounds exactly like the single beat of a timpani drum. We headed back out on deck to check the bait and the water around us was kicked-up and murky from the fish below – just then a rod doubled over and we were hooked up again. We landed another 30 pound drum just as the sun disappeared and we headed back for the barn.
We had an awesome time fishing with Captain Bob and I would recommend this trip for any angler. It’s truly incredible to be able to catch 70+ pound fish while in sight of land.
Back at the dock Bob filleted the scaly fish and set us back to the cape with a rack of drum ribs and some nice fillets.
From Cape May back to Cape Cod we took the fillets over to “Cooking the Catch” author Dave “Pops” Masch’s house for a cooking the catch segment for the show. He deep fried the ribs in peanut oil with a homemade BBQ and scallions. He baked the fillet in creole sauce. Both were ridiculously good, a mild meat that soaked up all the homemade flavor.
It was a great conclusion to a fun day on the water and the first TV shoot of the season.
– Matt Rissell
The ribs and fillets must have been good since none of it made it back to the OTW Office where Chris and I were waiting for Matt to bring us a sample of Pops’ creole black drum. – JTF