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Black Drum

Pogonias cromis

Juvenile black drums, called
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Juvenile black drums, called "puppy drums," have 4-5 black vertical bars on their sides. (Virginia Institute of Marine Science)

The black drum is a silvery-gray, bottom-dwelling fish that visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn. It is one of the largest fish in the Bay.

Appearance:

  • Dark, silvery-gray body with a brassy sheen
  • Grayish belly
  • Black fins
  • High, rounded back
  • Deep notch in the dorsal fin
  • Many small barbels on the lower chin
  • Cobblestone-like teeth plates
  • Juveniles have 4-5 black vertical bars on their sides
  • Grows to 40-60 inches long and weighs as much as 50-100 pounds

Habitat:

  • Bottom-dweller
  • Often found around oyster reefs, wrecks and piles in the Chesapeake Bay’s deep channels
  • Juveniles more common in shallow waters

Range:

  • Enters the lower Bay in April, eventually moving as far north as the Elk River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore
  • Leaves the Bay in late autumn for warmer southern waters

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Preys upon mollusks and crustaceans such as clams, oysters and crabs. Black drums use their strong teeth plates to crush the hard shells open.
  • Uses its chin barbels to sense for prey

Predators:

  • Sharks likely feed on black drums
  • Juveniles are preyed upon by seatrouts, jacks and other large fish

Voice:

  • Makes a drumming sound

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in April-June in waters off Cape Charles, Virginia
  • Females can lay eggs every three days during the spawning season
  • After spawning, adults move further into the Bay to feed
  • Eggs hatch within 24 hours
  • After a few weeks, young take on the shape of adults
  • Matures at 4 years old
  • Can live as long as 40-50 years

Other Facts:

  • One of the largest fish in the Bay
  • Young black drums that weigh less than 8 pounds are also known as puppy drums
  • Part of its scientific name, Pogonias, means “bearded.” This refers to the fish’s chin barbels, which look like a beard. Cromis means “to croak.”
  • A member of the drum family, which includes spot, weakfish, red drum, spotted seatrout and Atlantic croaker. All drums are able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles.
  • A popular sport fish
  • The best time to catch a black drum is during a full moon using soft crab as bait
  • The Chesapeake Bay record black drum, caught in 1973 off Cape Charles, Virginia, weighed 111 pounds

Sources and Additional Information:


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