Pogonias cromis (Linnaeus, 1766)
Family: Sciaenidae
Common names: black drum
Pogonias cromis image
Pogonias cromis  

Other Taxonomic Groupings: Superclass: Osteichthyes

Subclass: Neopterygii

Infraclass: Teleostei

Superorder: Acanthopterygii

Species Description: Pogonias cromis, the black drum, is oblong and moderately compressed with an elevated back and nearly straight ventral profile. The head is short with a blunt snout and inferior, horizontal mouth. The chin has 5 pores and 12-13 short barbels set close to the inner edges of the lower jaw. A deep notch separates the spinous dorsal fin with its 11 spines from the soft dorsal fin, which has 19 - 23 rays. The third dorsal spine is the longest. The anal fin has 2 spines and 5-7 rays. The caudal fin is truncate to emarginate. Pectoral fins are approximately the same length as the head. Scales are large and ctenoid. There are 41-45 lateral line scales. The pharyngeal teeth are small and set in broad bands for effective grinding of mollusk and arthropod shells. The vomer, palatines and tongue lack teeth (Johnson 1978).

Body color in adults is a silver to black base color, highlighted with a with a coppery or brassy sheen. Fins are dusky to black in color. Young typically have 4-6 vertical black bars along their sides. Coloration may change depending on habitat or age of the fish (Simmons and Breuer 1962). In the Gulf of Mexico, black drum are nearly uniformly silver in color, their vertical crossbars disappearing very early in life. Fishes inhabiting bays and lagoons tend to be darker in color, typically with a bronze dorsal surface and gray-white sides (Simmons and Breuer 1962; Johnson 1978).

Regional Occurrence: On the Atlantic coast of the United States, Pogonias cromis occurs from southern New England south through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, to Argentina. It has been documented as far north as the Bay of Fundy, but is much more common south of Chesapeake Bay. Black drum are especially abundant in Florida and along the Gulf coast to Texas.

IRL Distribution: Black drum are common throughout the Indian River Lagoon and have notably large populations in Volusia and Martin Counties (Murphy and Taylor 1995).

Age, Size, Lifespan: Pogonias cromis grows to a maximum size of approximately 170 cm (67 inches) and may weigh as much as 51.3 kg (113.1 pounds) (IGFA 2001). Maximum age is estimated to be 43 years on Florida's Gulf coast, and 58 years on the Atlantic Coast (Murphy and Muller 1995).

Growth information for black drum is relatively scarce, but some rate estimates have been produced. Simmons and Breuer (1962) used length-frequency analysis and tag return data to estimate growth rates in black drum, finding that black drum in Texas measured approximately 160 mm (6.3 inches) standard length (SL), at the end of the first year, 310 mm (12.2 inches) at the end of the second year, and 415 mm (16.3 inches) by the end of the third year. Older drum in their study had growth rates of approximately 50 mm (1.97 inches) SL per year.

There is no evidence of sex-specific differences in growth rates of black drum (Beckman et al. 1990).

Reproduction: Black drum mature at approximately 450 - 700 mm (17.7 - 27.6 inches) total length (TL) when they are 2 - 6 years of age. Males mature at somewhat younger and smaller size than do females. Murphy and Taylor (1989) estimated that in northeastern Florida, males reached maturity at 4-5 years of age when they measured approximately 590 mm (23.2 inches), while females reached maturity at 5-6 years of age, at measurements of 650 - 699 mm (25.6 - 27.5 inches).

Pogonias cromis spawns in bays, estuaries and nearshore waters (Hoese 1965; Etzold and Christmas 1979). Gravid and spent fishes are most commonly collected where waters are 20 - 27 m (65.6 - 88.6 feet) deep (Ross et al. 1983; Cody et al. 1985).

Spawning periods are dependent upon geographic location. In Texas, up to 90% of spawning occurs from February through March (Simmons and Breuer 1962), with limited spawning continuing into June and July. Cody et al. (1985)) reported that in the Gulf of Mexico, spawning in deeper Gulf waters around Texas occurred from November through April. In Florida, black drum also spawn from November through April, with activity peaking during February and March (Murphy and Taylor 1989).

Black drum are multiple spawners with continuous oocyte recruitment throughout the spawning season (Fitzhugh 1993), and are capable of spawning approximately every 3 days. Pearson (1929) estimated that a ripe female black drum measuring 1.1 m (43.3 inches) total length (TL) would produce approximately 6 million eggs annually. In a more recent study, Fitzhugh et al. (1993) estimated fecundity of average-sized females weighing 13.4 pounds at 32 million eggs annually. 

Embryology: Eggs of black drum are pelagic and measure 0.8 - 1 mm (0.031 - 0.039 inches) in diameter with 2-6 oil droplets in the early stages. Droplets merge into a single drop in later stages prior to hatching. Eggs hatch in less than 24 hours at 20°C (Joseph et al. 1964).

Larvae measure approximately 1.9 - 2.4 mm (0.075 - 0.094 inches) TL at hatching (Joseph et al 1964). The yolk sac is completely absorbed when larvae grow to 2.8 mm (0.11 inches). Upon reaching approximately 15 mm (0.59 inches) TL, the overall adult body shape is recognizable. After hatching, larvae rely upon tidal currents for transport into estuaries, where they begin appearing in February or early March.

Temperature: Black drum prefer waters where temperatures range from 12 - 33°C (McIlwain 1978). Sudden temperature drops during the winter months cause them to migrate to deeper waters. Mass mortality is somewhat common when sudden, sustained temperature drops occur (Simmons and Breuer 1962).

Salinity: Pogonias cromis is euryhaline and commonly found in waters where salinity ranges from 9-26 ppt (McIlwain 1978). They have been documented from waters of 0 - 80 ppt (Gunter 1956; Simmons and Breuer 1962; Leard et al 1993)), though adults found at extremely high salinities show signs of stress and physical damage (Murphy and Taylor 1995). Peters and McMichael (1990) reported juvenile black drum, while occurring over widely varying temperatures and salinities, most often are collected in low to moderate salinity waters over unvegetated mud bottoms. Larger juveniles occur most often in higher salinity waters.

Trophic Mode: Black drum are primarily bottom feeders, though they have been occasionally observed feeding near the surface on small finfishes such as menhaden (Ackerman 1951). Pearson (1929) reported black drum bottom feeding in a vertical position in waters so shallow, their tails protruded from the water.

Larvae feed primarily on zooplankton (Benson 1982). Juveniles feed on annelids, soft crustaceans, amphipods, and small fishes (Simmons and Breuer 1962; Peters and McMichael 1990). In Texas, approximately 33% of the diet in black drum measuring 21 - 50 cm (8.3 - 19.7 inches) or more in length consisted of the surfclam (Mulinia sp.). Larger drum consume mostly mollusks and crabs, while the largest specimens consumed mollusks and shrimp (Simmons and Breuer 1962). Miles (1949) reported that black drum in Texas fed primarily on shrimp, mollusks, and vegetation.

Large, captive drum were capable of feeding on more than two commercial-sized oysters per kilogram of body weight daily (Cave and Cake 1980). Black drum are known to damage commercial stocks of oysters on seed reefs in lease areas in Gulf of Mexico waters (Benson 1982).

Competitors: Black drum likely compete with other drums, especially the red drum for benthic food resources, but because of their strong pharyngeal teeth, probably do not experience much competition for mollusks (Sutter et al. 1986).

Predators: Juvenile black drum are preyed upon by a variety of larger fishes such as seatrout and jacks. Larger black drum are likely to be preyed upon by sharks (Murphy and Muller 1995)

Habitats: Larvae enter estuaries on tidal currents and utilize seagrasses as nursery habitat. Postlarvae prefer nutrient-rich and somewhat muddy waters of tidal creeks and channels. Juveniles are found more often over muddy bottoms in estuaries. Adults are usually common over sand or sand/mud bottom types in shallow coastal and estuarine waters, especially in high runoff areas, oyster reefs and shell hash (Pearson 1929).

Adults sometimes move onto near-shelf waters, but are primarily estuarine-dwelling and show little migratory behavior. Simmons and Breuer (1962) reported that tagged black drum in Texas generally moved less than 5 miles from where they were tagged. Beaumarriage (1969) reported similar results in Florida black drum.

Osburn and Matlock (1984) examined movements of black drum in Texas, reporting that black drum less than 3 years of age showed limited movement from bay systems into the Gulf of Mexico. Older fishes were more commonly taken in deeper waters of the Gulf, leading the authors to hypothesize that permanent movement of black drum to deeper gulf waters occurs in fishes older than 4 years of age; with bays and estuaries thus supplying young fishes to spawning stocks of older fishes.

Special Status: Limited commercial and recreational value.

Fisheries Importance: COMMERCIAL FISHERY:

Black drum are not an important commercial species in Florida, but are considered important recreationally. Between 1987 - 2001, the total commercial harvest of Pogonias cromis in Florida totaled 1.6 million pounds, and was valued at $679,928. Approximately 69.7% of black drum landings occurred on Florida's west coast. East coast landings totaled approximately 484,600 pounds, and were valued at $290,466. Of this, the five-county area encompassing the IRL (Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties) accounted for 94% of east coast landings (272,514 pounds), and was valued at $131,995. This ranks the black drum 69th in commercial value and 59th in pounds harvested.

Figure 1 below shows the dollar value of the black drum commercial fishery to IRL counties by year. The fishery ranged in value from a high of $27,414 in 1988, to a low of $2,924 the following year. Volusia County accounted for 49.2% of the catch, followed distantly by Brevard (21.2%), Martin (14.3%), St. Lucie (12.0%) and Indian River (3.3%) Counties. Of note is the decrease in commercial catch, especially in Volusia and Martin Counties after the 1995 ban on gill-netting was implemented.


The black drum, especially at larger size, is not generally considered a high-quality food fish due to commonly being infested with cestodes (spaghetti worms) (Simmons and Breuer 1962; Etzolt and Christmas 1979). However, black drum measuring less than 20 inches are valued in the recreational fishery (Silverman 1979).

Recreational landings of black drum are significantly larger than commercial landings in all states within their range. For example, in 2003, 757,867 pounds of black drum were landed in Florida by commercial and recreational interests. Of the total harvest, 98% of landings were made by recreational anglers rather than by commercial fishers, with 72% of landings occurring on the Atlantic coast.

Within the five-county area of the Indian River Lagoon, black drum are regularly taken, but are not especially prized. Based on angler survey data, recreational anglers captured 926,545 black drum between 1997 - 2004 (Table 4, Figure 3), not including those fishes that were caught and released. The bulk of the recreational catch (43.6%) was taken within inland waters other than the Indian River Lagoon. Approximately 36.2% of the recreational catch is harvested from nearshore waters up to 3 miles offshore. Anglers fishing in the Indian River Lagoon took approximately 19.6% of the harvest, while those fishing up to 200 miles offshore accounted for only 0.6% of the total.

As of 2005, Fishing regulations in Florida state that black drum must be no less than 14 inches TL, but not more than 24 inches TL to be of legal size; however, one black drum larger than 24 inches TL may be kept. A bag limit of five legal-sized black drum per person per day is in effect.

Beaumariage, D. S. 1969. Returns from the 1965 Schlitz tagging program including a cumulative analysis of previous results. Technical Series 59, Florida State Board of Conservation, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Beckman, D.W., A.L. Stanley, J.H. Render and C.A. Wilson, 1990 Age and growth of black drum in Louisiana waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 119(3):537-544.

Benson, N. G., ed. 1982. Life history requirements of selected finfish and shellfish of Mississippi Sound and adjacent areas. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Serv. Program FWS/O35-81/15.

Cody, T. J., K. W. Rice, and C. E. Bryan. 1985. Distribution and gonadal development of black drum in Texas Gulf waters. Tex. Pks. Wildl. Dep., Coast Fish. Branch, Manage. Data Ser. No. 72. 16 PP.

Etzold, D. J., and J. Y. Christmas, eds. 1979. A Mississippi marine finfish management plan. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. MASGP-78-146. 36 pp.

Fitzhugh, G.R., B.A. Thompson and T.G. Snider III, 1993 Ovarian development, fecundity, and spawning frequency of black drum Pogonias cromis in Louisiana. Fish. Bull., U.S. 91:244-253.

Gunter, G. 1956. A revised list of euryhaline fishes of North and Middle America. Am. Midl. Nat. 56(2):345-354.

Hoese, H. D. 1965. Spawning of marine fishes in the Port Aransas, Texas area as determined by the distribution of young larvae. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Texas, Austin. 144 pp. International Game Fish Association, 2001 Database of IGFA angling records until 2001. IGFA, Fort Lauderdale, USA.

Joseph, E. B., W. H. Massmann, and J. J. Norcross. 1964. The pelagic eggs and early larval states of the black drum from Chesapeake Bay. Copeia 1964(2):425-434.

Johnson, G.D., 1978 Development of fishes of the Mid-Atlantic Bight. An atlas of egg, larval and juvenile stages. Vol. 4. Carangidae through Ephippidae. US Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Serv. Prog. FWS/OBS-78/12.

Leard, R., and ten co-authors. 1993. The black drum fishery of the Gulf of Mexico, United States: a regional management plan. Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, Number 28, Ocean Springs, MS.

McIlwain, T. D. 1978. An analysis of recreational angling in Biloxi Bay - 1972-1974. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Southern Mississippi. Hattiesburg. 156 pp.

Miles, 0. W. 1949. A study of the food habits of the fishes of Aransas Bay area. Tex. Game Fish Oyster Comm., Mar. Lab. Annu. Rep. 1948-1949; 126-169.

Murphy, M.D.; Adams, D.H.; Tremain, D.M.; Winner, B.L. 1998. Direct validation of ages determined for adult black drum, Pogonias cromis, in east-central Florida with notes on black drum migration. Fish. Bull. (US) 96(2): 382-387.

Murphy, M.D.; Taylor, R.G. 1989. Reproduction and growth of black drum, Pogonias cromis, in Northeast Florida. Northeast Gulf Sci. 10(2): 127-137.

Murphy, M.D.; Muller, R.G. 1995. stock assessment of black drum Pogonias cromis in Florida. FMRI, In-house Report Series IHR 1995-005.

Osburn, H. R., and G. C. Matlock. 1984. Black drum movement in Texas bays. N. Am. J. Fish. Manage. 4:523-530.

Peters, K.M.; McMichael, R.H., Jr. 1990. Early life history of the black drum Pogonias cromis (Pisces: Sciaenidae) in Tampa Bay, Florida. Northeast Gulf Sci. 11(1):39-58.

Richards, C.E., 1973 Age, growth and distribution of the black drum (Pogonias cromis). Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 102(3):584-590.

Ross, J. F., J. S. Pavela, and M. E. Chittenden, Jr. 1983. Seasonal occurrence of black drum, Pogonias cromis, and red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus, off Texas. Northeast Gulf Sci. 6(1):67-70.

Silverman, M. J. 1979. Biological and fisheries data on black drum, Pogonias cromis (Linnaeus). Northeast Fish. Nt. Sandy Hook Lab. Tech. Ser. Rep. 22. 35 Pp.

Simmons, E. G., and J. P. Breuer. 1962. A study of redfish, Sciaenops ocellata Linnaeus, and black drum, Pogonias cromis Linnaeus. Publ. Inst. Mar. Univ. Tex. 8:184-211.

Sutter, F.C., R.S. Wailer, and T.D. McIlwain. 1986. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Gulf of Mexico)--black drum. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Rep. 82(11.51). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4.

Pogonias cromis image
Pogonias cromis