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Drum, Black (Pogonias cromis)
Also known as: Banded drum, Drumfish, Gray drum, Oyster cracker, Saltwater drum, Sea drum, Striped drum, Tambour
Source: Wild-caught in Gulf state waters from West Florida to Texas

Black drum are found in coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean from southern New England through the Gulf to Argentina. Black drum tolerate a range of environmental conditions. They live on mud, sand and shell bottoms Gulf-wide, from brackish estuaries out to nearshore Gulf waters. They’re often found around oyster reefs, which are a primary food source.

Black drum can grow very large, to over 90 pounds in weight, but fish from the Gulf typically max out at 50 pounds. Small black drum from one to 10 pounds are called puppy drum; larger drum are called bull drum. Black drum are able to reproduce when they reach two to six years of age. From January through April, mature black drum gather in nearshore waters of the Gulf to spawn. These groups of spawning drum can include up to 60,000 pounds of fish. Black drum are highly productive—they spawn 20 to 30 times during spawning season, and each female can produce 11 million to 60 million eggs over these few months. Black drum can live a long time, often up to 40 years.

Black drum feed on the bottom and eat a variety of bottom-dwelling organisms. Larvae feed on zooplankton. Young black drum feed on marine worms and small fish. Larger drum feed on mollusks such as oysters, clams, and mussels. Black drum feed with their heads slightly lowered, using their barbels (whiskers) to sense food. When a barbel touches prey, the drum stops swimming, inhales it, then swims forward, using its teeth to crush their prey. They often feed around oyster beds, docks, bridge pilings, and other structures where their favorite foods are present and dig or root out buried mollusks and worms. Larger fish such as seatrout and jacks feed on smaller drum; sharks prey on larger drum.

A member of the croaker family, black drum is a cousin of Atlantic croaker, red drum, and spotted seatrout. This family of fish can produce croaking or drumming sounds with their air bladders when they spawn, which is why they’re called croaker and drum.

Depending on their habitat black drum are silvery to blackish with black or dusky colored fins—in Gulf waters, they’re silvery; in muddy waters they’re dark gray, bronze, or jet black. Young black drum usually have four to six vertical black bars on their sides which fade as they grow older. Black drum have heavy bodies with a hump shaped back. They have large heads with a blunt snout and 12 to 13 pairs of whisker-like barbels along their lower jaw. Black drum have large teeth in the back of their throat that they use to crush their prey.

The Gulf, primarily Texas, has historically been the top supplier of black drum in the United States. In fact, from 1950 through 1976, Gulf fishermen provided 84% of the total U.S. harvest of black drum. However, black drum were considered undesirable and relatively “underutilized” until about 1979, when the blackened redfish craze took over and markets for red drum boomed. Almost identical in taste and texture to red drum, black drum is an excellent substitute for the popular fish. Demand for black drum followed suit and fisheries for the fish grew rapidly (except in Texas where they were already significant). Up until about 1987, black drum harvests exceeded historic highs by more than five times.

Recognizing the potential for addition fishing pressure on the black drum resource, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission recommended that the Gulf states implement management measures to further regulate their black drum fisheries to prevent future development and to conserve the black drum resource. In response, most Gulf states set limits on the size and amount of black drum that could be harvested and restricted the fishing gear fishermen could use. Today, the black drum resource is abundant and harvested at appropriate levels. Harvests have averaged more than 4.8 million pounds over the past decade, with dockside revenue of nearly $3.9 million. Most black drum are landed in Louisiana and Texas.

Black drum is popular with anglers, too—most likely fish for black drum for food, rather than sport, as they make an excellent meal, especially smaller drum. Large drum are fun to catch, too, as they can grow to more than 100 pounds. Recreational anglers in the Gulf harvest nearly 700,000 black drum on average every year.

Individual Gulf state fisheries management agencies are responsible for monitoring and managing commercial and recreational fisheries for black drum in the Gulf as they are almost exclusively harvested in state waters. Although specific management measures vary among the states, their general approach is to maintain the black drum resource and prevent overharvests.

Methods Seasons Landings
Commercial Recreational

Gulf commercial fishermen supply more than 95% of the black drum harvested in the United States. In 2013, they landed nearly 5.5 million pounds of black drum with dockside revenue of more than $5 million. The majority is landed in Louisiana (about 68%) and Texas (about 31%).

Source: NOAA Fisheries Annual Commercial Landings Statistics

Landings Summary Data :  

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Overview Current Abundance Additional Reasearch

Individual Gulf states assess the status of the black drum resource using data from biological sampling and survey programs. They monitor commercial black drum harvests through trip ticket programs—docks purchasing black drum directly from commercial fishermen submit information pertaining to the catch, including who caught it, where and when it was caught, how much was caught, etc. Commercial fishermen who sell their catch directly to the public are also required to submit trip tickets. They collect data on recreational harvests through the federal Marine Recreational Information Program survey or state-run data collection programs (in Louisiana and Texas).

Current Abundance

Scientists last assessed the Gulf-wide black drum in 1993 and found the population to be abundant (not overfished) and harvested as appropriate levels (no overfishing). Several Gulf states regularly assess the black drum stock and continue to find that the black drum resource is managed sustainably.

Additional Research


Who's Responsible Management Program
Who's Responsible

Individual Gulf state fisheries management agencies are responsible for monitoring and managing the black drum resource in the Gulf, as they’re almost exclusively harvested in state waters. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission helps coordinate monitoring and management among the states, gathering scientific data and organizing management measures to ensure they’re consistent through the species’ range.

Management Program

In response to a stock assessment in the 1990s indicating black drum could sustain current harvest levels, the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission developed a regional fishery management plan for black drum in the Gulf, recommending that the Gulf states further regulate their black drum fisheries to prevent future development and to conserve the black drum resource. In response, most Gulf states implemented a number of management measures including limits on the size and amount of black drum that could be harvested and restricted the fishing gear fishermen could use. Specific management measures vary across the state management authorities but are generally consistent.