An Angler's Guide to Black Drum

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

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A Florida fishing expert shares his tips and tools for catching black drum.

A versatile cousin to the red drum, black drum are caught inshore in bays and lagoons and offshore in Florida waters along the coastline. It is common for these fish to take both live and dead bait, making them popular with all types of anglers, including fly fishermen. Common foods include oysters, crabs, shrimp and small bait fish.

Fishermen with patience and skill often catch black drum on jigs, though this can be slightly more challenging.

The Florida record is a 96-pound black drum. They tend to get large in northeast Florida, but it is more common to catch them in the 30- to 50-pound range. Smaller black drum are known as "puppy drum" and average about five to 10 pounds. Like their cousin the red drum, black drum are edible, though their flesh becomes coarse and less enjoyable after they reach lengths of more than 30 inches.

Some fishermen claim black drum are mildly lazy fish, which is why they will feed on dead bait more readily than their red drum cousins.

In terms of fight, black drum are strong and solid, but not as fast or as determined as some other fish. Their taste for oysters often finds them near oyster beds and other flats areas, but they are frequently found offshore as well. They are often confused with red drum because of their tendency to bottom feed. Their more translucent tails should tip off careful observers. Black drum are easily identified from red drum by their chin barbells; red drum do not have these.

Popular and enduring, black drum are like so many other Florida fish species: cherished, protected, sought after and appreciated.

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