Species spotlight: black drum

This black drum fell for a Z-Man Trout Trick.

These fish live in a variety of habitats

Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) are a favored catch of many recreational anglers along the Gulf Coast. They can be found inshore, nearshore, and are also abundant on offshore structure, especially throughout the winter months.

Black drum are fun to catch and most anglers agree they are tasty at the table. They have a longish body with comb-like scales. Their body color ranges from light silver to dark gray, and they have four to five vertical black bars that disappear as the fish ages. They have small mouths and chin barbels that help them locate food.

Anglers find black drum in a wide variety of habitat. Sandy bottoms, shell-lined bottoms, and live bottoms are all good choices when looking for black drum. These fish have a preference for being in areas with lots of natural or artificial cover. They tolerate a wide range of salinity levels, and are often found in brackish water. During periods of drought, they sometimes even travel upriver of the saltwater dividing line. When spawning, however, they do prefer very high levels of salinity.

The vertical bars on this black drum will fade as the fish gets older and bigger.

Black drum are opportunistic feeders and eat small invertebrates, crabs, oysters, worms, mussels, shrimp, and small fish. Anglers sometimes catch them on soft plastic lures like worms, grubs and shrimp.

Black drum are often bycatches

Black drum are usually a bycatch of anglers targeting redfish, flounder, speckled trout, or sheepshead. However, keen anglers catching any of those species will often put their bait or lures very tight to downed trees or any other structure to up their chances of catching a black drum.

These fish don’t reproduce until at least the age of four when they are typically about 23-inches long. They usually spawn in spring and early summer. Interestingly, black drum sometimes school up in large numbers to head to spawning areas, but other times, they trickle in solo or in very small groups.

Black drum are abundant throughout the southeastern states, and fisheries biologists report no concern over their numbers. They can grow quite large and have been known to live past 60 years of age in the wild.

Anglers sometimes confuse black drum with sheepshead, especially in younger fish when their vertical bars are most prominent. Young black drum are also sometimes misidentified as croaker. Nicknames for black drum include blackie, short drum, dark drum, and black croaker.

Black drum regulations, state records

Black drum are not currently regulated in Mississippi, so no size or creel limits exist. Discussion about this has come up in recent years between lawmakers and fisheries biologists. In 2018, a measure was introduced but not passed to set regulations on the fish.

Anglers in Louisiana can keep five black drum per person, per day. The fish must be at least 16 inches in total length, and anglers can keep only one exceeding 27 inches.

The Louisiana state record was caught in 2007 by Dylan Gonzales in Oak Bayou. The fish weighed 79.50 pounds.

The world record black drum was caught in 1975 by Gerald Townsend in Lewes, Delaware. The fish weighed 113 pounds, 1 ounce.

About Brian Cope 155 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.