Drums Across the Grass Flats

By: Terry Tomalin

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If you hear a strange noise while you're out fishing this month, don’t be alarmed. There are about a dozen members of the drum family found in Florida waters, the two most common species being the redfish and spotted sea trout.

Although these fish may vary in size, shape and color, they share a trait: the ability to twitch a muscle that covers their swim bladders and creates a distinctive drumming noise.

During the spring months, inshore anglers often catch big "bull" reds that fall outside the legal slot limit. When hooked on light line, these monster redfish put up quite a fight, making them one of the most sought-after inshore game fish.

The red drum's less glamorous cousin, the black drum, usually confines itself to piers and bridge pilings, except in the spring when the fish gather in large numbers and move through open water in a spawning ritual.

You'll find the big spawning congregations moving around during the months of February and March. When you get a large number of black drum together in one spot you can actually hear them on top of the water.

Biologists know drums sound off during the spawning process, but because both sexes do it, there could be something more to the noise. One theory is that black drum are a highly advanced species and their calls may go beyond the mating ritual. Some researchers even believe that it could be some highly evolved social dynamic.

Black drum can live 80 years, measure 4 feet long and weigh more than 100 pounds. They are primarily bottom feeders and eat a variety of mollusks, shrimp and crabs. But this month you’ll find them along the edges of channels near the grass flats. But be forewarned – if you hook one hold on!

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