Can You Beat a Drum?

The freshwater drum does not get enough respect as a sport fish. In fact, in most states it is not considered a game fish and regulations may fall under the heading of “other.” It is a rarely targeted species, more often a surprise while trying to catch something else. Although it may feel great on the end of a line, it can be a disappointment to bass tournament anglers in large rocky lakes and large river systems where it is a common bycatch.

Here are 3 admirable qualities of the freshwater drum:

  1. Big. Although the average may be in the 1-4 pound range, they can reach 30 pounds. The state record in Missouri is over 40 pounds. While muskellunge fishing on a small reservoir in Pennsylvania last year, my son and I were unprepared when a huge drum slid confidently under our kayak. When we return to that lake, the muskie will have to wait.

  2. Strong. These are a stubborn, deep-bodied fish, capable of long, bull-headed runs, much like their highly sought after saltwater relative, the redfish.

  3. Distinct. When you catch a drum, take a closer look. You may notice hues of purple, blue, and silver. They have long pelvic fins and a rounded club-like tail. The mouth is subterminal and without teeth, but it has massive pharyngeal pads in the back of the throat to crush crayfish and freshwater mussels.

To catch a drum, try your luck in rocky rivers or large reservoirs, especially below dams. They will hit lures like jigs, spoons, or occasionally crankbaits fished near bottom but aggressively inhale bait such as minnows, crayfish, nightcrawlers, or shrimp. Walleye anglers commonly catch them while trolling crawler harnesses with spinners near the bottom.

Have you caught a drum? Before you try, make sure your fishing license is up to date.

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.