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Black Drum

Updated on December 1, 2014

Black Drum Fish

This page has black drum information, techniques, pictures, events, art and more. The black drum is a member of the croaker family, related to the Atlantic croaker, red drum, and spotted seatrout.

A characteristic of this family of fish is the ability to produce croaking or drumming sounds with the air bladder, which is the reason for the common names croaker and drum. This ability is most developed in the black drum and anglers can sometime hear sounds from schools passing near their boats.

Black Drum Information

Black drum are heavy bodied fish with barbels or whiskers under the chin. Younger fish have four or five dark vertical bars on their sides but the stripes tend to fade with age. The coloration of backs and sides varies although drum usually have a white belly. Black drum from 1 to 10 pounds are referred to as "puppy drum". Adults are usually 15 to 30 pounds, although trophy fish can exceed 100 pounds.

Virginia Black Drum Fishing

In May, many charter boats visit the shoals and mussel beds just off the eastern shore of Virginia for a chance at catching black drum. These enormous fish migrate in the bay and may be caught for just a few days or for several weeks. Virginia black drum vary from younger fish weighing 20-30 lbs to very large adults, often exceeding 80 lbs.

Anglers fish throughout the day and into the night using surf clams, hard clams, peeler crabs and other baits. Tackle is simple but stout, with anglers only needing 20-30 lb line, a few sinkers from 3-8 oz and a single hook rig. Many top anglers use circle hooks which work well with these fish.

Other fisheries occur for black drum in Virginia around barrier island inlets and in the surf, where anglers fish cut baits and catch black drum from 15-50 lbs. Popular rigs for surf fishing are fish finder type leaders, armed with circle or live bait hooks. Top baits include surf clams, quahogs and peeler crabs.

peeler crab
peeler crab

Baits for Catching Black Drum

Types of bait for catching black drum varies with location and time of year. The following list includes some of the most common baits for black drum fishing:

Blue Crabs

The Atlantic blue crab is a popular bait for drum fish. Blue crabs make excellent bait for black drum when they are in the peeler or soft-shelled stage. They are fished as cut bait and occasionally fished whole.

Hard Clams

The hard clam or chowder clam is the most popular American clam. The largest sizes of hard clams are called quahogs or chowder clams. They are fished whole and also used as chum.

Ocean Quahogs

The ocean quahog is also known as a mahogany clam, mahogany quahog, black quahog and black clam. Quahog may reach 3-6 inches in diameter.

Surf Clams

The Atlantic surf clam is a popular bait for drum. Other names include hen clam, sea clam, giant clam and bar clam. Surf clams range from 4 to 8 inches in length. They can be used fresh, frozen or brined.

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