Find freshwater drum information at Animal Diversity Web
24 kg (high); avg. 2.02 kg
(52.8 lbs; avg. 4.44 lbs)
910 mm (high); avg. 510 mm
(35.83 in; avg. 20.08 in)
Freshwater drum have a distinctive appearance. They are a silver, deep-bodied fish that are somewhat flat. An unusual characteristic of these fish is that their lateral line extends into their rounded caudal fin. They also have a long dorsal fin relative to their total length and it contains a deep notch. They have a blunt, rounded snout and ridged scales. Freshwater drum can reach lengths up to .91 m and weights up to 24 kg. On average, they range in size from 31 cm to 71 cm and weights from .45 kg to 3.6 kg.
Freshwater drum are the only members of the family Sciaenidae that inhabit freshwater. They have a vast distribution range that extends from as far north as the Hudson Bay to as far south as Guatemala. They are found as far east as the Appalachian Mountain range in the eastern U.S. and as far west as Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. They are considered to be one of the most wide-ranging fish species in North America.
Freshwater drum inhabit backwaters and areas of slack current in a wide range of habitats. They may live in deep pools in medium to large rivers and large lake environments of varying depths. They live at the bottoms of bodies of water and particularly like silty to rocky surfaces.
Freshwater drum begin life when the female's egg becomes fertilized by the male. The fertilized egg then hatches after 48 to 96 hours. The larvae are 3 mm at hatching and stay at the surface for three days, or until they are capable of swimming on their own. They then proceed to move into deeper waters to begin feeding and are considered juveniles at 15 mm. They can reach lengths up to 85 mm during their first year, and reach sizes up to 150 mm the next. The size of freshwater drum varies based on food and habitat availability. The sexes are not dimorphic.
Freshwater drum breed seasonally in open water. The eggs are fertilized and left floating near the surface of the water where the eggs, and subsequently the larvae, are carried by currents. This unique characteristic is thought to be the explanation of their wide distribution. Freshwater drum are seemingly promiscuous because males and females disperse eggs and sperm into the water column where fertilization is rather random. However scientific evidence to justify this statement has not been documented.
Freshwater drum breed once a year for 6 to 7 weeks in late spring to early summer.
Spawning takes place between May and June and when water temperatures reach 20° C.
40000 to 60000
1 to 4 days
5 to 8 days; avg. 6 days
5 to 6 years
4 to 6 years
Males generally reach maturity at the age of four while females usually reach maturity around age five and into their sixth year of life. Spawning takes place when water temperatures reach 20° C, usually between the months of May and June. The fish spawn within the water column. According to Etnier and Starnes (1993) one female can produce 40,000 to 60,000 ova, although most of these eggs are preyed on almost immediately. Fertilized eggs float near the surface of the water for two to four days before hatching. Larvae stay attached to the surface film until they obtain enough muscle strength to swim into deeper water. This usually requires at least three more days. Growth is rapid in young fish and tends to slow down with age.
There is no parental involvement among freshwater drum after spawning.
13 years (high)
6 to 8 years
Not much information is available on the lifespan of freshwater drum in captivity. It is known that they can reach the age of 13 in the wild and average between 6 to 8 years natural longevity.
Freshwater drum congregate in large schools to feed and breed. They are primarily active in feeding at night.
Freshwater drum communicate by making drumming, or croaking sounds with specialized muscles that vibrate against their air bladders. This feature gives the species its name, grunniens, latin for "grunting". These muscles only develop in males. Drumming is thought to excite males and females to assemble in a breeding area.
Freshwater drum feed on prey at all hours of the night. They peruse the bottom in schools in search of many different items. They generally root around and move rocks and other bottom surface to flush their prey. Adults feed primarily on aquatic insects such as mayflies, small fish (in particular shad and immature drum) and mollusks. During the early larval stage, freshwater drum feed primarily on the larval stages of other fishes. After reaching 12 mm they begin to feed on zooplankton. Juveniles feed on larval stages of mayflies and caddisflies. Freshwater drum are equipped with heavy teeth located behind their mouth or in their thoat that aid in the consumption of snails and the introduced zebra mussel.
Humans contribute to a great amount of predation on freshwater drum. Commercially up to 453,592 kg or 1 million pounds is harvested per year. Immature drum are preyed on by many different predatory fishes such as walleyes, muskellunges, northern pikes, other freshwater drums and gulls (<<g.Larus>>), such as herring gulls.
Freshwater drum are known for their feeding on the notorious zebra mussels. They do not control populations however they may contribute to high numbers of mortality in these nuisance mussells. It is documented that many types of mussels use freshwater drum as a host in their reproductive cycle.
There are no known adverse effects of freshwater drum on humans.
Freshwater drum are growing in popularity and in some cases they are recognized as a sport fish. They are known for their great fighting ability and their large size. They are popular meat in some areas. In some cases drum make a great bait to catch other fish species. These fish also have exceptionally large inner ear bones called otoliths. They are called “lucky stones” and are collected for good luck. Many otoliths have been found around old Indian settlements and were traded far outside of their natural range. Archeologists believe that they were collected by indigenous peoples and worn as jewelry.
The IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, and the United States Endangered Species Act list the status of freshwater drum as being a species of “least concern” or having “no special status.” This indicates that populations are not threatened in the near future.
Aaron Sluss, Eastern Kentucky University
Sherry Harrel, Eastern Kentucky University
Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
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Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, 2005. "Ohio Department of Natural Resources" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2005 at http://www.dnr.state.oh.us/wildlife/Fishing/aquanotes-fishid/fwdrum.htm.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 2005. "Minnesota Department of Natural Resources" (On-line). Accessed October 23, 2005 at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snapshots/fish/freshwaterdrum.html.
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Molluscs Division of the Museum of Biological Diversity at the Ohio State University, 2004. "Mussel Host Database" (On-line). Accessed December 06, 2005 at http://18.104.22.168/Musselhost/.