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Black Drum Fishing Tips

The black drum fish is a blast to catch!

Use this guide to help you catch more. We’ve covered where they live, what they eat, and much more.

Let’s get fishing.

black drum fish on a boat
A monster Black Drum caught by Capt. Kelley Source: Capt. Kris Kelley


Drum fish is called ‘drum’ because of the loud and distinctive drumming sounds it makes. It makes that noise by rapping muscles against the swim bladder during the breeding season to attract mates.

Considered to be a popular sport fish, the black drum fish has been in huge demand. Stricter restrictions placed on the endangered red drum sparked this.

Drum fish are bottom feeders and remain inshore in salt or brackish water. They like to hang near jetties, pier pilings, channels, bays, and estuaries. They’re found in the western Atlantic Ocean waters around Massachusetts and southern Florida. You can also find them across the Gulf and north of Mexico.

Black Drum Fish Facts

Scientific NamePogonias cromis
Common Name(s)Black drum, big drum, grey drum, drumfish
Identifying CharacteristicsHas a short, deep and stocky body, an arched back and a slightly concave tail. The lower jaw has several barbells, and it has like pavement-like teeth in the throat.
Depth Range10 m
HabitatCan be found in the western Atlantic Ocean from the waters around Massachusetts to southern Florida as well as across the Gulf and north of Mexico
LimitsCheck your local regulations

Black Drum Habitat

Black drum fish can be found inshore along sandy bottoms in brackish or saltwater. Look for the fish near piers, breakwaters, jetties, estuaries, marshy areas and shorelines. Juvenile drum fish remain in estuaries that have muddy bottoms while the adults favor channels and shoal areas. Adults prefer to remain in estuaries that have salinity ranges from 9 to 26 parts per thousand.


How to Catch Black Drum Fish

Fishing for black drum is different from fishing for red drum because they are larger and stronger. Most anglers can catch fish with bottom fishing methods that are used in the surf and inshore fishing.

Bottom rigs that are baited with clams are the most common way to catch a black drum in the mid-Atlantic where the fish is predominant.

Since black drums are carnivores, anglers use natural bait such as shrimp, crabs, squid, and smaller fish. Some are also caught with spoons, plugs, flies, and jigs in conditions that are favorable for artificial bait. Use a stout tackle to hook this fighter when it is hooked, one with a 30 to 40-pound line and heavy terminal gear.

baby black drum fish
Up close and personal with a baby black drum. Source: Jeff Miller

Black Drum Fishing Tactics

  1. Break open your bait if you are in a prime spot to catch black drum but aren’t getting a bite. Pinch the head of the shrimp or break open the crab bait to release its scent and flavor in the water and entice the fish into biting.
  2. If you are looking for large schools of black drum, fish for it early in the morning. As the day wanes, the fish travels into deeper channels to get to cooler water.

Black Drum Fishing Tips

  • Black drum fish depend on their sense of taste and smell to hunt for prey rather than sight. That is why this species will bite natural bait more than the artificial variety.
  • They like to face incoming currents on moving tides, so make sure that the bait flows in the same direction.


While the black drum fish can be caught all year, it is more abundant in some months than others. The biggest adults come together in deep passes and inlets to spawn between February and April.

So if you want to catch a big one, target the fish in deep water along the edge of a channel during these months. Make sure that you drift bait in the direction of the moving tide. That way, it will drift near their mouth rather than the tail.

How to Clean Black Drum Fish

  1. Wash the fish and lay it on a piece of clean plywood or cardboard. Scale the drum fish using a garden hoe to get the tough scales off.
  2. Cut behind the gills and down the back right near the dorsal fin.
  3. Cut from the top and then down around the ribs. Lift the fillet and cut it out.
  4. Cut the fillet in steaks if needed but remove the skin from the meat first.
  5. Ice in plastic bags immediately and use black drum fish recipes.

How to Cook Black Drum Fish

  1. Season both sides of the black drum fish steaks or fillets using your choice of seasoning.
  2. Heat a cast-iron skillet on medium to high heat and sprinkle some olive oil as well as two tablespoons of butter on it.
  3. Once the butter melts, place the seasoned fillets in the skillet and cook for 5 minutes on each side or till done.
  4. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon on the fish as it cooks.
  5. Use a metal spatula to cut open the fillets to check if they are done. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fillets.
  6. Serve with lemon wedges.


Q: Is black drum good to eat?

A: Drum fish is not bony, but it doesn’t have a lot of meat either. Yet, the flesh has a mild, sweet flavor that is firm and flaky as well, which makes it quite delicious.

Q: Do black drum have worms?

A: Spaghetti worms are quite common in saltwater fish in the drum family, so yes, the black variety can have them as well. You may find them while filleting your catch.

Q: How large can black drum fish get?

A: Large black drum can be as big as 40 pounds in weight and can live up to 35 years.

Insider Advice

Black drum fish do not need complex rigs or fishing techniques, but this fish does put up a strong fight when it is hooked. Make sure that you have someone with you while fishing so you don’t go overboard while lugging one on deck!

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

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