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Black Drum

Drum, Oyster Drum, Sea Drum, Gray Drum, Tambour, Drumfish


Silvery to blackish in color with black or dusky fins. Have several pairs of whisker-like barbels under their chin. Juveniles have four to six vertical bars along each side that fade with age. Have rounded teeth in the back of their throat (pharyngeal teeth) and powerful jaws capable of crushing oysters and other shellfish. Closely related to red drum. The largest species in the drum family, are able to grow to more than 100 pounds. More commonly caught between 3 and 20 pounds. Can live almost 60 years.

Range and Habitat

Native to the Atlantic Coast of North America from New England through the Gulf of Mexico and down to South America. Abundant in the northern Gulf of Mexico, especially near the Mississippi River Delta. Bottom dwellers, commonly found around structure such as oyster beds, docks, and bridge pilings. Juveniles inhabit shallow estuarine nursery areas and move to open bayous and bays by their first summer. Adults are found offshore and inshore along the coast, depending on the season.


Sexually mature around 4 to 5 years old. Spawn from January through April in the Gulf of Mexico, congregating in large schools in waters between 10 to 165 feet deep. Highly productive, spawning 20 to 30 times during a season. Females can produce 11 million to 60 million eggs each year. During spawning, males and females produce a loud drumming sound by vibrating muscles against their swim bladder. The drumming sound created by schools is loud enough to be heard outside of the water. Young black drum feed on amphipods, mollusks, marine worms, shrimp, crabs, and small fish. Larger drum feed on hard-shelled mollusks such as oysters, clams, and mussels. Use their barbels to sense food and pharyngeal teeth to crush and consume shellfish. Large schools of feeding black drum have been known to dredge the ocean floor and leave turbid plumes that are visible from the air.

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