ALSO CALLED: Aplodinotus grunniens
Freshwater drum are freshwater fish native to Central and North America. The freshwater drum fish, scientific name Aplodinotus grunniens, is the only North American member of its family that lives in freshwater for its entire life. As a result, they are a unique and robust fish species that are fun to target on a fishing trip.
Freshwater drum are deep-bodied, silvery fish with long dorsal fins divided into two distinct parts. They have a distinctive humpback appearance because the head and body slope up from the snout to the dorsal fin. In addition, these freshwater fish have a visible lateral line on their side used for detecting vibration and pressure. The lateral line on a drum fish extends to the end of its tail, which is further than most fish species.
Habitat and Distribution
These drum are the only member of its family in North America to inhabit only freshwater. They typically are found on the bottom of a medium to large lakes and rivers up to 40 to 60-foot depths. Freshwater drum prefer clear water but are tolerant of murky and turbid water. Anglers can find freshwater drum from the Rockies to the Appalachian Mountains and Guatemala to Canada.
This freshwater fish spawns once a year in open water for about 6 to 7 weeks in late spring through early summer. Spawning for freshwater drum usually occurs when the water temperatures reach 68 degrees Fahrenheit between May and June. They tend to congregate in large schools to breed and feed.
Male drum usually reach maturity at the age of four while the females reach maturity around age five. One female drum can produce between 40,000 and 60,000 ova, though most of these eggs are preyed upon almost immediately.
Males fertilize the eggs that are then left to float near the surface, where they are carried by currents. This characteristic is believed to be the explanation behind the wide distribution of freshwater drum. The eggs will hatch in about two to four days; the larvae stay attached to the surface film until they are strong enough to swim into deeper water in about three or more days.
Drum Fish Sounds
know you Drum
Freshwater drum feed all hours of the night. They generally peruse the water bottom searching for different food sources by moving rocks and other substrates to fish out prey.
Adult drum primarily feeds on small fish like shad, aquatic insects like mayflies, and mollusks. Juveniles feed mainly on mayfly and caddisfly larvae. Freshwater drum have heavy pharyngeal teeth to aid in consuming snails and zebra mussels.
Size and Lifespan
Freshwater drum fish average 10-14 inches in length. Freshwater drum have been recorded to reach 13 years old in the wild but average between 6 to 8 years old.
The IGFA freshwater drum world record weighed 54.5 pounds caught in Tennessee in 1972.
According to many anglers, freshwater drum are free of bones, have firm white meat, are easy to fillet, and taste great. Drum fillets are especially popular with cajun cooking and on the grill. They can be filleted the same way as any other fish.
Freshwater Drum Fishing
Freshwater drum aren’t picky eaters, especially when it comes to any live bait. Bottom fishing is the best method, using bottom bouncing nightcrawlers; other effective techniques are bobber fishing with nightcrawlers, shad, crickets, and shiners. Some artificial lures that may produce are jerk baits, spoons, especially gold dimpled or solid silver spoons, and lead head jigs. In general, drum bite numerous different lures and baits, so there are many options to choose from based on your preferred style; using the seasons to decide which method to use is often best. They are known to hit aggressively, fighting as hard as big largemouth bass when hooked.
When targeting freshwater drum, the top tips from the experts are to focus on water depth, look for structure, find baitfish, fish along with strong current for big fish, fish around sunset and sunrise, and try walleye jigs and bass lures.
Muskellunge are generally a catch and release fish, rarely targeted for human consumption. However, people can eat them in moderate amounts. The fish should be cleaned and properly prepared before consumption. The Musky can either be fried or roasted. Use butter to add flavor to it, and make it tastier by pan-frying the Musky. Be prepared to use a great deal of seasoning, and most anglers believe that the Musky is bland without it. Seasonings such as lemon pepper and garlic help to add flavor to it.
Spring is usually spawning season for the freshwater drum fish in slow-moving pools located next to fast water. Look for curl backs of slow-moving water close to faster-moving channels or rock outcropping. The sandy or gravel beds in these areas of slow-moving water will attract spawning baitfish that the freshwater drum fish follow to spawn while feeding on the baitfish.
When spring fishing, live bait fishing with worms, crawdads, and shiners is effective. Cast your bait at the edge of fast-moving water in the pool or eddy. If opting to use lures, go with highly reflective gold or silver spinners, jerk baits, and crankbaits. Throw your lure upstream and crank evening with the water instead of casting against the current, keeping your line tight by keeping the rod tip raised.
June and July usually provide anglers with the most outstanding drum fishing success. During this time, freshwater drum find deeper areas of rivers and lakes, but you can still find some in the faster-moving water in shallow rivers. They generally won’t be found in the slow-moving sections of the water any longer. Drum tend to be more interested in deep-dwelling crustaceans and baitfish during the summer.
Live bait works best during the summer generally. For example, dropping minnows, freshwater shrimp, shiners, or nightcrawlers into deep river channels or near the edge of deep rock outcroppings. If an angler is drum fishing from a boat, the summer is the best time of year to use a fish finder to locate the depths the drum fish are found. However, nothing beats trial and error of dropping baits at different depths to test out the local fish’s habits.
Fall requires similar techniques as the spring, except the freshwater drum isn’t spawning. The fish usually migrate from large lakes up to tributaries in the fall. The slow-moving pools, backwater, circling eddies, and still water near fast-moving channels are the hot spots again.
Drum feeding behavior in the fall is similar to hibernating animals. They eat a lot anticipating the lean winter months under the ice where insects are prevented from hatching. Fishing with spinners, crankbaits, chrome or golden spoons, and jigs will often entice an aggressive strike. Cast against the current and reel in with the current when using lures, which is the same technique as in the spring.
Live bait will always be a more promising method using minnows, crawdads, nightcrawlers, and freshwater shrimp. When fishing with bait, remember to look for the fast-moving current that’s inches from slower water, where the drum will usually find your bait easier.
Usually, the surface is too cold during the winter for freshwater drum. If the lake ices over, anglers can find drum fish in the lake’s deeper areas, up to 60 feet deep, since the water temperature is constant there. The winter is the time to go with live bait, using shiners, nightcrawlers, or freshwater shrimp. The drum won’t be anywhere near the surface, so anglers should adjust their rigging accordingly to reach good depths.
Anglers can hook freshwater drum with baitcasting or spinning rods. Baitcasting rods and reels are generally the best if you’re after a big drum. The braided line on baitcasting rods is ideal for the long battle, while a four-pound test monofilament line will likely snap. Anglers may also hook a largemouth, smallmouth bass, or walleye, so having a solid setup will only add to the possibilities. Finally, anglers after the ultimate thrill may opt to use a lightweight rod and spinning reel to fight a big drum for a challenging, lengthy fight.