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AKA: drum

Description: Black drum have short, deep bodies (less than three times as long as deep)with high-arched backs and flattish bellies. They have conspicuous chin barbells and make a loud grunting noise when excited. Adults have dusky to black fins and are silver with a brassy luster when alive, but change to a dark gray after death. Young drum possess four to six black vertical bars.

Size: Black drum grow to 5 feet and 146 pounds. 

Sometimes confused with: sheepshead, spadefish

Habitat: Black drum are found from southern New England to Mexico but are more commonly caught from New Jersey southward. They prefer coastal waters of the bays, sounds and inlets, with a range of salinities.

Eating habits: Black drum feed on the bottom and use their chin barbels to search for food. They have strong throat teeth that allow them to eat clams, mussels, oysters and crabs. They also eat worms and some fish.

Life cycle: Black drum reach sexual maturity by age 3. Adults form schools and, in the spring, migrate to spawning grounds at sea near mouths of rivers and bays. Newly hatched drum reside in estuaries for the first year of their lives, then move offshore.

Fishing tips: Black drum are rarely caught with artificial lures since feeding is through feel and smell. Anglers more commonly use conventional bottom rigs with sinkers or one or more drops with single hooks and no sinker. Fishermen catch black drum fishing from banks, in the surf or from anchored boats using cut mullet, menhaden, shrimp and blood worms. Larger fish are often taken on clams or pieces of crab.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for live release of fish, 40 inches or longer.

Apply for a release citation online


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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