Big drum bite enjoyed by rookies and veterans
C.J. Rice was hesitant to tell Jennette’s Pier staff in Nags Head that he had caught a citation-sized red drum on Oct. 8.
The seasoned angler hoped to keep a lid on what turned out to be the biggest bite to come along since the pier reopened in May of 2011.
But the word got out to many pier regulars, and before the day was done some10 anglers had caught and released 42 big-time red drum.
All were longer than 40 inches, the length required for a citation. Most measured between 42 and 47 inches long and are known as bulls.
When the bites came, it was thrilling to hear the drag mechanisms sing out on the convention reels mounted to 10- and 12-foot-long rods leaning against the handrail on the east end of the 1,000-foot-long pier.
The dance that followed each bite was both chaotic and exhilarating, as the angler with a fish on had to duck under or pass the rod over other anglers awaiting their turn.A week later, on Sunday, Oct. 14, one of the youngest regular fishermen, Ben Rollason, 14, of Kill Devil Hills caught and released his own citation-sized red drum, a 45-inch beauty.
“I’m the last of the ‘pier kids’ to catch one this year,” he said.
All total, the record-setting week ended with around 125 of the big fish. All were released. Red drum is a protected species, as well as the state fish of North Carolina.
Anglers are allowed to keep only red drum that measure between 18 and 27 inches, a regulatory criterion known as the “slot limit.”
The same day, Rice was rolling out his pier cart and gear for one more try.
The Manteo resident said he’d caught eight citation-sized red drum in the last seven days. It had been an exciting time for Rice and the other anglers. Rice said he had certainly put his time in and the payoff felt great.“It was an accomplishment,” he said. “You wait all year for it. Finally, the time comes and it just goes off.”
A quick poll of several regulars revealed the count: Monday, 42; Tuesday, 37; Wednesday, 18; Thursday, 10; Friday, six; Saturday, four, and Sunday, one.
Kyle Berry of Manteo caught a dozen and 11 were long enough for citations. He applied for them all.
He said there was a big bite several years ago at Nags Head Pier, and many of the same guys were there. That time, they hooked 24 or 25, Berry said.
Rice remembered that bite as well; he said it was in 2010. “A lot of the same people were there,” he noted.
Bob Tenbusch of Kill Devil Hills said he reeled in nine big reds this past week and Sam Thornton of Nags Head caught and released four, but lost three more.
He’s been fishing for red drum for the last five years. Thornton fished nearly every day this summer.
As for Rollason and the rest of the pier kids, they were pumped up that they got theirs, too.
Jean Marc Berruet, 14, of Kitty Hawk got a 42 ½-inch red drum, and Sal Spinella, 13, of Manteo got a 45-inch red drum. Tyler Haase, 16, of Manns Harbor caught and released two; one measuring 43 inches and a second measuring 45 inches. He fought one after he broke his arm.
Rollason and Haase have also put in their time this summer. Rollason described what it felt like to finally catch the big one.
“I t felt like a drum from the start,” he said. “It did a lot of head shakes. It was the first big one of the day,” he said.
Rollason was using a short, 5-foot-6-inch fighting rod. All the other big reds were caught on rods twice as long.
“It’s the first one this year and ever,” he said.
“This was everyone’s first one,” Berruet said of the pier kids.
“I knew it was gonna’ be a great year for drum fishing,” Rollason said.
For the record, the next week also started with another big red caught at day break Monday, Oct. 15.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The big red drum bite has been off-the-hook along the northern Outer Banks over the last two-plus weeks. This report from Jennette’s is representative of the catches that have been happening at a couple of the other piers. We welcome your submissions of fishing photos and reports as part of our effort to expand our coverage of fishing and all water sports.
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