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What is a Black Drum?

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison

A black drum is a bottom feeding saltwater fish that can grow quite large. It is a member of the Pogonias family of fish and is related to the Atlantic croaker and spotted seatrout. It can be found in the Atlantic Ocean, near the coast of North and South America, and in the Gulf of Mexico. Black drums have both commercial and recreational value. The smaller ones are edible and are often served in restaurants in the southeastern U.S.

These fish prefer to live in near the coast in water that is somewhat brackish, such as inlets and estuaries, where they feed on seafood such as oysters, shrimp, crabs, mollusks and smaller fish. They rummage through the muck at the bottom of these areas in search of food, leaving indentations in the sediment as they pass through. This makes it easy for fishermen to track large schools of black drum fish. In colder weather, they head into deeper water and are more difficult to locate as well as more likely to be preyed upon by sharks and other large fish.


Black drum fish usually weigh between 25 to 40 pounds (11-18 kg), but have been known to get as large as 100 pounds (45 kg) and can live for 35 years or longer. Their backs are highly arched and they have between 10 and 14 pairs of sharp chin barbels. The teeth of these fish are strong enough to break through mollusks and oysters. Mature fish are silvery gray or nearly black in color with large scales. Younger black drums have darker bands of color on their sides.

Depending on their location and the temperature of the water, these fish spawn near the shore at various times throughout the winter and early spring. Females can produce millions of eggs which may hatch within 24 hours. The vast majority of them will die or become food for countless predators.

Fishermen catch the sluggish black drum quite easily and often by accident. They become trapped in nets and trawls, or take the bait that was meant for other species of sport fish. While the smaller black drums are edible, the older, larger fish have a coarse flesh of poor quality. Their flesh may also contain spaghetti worms, which these fish may get from eating dead sea creatures. These are harmless to humans but very undesirable, and as a result, large black drums are nearly always caught and released.

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