Freshwater Drum

As an avid angler, you are always looking for new fish to try and catch. Part of the joy of angling comes from focusing on one species of fish and trying to find the biggest and best ones available. Today, we’re talking about a much-overlooked fish in the US, the freshwater drum. What is this fish, where can you catch it, and how can you lure it in? All of these questions – and more – will be answered in our in-depth guide to the freshwater drum. 

What is a Freshwater Drum?

The Freshwater Drum is often referred to by its scientific name as Aplodinotus grunniens. In essence, this fish is found in freshwaters and is native to North America. Interestingly, we can learn a lot about this fish by taking a deeper dive into deconstructing its scientific name:

  • Aplodinotus – this is a Greek word that roughly translates into English as ‘single back’, which gives an indication as to how the fish itself looks. Interestingly, it is the only species within the Aplodinotus genus. 
  • Grunniens – this is a Latin word that translates into English as ‘grunting’, and this is perhaps the most interesting thing to note about this fish. It has been given this name as one of the key ways to identify it is by the noises it makes in the water. This typically happens during mating season, and you are likely to hear a grunting sound – or something akin to thunder. As a result, many people refer to the Freshwater Drum as a croaker or grunter. So, if you ever hear fellow anglers using these terms, you now know which fish they are talking about. 

Visually, you can spot this fish through its shiny silver scales and blunt nose. It boasts a white belly and has a deep body with a dorsal fin that’s divided. A Freshwater Drum will typically weigh anywhere between 5-15 lbs and can be between 12-37 inches in length. 

This fish is a member of the Sciaenidae family, which consists of around 286 species. Typical to this family, the Freshwater Drum is a carnivore that preys on small aquatic life and is often at the threat of being eaten by larger fish, such as bass. 

Where to Fish for Freshwater Drum

Where are you likely to find this fish? As touched upon above, it is native to North America, which gives you a plethora of places to find the Freshwater Drum. In fact, this fish is one of the most abundant on the entire continent. Pretty much any freshwater setting – like rivers and lakes – will be home to some Freshwater Drum. 

You can find them in any of these popular angling settings:

  • Atlantic Coast
  • Pathfinder Reserve (Wyoming)
  • Kentucky Lake
  • Nickajack Lake (Tennessee)
  • Lake Wilson (Arkansas)

The list goes on and on, but what type of habitat do Freshwater Drum typically prefer. Most of the time, you will find them in water that’s both deep and cold. They like to be at least 40 feet deep, and the temperature shouldn’t exceed 75 degrees. This is the ideal habitat for this fish, so look for any settings that match this environment, and you are likely to find Freshwater Drum swimming around in the depths. 

No matter where you are in the US, you are bound to be close to a lake or river that houses these fish. However, if you are keen to know where they are most abundantly found, head to the upper south of the country. This is where the distribution of Freshwater Drum is most concentrated, particularly around the lakes and rivers in the Appalachian Mountains. By all means, you can find them elsewhere, but this is what many people see as the spiritual home of the species. 

Freshwater Drum Fun Facts

There are plenty of fun and interesting facts relating to this fish. In this section, we’ll explore some of the best facts to help you learn a little bit more about the Freshwater Drum species. 

  • Around 40% of the lakes and rivers in the United States are inhabited by Freshwater Drum – this goes to show how abundant they are throughout the entire country!
  • The largest-ever Freshwater Drum weighed 54 lb 8 oz – this is nearly ten times the average size for this fish, and it was caught on Nickajack Lake in Tennessee. 
  • While this fish is typically silvery/gray in most places, you can find Freshwater Drum that is more bronze or brown in clearer waters. 
  • On average, the female Freshwater Drum will be much larger than the males. 
  • During the breeding season, male fish of this species will make grunting noises to attract mates. They do this by contracting the muscles along their air bladder walls. 
  • Freshwater Drum is known by a whole host of other names, largely thanks to the aforementioned croaking sound they make. This can include croaker, drummer, grunting perch, sheepshead, white perch, rackhead, rosie, and gaspergou. 
  • Male Freshwater Drums will reach sexual maturity at four years, while the females are slightly later, reaching it at five/six years of age. 
  • A female from six to nine years old is likely to have around 34,000 – 66,500 eggs. They release their eggs into the water as the males release their sperm. Fertilization of the eggs is random, and they can float for miles. This is one of the reasons why so many lakes and rivers have Freshwater Drums in them. 
  • The average lifespan of the fish is 6 to 13 years. However, some have lived for up to 72 years in the US!

Top Freshwater Drum Fishing Lures & Tips

Freshwater Drums are relatively easy to catch and don’t require a great deal of heavy equipment or premium rods. They are usually easy to catch on baitcasting, spin-casting, or spinning rods without any issues at all. If you want the biggest catches, you should opt for baitcasting as it helps you lure out the larger Freshwater Drums from the depths. You only really need a 6.5 to 7.5-foot medium power spinning or casting rod with a medium-capacity baitcasting reel to get the job done here. 

What lures are the best for catching the Freshwater Drum? 

Honestly, a whole range of options presents themselves here:

  • Crankbaits
  • Jerkbaits
  • Spinners

All three of these lure options will work very well, and it’s also suggested that you can use the same lures as you would for catching bass. This is largely thanks to the Freshwater Drum being a carnivore, meaning any bait that resembles small marine life can lure them in thinking they have a meal on their hands. Speaking of which, using finesse bass baits like drop shots and jigs will also help you lure in the largest drums in the area. 

Other fishing tips for this species include:

  • Getting deep into the water – drums are likely to be found as deep as 60-feet in some lakes during the warmer months. 
  • Fish along a strong current in spring or fall as these fish are likely to be found swimming upstream quite a bit. 
  • The easy morning and late evenings in summer are the prime times to find these fish. 
  • In the winter, these fish are likely to bite all throughout the day seeing as they can hide in deeper waters. 

Can You Eat Freshwater Drum?

A lot of anglers turn their nose up at this fish, but ironically they are actually very good to eat. They taste fantastic, and this is thanks to the white meat they provide. The fish themselves are so easy to fillet and don’t contain bones in the meat, so they’re very simple to prepare and work well in lots of different meals. So, yes, you absolutely can eat Freshwater Drum without any problems at all. 

In fact, they are commonly used in a lot of Cajun recipes. Part of the reason for the surge in popularity of the Freshwater Drum is that Cajun cooking has also become more and more popular. From a taste perspective, the closest thing to the Freshwater Drum is redfish. If you have ever had this, you know how delicious it can be. 

When it comes to cooking your fish, you’ll be pleased to know there is a multitude of options at your disposal. You can bake it, broil it, fry it, grill it, and even smoke it. The options are endless, and a lot of people like adding this to dishes like chowder or fish stew – particularly if you have a lot of fish to use up. Pan-friend drum is perhaps the easiest and most popular way to cook and eat drum. You create a breadcrumb mixture to coat the fish, then fry it off so the outside is crispy and the fish is nice and juicy!

One pro tip is to put your drum on ice as soon as you can after you have caught it. This is done to preserve as much flavor as possible and to prevent the meat from spoiling. 

On that note, that’s everything you need to know about the Freshwater Drum. It’s an abundant fish that’s found throughout the US, it tastes delicious, is catchable all-year-round, and doesn’t require a great amount of skill to lure and reel in.