Red drum (aka redfish) and black drum are two of the most popular inshore heavy hitters throughout the Gulf and Atlantic Coast. The popularity of these fish is likely due to their large size and a home range that covers more than half of the U.S. Coast. If you love catching giant fish in shallow water, these fish are exactly what you’re after.
Red Drum get their name from the copper to bronze coloration that dominates their body, except for their white belly and black spot(s). Redfish are one of the fastest growing fish and can reach maturity in three to five years, measuring 28 to 33 inches long. While most redfish will reach 20 to 30 pounds, some exceptional fish can grow to over 60 inches long and weigh 90+ pounds. While these giants do spend time in deeper water, the most popular place to catch them is in shallow bays and backwaters.
Redfish are one of the most popular inshore fish, but not too long ago, they were hard to find. They have recovered thanks to strong regulations that stopped commercial fishing and created slot limits. While the appeal of catching a big fish is enough for many anglers, redfish are also incredible table fare.
Black drum are named after the varying shades of gray that cover their body, but also feature faint dark vertical bars. Black drum also grow quickly and reach maturity at four to six years. At maturity black, drum measure 23 to 25 inches long and weigh about five pounds. These fish commonly reach 30 pounds, but have been known to grow over 60 inches long and weigh over 100 pounds. Black drum are truly inshore behemoths and can sometimes be found lurking in water less than 18 inches deep.
Black Drum are formidable fighters and while some anglers like to target them on the fly, landing a giant on a fly rod would be incredibly difficult. While they are sought after for their size, their meat is even more appealing. They have white meat with a mild flavor that’s delicious in a variety of preparations.
Based on appearance alone, redfish and black drum are similar in shape and size but with starkly different colorations, they are easy to distinguish from each other. Redfish grow faster, usually hitting length and weight milestones a year earlier than black drum for the first six years. While these fish both tend to range from 5-30 pounds, black drum eventually outgrow redfish—reaching a maximum size of around 100 pounds compared to 90 pounds.
One of the most noticeable differences to anglers is the peak bite for both of these fish. Black drum spawn in the late spring to early summer in much of their range, making them the perfect early season target. Redfish, on the other hand, spawn in the fall and for many anglers, mark the end of their season. When it comes to eating drum, black drum and redfish are very similar, with only slight differences in flavor. Some say that black drum tastes slightly less ‘fishy’.
If you want to catch redfish or black drum, check out our inshore fishing trips which will put you on the fish any time of the year.