Also known as channel bass, redfish, puppy drum and spottail, the red drum is one of 13 species of sciaenids found in the Chesapeake Bay region, which also includes sea trout, spot, croaker and black drum. Red drum are named for the croaking or “drumming” sound that resonates from their large swim bladder.
Red drum travel in large schools and can be found in the Chesapeake from May through November. While they’ve been known to venture as far north as the Patuxent River, they prefer the salinity levels found in Maryland’s lower Bay. Young red drum are most abundant in estuarine waters and inlets, while fish five years and older prefer coastal and offshore waters.
Red drum migrate south in the winter and north to inshore areas in the spring. Historically found along the entire Atlantic Coast, they have become uncommon north of New Jersey and are generally more abundant in the Gulf of Mexico.
Red drum spawn in the summer and fall in coastal waters, and large females can produce up to two million eggs in a single season! Fertilized eggs are then carried by currents into estuaries such as the Chesapeake where they hatch..
Adult red drum feed on fish, small crabs and shrimp. They are the largest of the sciaenids after their close cousin, the black drum. Silver-tinged with a coppery reddish-brown, they have a large black spot at the base of their tail. These mammoths commonly reach 5 feet, with the largest ever recorded coming in at 59 inches and 98 pounds. The Maryland state record red drum was caught in 1977 in Tangier Sound and weighed 74 pounds, 6 ounces.
Long-lived, red drum can survive as long as 35 years. The oldest recorded red drum was 62 years old.
Illustration of Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)
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