The black drum (Pogonias cromis) is a chunky, high-backed fish with many barbels or whiskers under the lower jaw. Younger fish have four or five dark vertical bars on their sides but these disappear with age. The bellies of older fish are white but coloration of backs and sides can vary greatly. Fish from Gulf waters frequently lack color and are light gray or silvery. Those living in muddy bay waters have dark gray or bronze-colored backs and sides. Some are solid silvery gray or jet black. A length of six inches is reached in the first year, 12 inches the second and 16 inches the third. Increases of about two inches per year occur after that. The largest black drum on record weighed 146 pounds. The New Jersey State record for black drum fishing was taken by a sport angler is 105 pounds but most bull drum caught weigh 30 to 70 pounds.
Black Drum Fishing
Black drum fishing is a reasonable pursuit from southern New Jersey and points south. The fish are occasionally caught further north, but in very limited quantities.
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Black Drum Feeding Habits
Young drums feed on maritime worms, small shrimp, and crabs and small fish. Larger drum eat small crabs, worms, algae, small fish and mollusks. Barbels or whiskers are used to find food by feel and smell. Drum often dig or root out buried mollusks and worms while feeding in a head-down position. This process is called “tailing” and creates small craters in the bottom which anglers call “drum noodles.” Experienced anglers can detect the recent passage of a school of drum by the presence of many “noodles.” The black drum has no canine teeth like those of the spotted seatrout, but does have highly developed pharyngeal teeth (in the pharynx or throat) which are used to crush mollusks and crabs before swallowing.
Black Drum Reproduction
Unlike red drum that spawn only in the Gulf, black drum will spawn in either bay or Gulf or in the connecting passes. Free spawning (random release of eggs) occurs mostly in February, March, and April with some later spawning occurring in June and July. Larval drum are found in the surf and along bay shorelines in March and April, and by early summer one-half to one-inch juveniles are common in shallow, muddy creeks, sloughs and boat basins.
Black Drum Fishing Tips
Black drum are rarely taken on artificial baits since most feeding is done by feel and smell. Large Clams are the most popular and productive baits. Since feeding is done on the bottom, the basic technique is simple – put a baited hook on the bottom and wait for the drum to swallow it. Drum will often “mouth” the bait for some time before swallowing it, so anglers must wait until the fish moves off with the bait, then jerk the rod tip up to set the hook. Drum neither jump often nor make long racing runs or any of the other things a great sport fish is supposed to do, however they are powerful and will fight all the way in. Many lines and leaders have been broken getting fish into the boat or on the bank.