Black Drum - User:Chaotic42, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Black drum: Everything you need to know about Pogonias cromis

What is black drum?

The Black Drum, or Pogonias cromis, is an esteemed variety of fish sought after by anglers and commercial fishermen all the way from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico. Not only are these species a massive catch due to their size alone, but they also have a scrumptious flavour that makes them even more desirable.

Taxonomy and Description

Belonging to the Sciaenidae family, Black drum are easily distinguished by their long and silver physique as well as their broad heads. These fish can reach an impressive size of up to 5 feet in length and weigh approximately 100 pounds; however, it is more common for them to be around 30 inches long with a weight of about 30 pounds. Furthermore, they normally have a black or gray hue and feature a noticeable chin barbel that helps them find sustenance from within the sediment below.

Habitat and Distribution

Black drum are commonly found in inshore shallow, brackish waters such as estuaries, bays and tidal creeks. Their diet consists mainly of crustaceans, mollusks and small fish as they primarily inhabit sandy or muddy bottoms for their food source. The population is most abundant in the Gulf of Mexico but can also be seen from Massachusetts to Florida along the eastern coastline of the United States.

Life Cycle

Known for their lengthy lifespan, black drum can live up to 60 years! Growing gradually, males reach sexual maturity at 2-3 years, and females mature around 4-5. The spawning season spans from mid-February in the Gulf of Mexico to August on the Atlantic coast, where a single female is capable of producing more than one million eggs per season that hatch within 48 hours. Young larvae are carried by current until they settle into their benthic home environment several weeks later.

Feeding Behavior

Black drum are bottom-dwellers that rely on their chin barbel to search for food in the sediment. Their diet consists of crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, and barnacles, along with mollusks like clams and oysters. In addition, they also feed on small fish and other invertebrates.

Conservation and Management

Although black drum are not in danger of becoming extinct, catch levels have seen a dramatic decline due to both overfishing and habitat destruction. For this reason, several conservation measures have been put into place, including restrictions on gear used by anglers, bag limits for certain sizes of fish, seasonal closures of certain fishing grounds and the requirement for commercial fishermen to report their daily catches. To help guarantee the future abundance of these species, we encourage recreational fishermen to practice catch & release whenever possible.

How do you catch black drum?

Black drum can be caught using a variety of fishing methods, including bait fishing, lure fishing, and fly fishing. Here are some tips on how to catch black drum using each method:

  1. Bait fishing: Fishing with bait is one of the most effective ways to catch black drum. Reel in a sizable snack for your reel buddy by using fresh shrimp, crabs, clams, or sand fleas as dead or live bait and fishing along the seafloor’s depths while angling with either a Carolina rig, fish finder rig, or some other bottom-rig style. Black drums have an extraordinary olfactory sense so it’s essential to use new enticements and sprinkle small portions of chum around in order to draw them near.
  2. Lure fishing: Anglers can have great success when lure fishing for black drum. To up your chances of a bite, choose colours that imitate the natural food sources of these fish like soft plastics, jigs or plugs. Cast your line close to structures like docks, pilings and grass beds and retrieve it with slow steady movements to mimic their prey’s motions in the water.
  3. Fly fishing: Fly fishing for black drum can be a challenging yet gratifying experience. To ensure success, it is best to equip yourself with the essentials: a 7-8 weight rod (to cast farther and heavier lures), either a floating or intermediate line (for variety in depths) as well as an extra durable leader – all paired with flies that mimic crabs or shrimp such as crab patterns or lead-eyed shrimp patterns. Once you have your supplies ready, position yourself near structures like rocks/reefs and along shorelines then slowly strip your fly back to imitate prey movements. With those tips in mind, you’re sure to hook some majestic Black Drum!

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to use appropriate tackle and to be patient and persistent when targeting black drum. These fish can be wary and selective, so it may take some time and effort to hook a trophy-sized fish.

Is black drum good to eat and is it healthy?

The exquisite flavour, succulent texture and low-fat content of black drum make it a favourite amongst seafood connoisseurs. Black drum is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids and essential nutrients such as selenium, niacin and vitamin B12 making this delicious fish an ideal choice for health-conscious individuals seeking nourishing meals.

Though all fish may contain traces of environmental pollutants like mercury, PCBs, and dioxins in their flesh over time, black drum is no exception. Depending on the level and frequency of consumption as well as an individual’s age, weight, and health status, any potential risks posed by these contaminants vary from person to person. Thus, individuals should limit their weekly intake of black drum and other fish to a maximum of two or three servings and select smaller, younger fish that are less likely to harbour toxins. Moreover, pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mums as well as young children should sidestep certain varieties due to the elevated toxin levels they contain.

Before making any major dietary changes it is best to seek advice from a healthcare professional or nutrition expert who can recommend meals tailored specifically to your health requirements.

How to fillet black drum

Here are the general steps for filleting a black drum:

  1. Clean the fish: Rinse the black drum thoroughly under cold water and remove any scales with a scaler.
  2. Prepare the cutting area: Lay the fish flat on a cutting board with the head pointing away from you. Make sure the board is secured so that it does not move around.
  3. Cut behind the gills: Make a cut behind the gills and along the top of the fish’s head using a sharp knife.
  4. Remove the head: Grab the fish’s head with one hand and the body with the other hand and gently twist the head to separate it from the body.
  5. Remove the skin: Starting at the top of the fish’s back, insert the knife blade between the flesh and skin at a slight angle. Hold the skin with one hand and use a sawing motion to cut the flesh away from the skin. Work the knife down the length of the fish.
  6. Remove the fillet: Once the skin has been removed, you will see the fillet. Cut along the backbone to remove the fillet from the fish.
  7. Repeat: Flip the fish over and repeat the process on the other side to get the second fillet.
  8. Trim the fillets: Use a fillet knife to trim any remaining bones or dark meat from the fillet.
  9. Rinse the fillets: Rinse the fillets under cold water to remove any remaining scales or debris.
  10. Store the fillets: Store the fillets in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

It’s always best to use a sharp fillet knife and take your time to ensure a clean and precise cut. If you’re not comfortable filleting a fish yourself, consider having a professional do it for you.

How to cook black drum

Black drum is a versatile fish that can be cooked using a variety of methods, including grilling, baking, frying, and broiling. Here are some tips on how to cook black drum using each method:

How to grill black drum:

Grilling is the perfect way to prepare black drum, providing it with a delightful smoky taste and an irresistible crispy texture. Lather its surface with olive oil before seasoning it generously with salt, pepper, and your most cherished herbs or spices. Grill over medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes on each side until cooked thoroughly; when done right, you’ll know that the fish has reached perfection as it easily flakes apart when stabbed by a fork.

How to bake black drum:

Baking is an easy and nutritious way to cook black drum. Preheat your oven to 375°F, place the fish in a baking dish, and brush it with either melted butter or olive oil before seasoning it with salt, pepper and any herbs or spices of your liking. Bake the fish for roughly 15-20 minutes until cooked through and flaky when touched by a fork.

How to fry black drum:

Indulge in a classic fried black drum dish that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Start by coating the fish with an appetizing blend of seasoned flour, cornmeal or breadcrumbs before frying it up until it turns into a beautiful golden-brown finish. Serve this scrumptious meal alongside some fries, coleslaw and your favourite dipping sauce for maximum flavour!

How to broil black drum:

If you’re looking to prepare a delicious and crunchy black drum dish in no time, then broiling is a perfect choice! Preheat your oven’s broiler to high. Then, place the fish onto a pan and brush it with olive oil – don’t forget to season it generously with salt, pepper as well as herbs or spices of your choosing. Broil for 6-8 minutes until cooked through and lightly browned – voila! Enjoy this delectable meal.

Regardless of the cooking method you choose, it’s important not to overcook the fish, as this can result in dry and tough meat. Aim to cook the fish until it is just cooked through and still moist and tender.


In conclusion, black drum are an important species of fish that play a vital role in the coastal ecosystems of the western Atlantic Ocean. Understanding their biology, habitat, and feeding behaviour is essential for their conservation and management. By implementing sustainable fishing practices and protecting their habitat, we can ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy these magnificent fish.

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