Drummer sessions typically take place in the early hours of the morning on a rising tide. Mostly there’s a strong bite period through the morning, then things taper off as the sun elevates.
My theory is that drummer seldom feed through the day, especially if the water is clear – as it can so often be during Winter. If cover from wash is prevalent, it is possible to experience extended bite periods.
Years of spearfishing for drummer have revealed they don’t swim in open water for long periods, but rather make sporadic, short bursts from cave to crevasse.
Then I stumbled on the idea of fishing for pigs during the fading afternoon light.
I’d ventured to my local stones to test a beach rod I had built for a mate. I found a crab for bait and cut it in two.
A big fish crunched my first offering and I hooked up solid. The fish made a rampaging dive for cover and as I held tight, the hook pulled and the fish swam free.
I quickly baited up the second piece of crab. I lobbed out the bait and clicked the sidecast home when that ‘thump-thump-thump’ of a big drummer bite went right through to my trembling feet.
You just can’t give these pigs an inch in this white-knuckle fishery, so I stood and delivered. The beast flapped frantically on the surface as I slid it up the rocks with the rising wash.
I was ecstatic and the rod went well, too. That drummer weighed 3.7kg – not a massive fish when you consider that they can reach 9kg.
It was years before I returned to this spot in the afternoon, as I figured my capture was a fluke. I was wrong.
I had joined my mate Starlo on an adventure in search for a new rock fishing spot. Time was limited so we seized the first opportunity.
The bite was slow but as the sun dropped behind the cliff at our backs, the drummer came out to play.
Starlo foresaw this, knowing many rockhoppers who favour afternoons for drummer (after dark is also productive).
It did not seem to matter what the conditions were like or how clear the water was, as long as the light level was low enough to provide cover for the pigs to come out and feed.
I then began to think back on all the drummer sessions that I had canned due to lack of wash or clear water. If I had only hung onto that freshly cut cunjevoi and returned with a little berley that arvo!
Fabian Beroukas and his father, Steve, joined me for a weekend in June. The tides never seem to coincide with time away from work! We were keen for a drummer bash and searched for a suitable location, but were disappointed with the results.
The cold westerlies had flattened the ocean with no wash and gin-clear water. We gathered bait on the 10am low tide and fished the afternoon rising tide.
The bite was non-existent while the sun was up but when it began to sink, all hell broke loose.
The location we fished is rather shallow but a safe place in the dark. The clear, shallow water did not prevent the drummer venturing up our berley trail of bread and prawn heads We bagged twelve drummer in the session.
The bonus of not having to pry your body out of bed on those cold mornings was very welcoming, too.
All the gear for afternoon drummer sessions is the same apart from the sinker weight – I tend to use a considerably smaller one, if any. Less weight is likely to present your bait more naturally.
The fish tend to become more adventurous as the light levels drop, so prospect shallow water in fading light with confidence.
The standard 10’-12’ surf rod with an Alvey sidecast reel with 15-20lb mono line is just about as good a drummer outfit as you’ll get, but braid and threadline outfits have a strong place in afternoon sessions.
A thread line outfit can be trouble-free and present light baits with ease. The braid can help detect bites but most bites in low light tend to result in the fish just hooking itself. I use a 902 5-10kg Starlo-Stix Shore Spin rod and Shimano Saros 4000 reel with 15-20lb braid and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader.
A size 2 Mustad Big Gun hook is the best drummer hook I’ve come across –super-strong and wickedly sharp.
Best baits are fresh cunjevoi, crabs, prawns and a dough concocted from flour, cheese, garlic or aniseed, and water.
The best afternoon tides in Winter fall before the full moon. We generally get some good high tides that fall just on or after dark, which is ideal.
The waxing moon also provides a minor glow for anglers as a safeguard to see where your feet are.
Enjoy your evening pig sessions but practise them with extreme caution – no fish is worth dying for.
THEY’RE ROCK BLACKFISH, REALLY
Black drummer are not really ‘drummer’, they are in fact eastern rock blackfish, (Girella elevata) like their close cousins, the luderick. Real drummers include the silver drummer (Kyphosus sydneyanus), low-finned drummer and the western buffalo bream. The blackfish family are superb eating, while the true drummers are poor to downright ordinary on the plate.