DAVID DEUEL of Vienna is here to tell you that the red drum is one powerful fish. Especially the one he caught last fall while surfcasting on the Outer Banks, which turned out to be one for the books.
"It was 6:30 in the morning and there was no one else around except for some guys in three other trucks farther up the beach. Then I had a pick up (on the bait). I set the hook, and away we went," says Deuel.
"It went three-quarters of a mile down the beach, and I went right behind it. One of the guys up the beach noticed what was going on after about five minutes and he came down and walked beside me. We didn't know what I had for about 40 minutes. Then it surfaced and I could see the spot on the tail and knew I had a red drum. But I still didn't know how big he was. I thought maybe 60 to 65 pounds.
"When we weighed it, it blew my mind. It went 94 pounds and two ounces," says Deuel. And he did it on 17-pound test line.
Good enough to set the world all- tackle record for red drum.
The reason we bring this up is because the red drum run is starting at Cape Charles, Va.
Charter boats there are averaging three or four reds to the boat, according to Emmett Bailey of Bailey's Tackle Shop, with the biggest so far weighing in at 44 pounds.
The best fishing spots, according to Bailey, are around the C10 marker to the north in about 28 to 38 feet of water. Anchor the boat, don't drift.
According to Deuel, Bailey and Dan Dyke of the Red Drum Tackle Shop in Buxton, N.C., the best rig to use is a fishfinder with a 10- inch monofilament leader attached to a 7/0 to 9/0 hook.
The purpose of the monofilament leader, which should be at least 100 pounds test (Dyke recommends 235-pound test) is to allow sharks to bite through the leader "so you don't have to waste your time fighting sharks when you could be catching red drum," says Dyke. Like black drum, red drum don't have any teeth. They have powerful crusher muscles in the back of their mouths that they use to grind up their food.
The most popular bait is cut mullet, which Deuel was using when he caught his record fish. The best bait, though, is the leopard crab, Dyke says, but they are difficult to work with.
The legal limit on red drum is two; most folks release them for conservation reasons, and, as Dyke points out, the red drum can live for up to 40 years. Most survive catch- and-release, he says. WHAT'S THE CATCH?
WASHINGTON AND VICINITY
The return of cooler nights will soon mean better fishing in general, especially for largemouth bass, walleye and crappie. But right now it's catfish that are being hauled in around Fletcher's Boat House, according to Joe Fletcher.
"We're seeing a lot of catfish in the one- three-pound category, with some going to five or six," he says, adding that the best bait for the catfish is clam snouts.
The real hot spot in the river right now is around the Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria, according to Jose Calvino of Shepherd's Live Bait and Tackle. That's right down where the hydrilla is so thick you can practically walk on it. Calvino says the bass are being caught in the clear spots and many are being taken by bank fishermen.
"We had two young kids in here . . . who were tickled pink. They caught a couple of three-e shore using some old purple worms while some fancy bass boats were out there getting skunked," he says. MARYLAND
UPPER POTOMAC -- Smallmouth bass up to four pounds are biting above Chain Bridge, below and above Great Falls and at Riverbend Park, according to Calvino.
As for bait, "anything chartreuse" is working for the bigger smallmouth, says Upper Potomac fishing guide Mark Kovach. Crayfish crankbaits, especially chartreuse ones, are doing the best, and chartreuse grubs are working well, too, Kovach says.
LOWER POTOMAC -- There are a lot of bluefish in the Potomac around Cobb Island and also up the Wicomico River, according to Jack Yates of Capt. John's Crab House and Marina. Yates says the blues were in the one- to three-pound range.
"And they are doing real good on the white perch. They are running 9 to 10 inches; that's the best eating there is. And the crabbing is great. This is the best time of year for them. They're good and fat and plenty." VIRGINIA
BURKE LAKE -- Things are always changing at Burke Lake. A couple of weeks ago, muskies were the big thing; now it's time for the largemouth bass, according to Heather Downs at the Burke Lake Marina. Bass ranging in size from 43/4 lbs. to 8! lbs. have been brought in during the past week, she says -- but no muskies.
LAKE ANNA -- The bass fishing is definitely starting to perk up, according to Campbell Edenton at the Sturgeon Creek Marina. The bass are starting to move into shallower water as the water temperatures have dropped 10 degrees in the last two weeks, Edenton says.
The best time to fish for the bass is on cloudy days and late in the evenings on weekdays and early in the mornings on weekdays and weekends, Edenton says.
Why the evenings just on weekdays?
"Because the boat traffic is so bad on the weekends that nothing is biting by the end of day," Edenton says.
There are a lot of shad on the surface of the water in the mornings, and the striper action is starting to pick up, he says. "The fishing in general this week is much better than it has been for the past month," he says.
OCCOQUAN -- The catfishing's good in both river and reservoir, according to Phil Mello at the Lynn Co.
"We had three brought in . . . weighing between 10 and 15 pounds, and one . . . that went 16 pounds and 4 ounces. They were caught on cut bait or clam snouts," Mello says. The larger cats are being caught in the river, while the reservoir catfish are averaging between one and three pounds, he says.
The crappie fishing in the river has been slow, but is starting to pick up, he says. In the reservoir, however, the crappie fishing is still good in 10 to 15 feet of water, and the bass fishing is good early and late in the day. The crappie are biting on small minnows, he says.
And crabs are everywhere. We lost a number of plastic worms to the ravenous crustaceans last weekend while fishing for what we thought were bass around the U.S. 1 bridge. The crabs bit the plastic worms in half.
For those of you dreading the winter blues, Mello suggests the fly-tying or rod-building classes coming up at the Lynn Co. For information: 703/494-9741.
RAPPAHANNOCK -- The good news is that the river is "clear, low and beautiful, and they're catching right many smallmouth" says Charlie Wingard of Chesley's Tackle Shop in Fredericksburg.
But the bad news is that the smallmouth are not very big. Just one citation smallmouth was brought into the shop for weighing this week, Wingard says. The big ones "were just not biting over the weekend," he says. "I don't know what to make of it." CHESAPEAKE BAY
CAPE CHARLES -- In addition to red drum, some spot and speckled trout are being taken. The trout are being caught by fishermen casting lures, Bailey says.
CHESAPEAKE BAY-BRIDGE TUNNEL -- The fishing here ranges from "very slow to almost nothing," according to Rita Bishoff at the Sea Gull Fishing Pier.
POINT LOOKOUT -- Surfcasters off the causeway are catching some flounder and lots of bluefish, according to Pat Raley of Sister's Place. The blues usually range from 5 to 7 pounds, with a few up to 15 pounds being brought in, she says.
SOLOMONS ISLAND -- The bluefish here pose "no problem. You can catch them any place between Cedar Point and Cove Point, especially over what we call the Chinese Muds area near Cove Point," says Jack Thompson of H.M. Woodburn's Fishing Center.
The bluefish should remain in the area until the first frost, he says, while the trout will stay longer and go to deeper water.
There are also plenty of medium-sized spot being caught right in the mouth of the Patuxent near Drum Point, Thompson says. And late in the evenings fishermen using peeler crabs for bait are catching some trout and some hardheads. ATLANTIC OCEAN
OCEAN CITY -- The fishing here has been off all year, according to Tom Detig of The Boardwalk Fishing Pier. This is for everything, from trout to kingfish to flounder and, yes, even to bluefish.
"Nobody knows why," Detig says. "If it weren't for the small snapper blues, I don't know what we would do. The spot fishing in the back bay is just awful. It's just now getting started" and that's late, he says.
On the good side, the fishing has nowhere to go but up and that is exactly what Detig figures it's going to do, come mid-September. Plus, the beach is almost deserted now since everyone went home after Labor Day.
"Next month it will be fabulous," Detig says. "The last two weeks of September and the first two of October are the best time of the year here. Then you can get trout for sure, and big blues and king mackerel. Why, the largest king mackerel ever caught in Maryland was caught right here. And there'll be tuna and flounder then, too."
WACHAPREAGUE -- Offshore, the dolphin and false albacore are the big thing right now, but the marlin are scarce, says Bob Fate of the Wachapreague Marina.
"There are loads and loads of false albacore from the Number 10 buoy all the way out to 30 or 40 fathoms. The dolphin go from about 10 miles off the beach all the way out to 30 miles out, with the majority of them in 20 fathoms *120 feet) of water," Fate says. "But we haven't seen any marlin in about two weeks.
"Closer to shore, there are still a lot of citation-size amberjack (45 pounds). We've had 11 citations, the biggest of which was 72 pounds. And a few red drum are starting to show up. From 1 to 6 miles out, the boats are loading up with small sea trout from 1/2 to 11/2 pounds. There are huge numbers of those," Fate says.
There are some flounder in the inlet, "not huge numbers, but some nice fish are being caught. Inside the barrier islands, there are still some flounder, but it is very spotty. You have to hit them on the tides. The last hour of flood tide and the first hour of ebb tide are the best." NORTH CAROLINA
NAGS HEAD -- Offshore fishermen are bringing in some nice tuna, while pier fishermen are hooking into everything from spot and bluefish to spanish mackerel and even a cobia, according to Bill Ing of the Nags Head Fishing Pier.
OREGON INLET -- The fishing is picking up significantly from last week, when most of the boats were getting skunked, according to Terre Page at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center.
"The boats were bringing back mainly tuna yesterday, about three or four to a boat, and a few blue marlin, a white marlin and a sailfish," she says.
BUXTON -- The fishing is beginning to show "fall color," according to Dyke of the Red Drum Tackle shop. "They are catching king mackerel off the pier. The mullet have started their fall run in the inlets heading south. We have already caught some red drum up to 24 pounds at Cape Point and at the Hatteras Inlet. There are also bluefish and spot and some schools of puppy drum from 5 to 15 pounds that are coming in the inlets and catching the mullets as they go in and out on the tides," Dyke says.