Catching Freshwater Drum [Sheepshead] in the Early Springtime – Vermont Master Anglers


My name is Zachary McNaughton and I am NOT a professional angler. I’ve been fishing for over 20 years and a one thing that these years have taught me most is that I have a lot to learn. So let’s meet
some of Vermont’s true Master Anglers and together we’ll discover some fishing
techniques and explore the many species that this great state has to offer. So we’re heading up to southern Champlain today to meet up with Vermont State Biologist Shawn Good. He’s I got an
interesting bite going on right now with Sheepshead or Freshwater
Drum and we’re gonna go check that out. It’s mid-May right now , the
beginning of May really, and these fish are stacked up in prespawn locations just
feeding like crazy until they go into spawn mode and he says he’s marking
them by the hundreds. – one two three four five six one up high – I’m pretty excited
to see if that’s true so I will catch you on the water. This
episode is brought to you in part by EZ Cam Post and the Vermont Fish and
Wildlife Department so today we’re here on southern Lake
Champlain we’re fishing for Freshwater Drum. it’s early May and these things are starting to stack up it’s some pretty predictable locations so if
you’re looking to find Freshwater Drum in the spring it’s actually fairly
simple in the spring as soon as the temperature gets up about 45 degrees or
so they start moving out of their deeper water winter areas and they start
congregating on kind of a month-long feeding binge before they start spawning
in June and the places they like to feed are always adjacent to or along Bluffs
and ledges. Rocky shorelines that have kind of a little short Bluff or cliff
that drops very quickly almost a vertical drop down into the water that
goes you know anywhere from fifteen to thirty feet if you can find a Ledge or a
shoreline that drops straight down has Rock on the shore rock on the bottom
that’s going to hold zebra mussels and other things like that that’s important.
The second component of that is that there should be some kind of current and
it doesn’t even have to be like a river type current it could be wind generated
current but if you’re out on a day where you see the wind is blowing and it’s
pushing the water along a rock face and you’re you got the right depth that’s a
good place to start targeting and looking for these drum. They like to
orient in that current and feed on fish and plants and snails that are being
washed along the edges of those rocks and one of the preferred actual food
items for these drum these freshwater Drum are zebra mussels which are
attached to the rocks on the bottom and the way we’re targeting them today is by
using a blade bait. Tthis is a very thin piece of metal with kind of a weighted
keel or belly towards the head that puts out a lot of vibration when you rip it
up off the bottom so what we’re doing is we’re attaching our line right to this
blade bait and we’re fishing completely vertical. We’re dropping our lure right
over the side of the boat all the way to the bottom in anywhere between 18 and
30 feet of water when our line goes slack and this blade bait hits the
bottom we tighten up our line and close the bail on our reel and then we give it a couple of good quick upward snaps with the rod
really make that blade bait vibrate and you’ll feel it coming through the line
and the end the rod in your hands after two or three upward snaps we’re dropping
our rod tip back down until the line goes slack again and we’re just holding
it on semi slack line so that blade bait lays on the bottom that vibration draws
these freshwater drum into the area that pulls them in from a long ways away There we go! Look at that, that is a beauty right there. Wow what a fish and to think nobody’s targeting these things… We’re marking a hundred under us right now oh there’s one nice – hit it just as I
paused it – This one is about the maximum size that I ever go which is about a 3/8
ounce blade bait but I’m more commonly downsized to a quarter ounce. I’m not
using this one anymore because I broke the hooks actually on a drum but here’s
two different styles and sizes of blade baits this one is a quarter ounce and
this one is actually I believe this one is a half ounce and I just lost one
earlier that was in between at 3/8 of an ounce so I was ripping it several times
off the bottom and then I just let it back down to the bottom till it went
slack. – Oh so you’re laying in the bottom Yup, I’m dropping it all the way to
the bottom and then tighten it it up just enough for it to come off then give
it two or three good rips and then lay it down and then lift it till it comes
tight again and just hold it steady okay and then he just hit it when it was
sitting steady they fight so hard – I know I love the fight they’re like smallmouth
bass on steroids, yeah there’s so much fun they’re one of the biggest hardest fighting fish
in my opinion on Lake Champlain that is completely unutilized. Are
these fish native Champlain? Absolutely Yup, they are native species. –
So they’re only found in a few Vermont lakes? – they’re only found in
Champlain. – oh really? That’s what the cool thing
about Lake Champlain it has a fish community that is unique. – Oh my goodness, WOW!, – Yup, that’s what I was talking about… so all I’m doing is I’ll show you I just let it get down here on bottom, get that line out… – Ok, yeah so I’m on bottom Right, so once you’re on bottom, I
tighten it up like until I feel it come off – yep – and then I just kind of
give a couple rips like this so you really feel that vibration – oh yeah – and
then just kind of drop it down till it is slack and then lift it up so it’s
just a few inches off the bottom cuz they’re mostly bottom feeders so then I
just hold it maybe give it a little jiggle you know and then rip it again
there’s not to it, it’s pretty basic fishing. It’s important with these drum because of how big they are and how
powerful they are and the fact that you’re fishing in an area that has a
fairly good current to be setup right with your rod and reel so what I’m using
here today is just a long spinning rod with a with a real spooled with ten pound
fluorocarbon I like the fluorocarbon because it’s a
little bit more abrasion resistant we’re fishing around rocks and zebra mussels
where you tend to get a lot of nicks in your line so having a good quality line
10 pounds or heavier is really important if you’re going to use braid that’s fine
but I would put a fluorocarbon leader on to the end of the braid. – Yeah these fish are just fantastic fighters. I know I said that like 15 times the sport of this, – it
can’t be overstated you know, I could probably be pretty
safe in saying that of the 80,000 plus fisherman, you know, licensed anglers in
Vermont you know only a small small percentage of them have ever experienced this and it doesn’t have to be that way. The rod itself is important. You want a
fairly long and limber rod, so I’m using one here that’s seven feet long it’s a
medium heavy action rod but it’s got a soft or a fast action tip and that’s
important for a couple of reasons the medium heavy rod itself, the lower
end of the blank has a lot of power and force and we’re using fairly small lures with light hooks but you need to drive those hooks into
the mouth of the fish. If you look at the mouth parts of a drum they are very
thick in meaty.They use those lips to pick the zebra mussels and clams and
crayfish off the bottom and you really need to get a good hookset or else they
will pull out. It’s really important once you’ve set a hook into a fish to make
sure that you’ve got your drag set properly you want to tighten down enough so that
on the hookset you don’t strip line or else you won’t get that hook driven into
the fish. We also want it loose enough so that when the fish is on, and you’re
starting to fight, it it can pull drag you can always adjust it immediately
after a hook set but you want to make sure that you do that because these fish
are so big and powerful they have a really really wide and deep body and a
lot of girth through the belly and they use that size and shape of their body
and the current to their advantage, in terms of fighting against you, so if you
don’t give them some play with a slightly loose drag and let them take
some line you’re just gonna snap you right off Wow oh my goodness, this is a double-handed fish and another one. zebra mussel right on the front hook of my lure that’s what the drum are eating. That’s a pretty small meal I mean… They must be eating quite a few of those – They eat them by the thousands every day… That’s kind of a small one actually I’m very disapointed. Such a disappointing fish still bigger than any Bass that I’ve ever
caught but you know… You started telling me earlier about how long would you say this bite is going to last? This bite will last through May Once they’re.. Sheesh… Once they start moving towards their spawning grounds up under the big flats up off the edge of the channels and concentrating groups… – Whoa… you can’t find them along the rocks
anymore but after this spawn, you get back into July and August they will be back
into these you know similar areas on rocks but more spread out not
concentrated in specific locations like this then they really start
to roam a lot…- Look at the girth on this back to belly that’s insane
30 and a quarter and seventeen pounds Thanks for watching this episode of Vermont Master anglers. For more content, visit our facebook page @VermontMasterAnglers if you’re watching us on youtube please like and subscribe.

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