Fish Species

Drum Fish

You feel the sudden double tap against your line before your rod bends and the reel screams. In an eruption of white water, a muscular silver body launches skyward. You’ve hooked one of the fiercest fighters prowling coastal waters – the formidable drum fish. Ranging north from Florida to the Chesapeake and beyond, drum provide thrills and excellent table fare, as this guide reveals.

What is a Drum Fish?

The drum moniker references the croaking, drumming sounds they produce using an abdominal muscle to vibrate their swim bladder against their inner ear bone. Officially called red drum or redfish, they embody power and stamina. Growing over 50 inches and exceeding 60 pounds, even “puppies” under 10 pounds battle with brashness. Distinctive features include:

• Deep red-bronze color with iridescent flashes
• Oversized forehead bump protruding over the gills
• One or more iconic black spots on the tail base

Drum evolved as ambush hunters able to thrive in brackish bays and surf zones. Crustaceans and baitfish provide their diet staples.

Where to Catch Drum Fish

Understanding their habitat keys targeting trophy drum effectively:

Flats: Muddy or sandy flats with patches of grass or oyster beds attract roving schools searching for crabs and shrimp.

Docks: Any type of piling or dock structure concentrates food sources and provides shade and protection.

Inlets and Surf: Drum cruise the churning waters of bay mouths and surf zones feasting on mullet, menhaden and other bait swept along currents.

Creeks: Drainage creeks serve as migratory highways. Focus on deeper bends and submerged structure.

Best Baits and Lures

When gearing up to hook drum, have an arsenal ready to tempt their appetite including:

Live/Cut Bait: Fiddler crabs, blue crabs, finger mullet, menhaden and shrimp all attract strikes fished on the bottom.

Jigs: Leadhead jigs dressed with curly tail or paddle tail plastics in red or chartreuse work well tipped with cut bait.

Spoons: Johnson silver or gold spoons and other metal flashy lures mimic injured baitfish as they wobble through water.

Rattle Traps: Noisy lipless crankbaits like Rattle Traps in chrome or gold colors imitate fleeing shrimp with their ruckus.

Topwaters: Walk-the-dog style lures skipped and popped across the surface call out explosive strikes.

Gearing Up for a Fight

Battling bulldozing bruisers demands medium-heavy spinning or baitcasting tackle built to withstand searing runs and rugged tussles. Suitable setups include:

• 7-9 foot rods with a fast or extra-fast action
• Reels loaded with 30+lb braided line and leader
• 1/0 live bait hooks or 3x strong treble hooks for lures

Drag settings must run tight to turn determined beasts away from structure where they dig in deep.

Catch and Cook
Beyond thrilling fights, drum deliver sweet, delicately-textured fillets open to endless recipes from smoking to blackening. They rate as excellent table fare. Clever catches can creative heavenly dishes like pecan-crusted drum cakes, Cajun stuffed drum rolls, or crispy drum tacos.


With their broad shoulders and bronze flanks, red drum split the difference between beauty and brawn. Few species match their heart-stopping first runs and battering ram charges that test expertise. Thankfully smart preparation and persistence pays off for anglers determined to dance with these titans and enjoy the subsequent fruits of success sizzling on plates afterwards. The unique challenge and eating quality hallmarks drum as the ultimate coastal gamefish opponent as well as dinner guest.

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