The black drum get its name from a large and elaborate swim bladder that, by using special muscles, can resonate to produce croaking or drumming sounds. Black drum belong to the drum family, Sciaenidae, which includes spot, red drum, weakfish, and Atlantic croaker, all of which have this special croaking ability!
On average, black drum grow to about five and a half feet long with a weight of nearly 150 pounds, and are black or gray in color with a high arched back. They are usually found along the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Atlantic Ocean ranging from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida.
Black drum also have 10 to 14 sensory chin barbells that they use to detect bottom-swelling food items such as clams, oysters, mussels and crabs. They can crush these food items by their cobblestone-like teeth (called pharyngeal tooth plates).
Within the Chesapeake Bay, black drum spawn at the mouth of the Bay and in the seaside inlets of the Eastern Shore usually between April and mid-June. After spawning, black drum spread out within the Bay and will migrate southward in late fall.
Juvenile black drum prefer shallow, nutrient-rich waters of the Bay, and will stay in this environment until they reach approximately two and half inches, when some will move to deeper water. Black drum tend to live for a long time, with fish from age 7 to 57 years old observed in the Chesapeake Bay.
Illustration by Diane Rome
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