Red Drum vs Black Drum

Distinguishing between a red drum and a black drum can significantly enhance your fishing experience. These two drum species have their unique traits and behaviors, and understanding each can provide a new perspective on your angling activities. This guide provides a comprehensive comparison between the “Red Drum vs Black Drum.”

Redfish and Black Drum

The drum family is a group of fish known for the drumming sounds they make. This drumming or croaking is their unique way of communicating, especially during the spawning season when males drum to attract females. They primarily include the red drum and the black drum species, both popular targets for anglers.

They can be found in both shallow and deeper waters, with their distribution varying based on age and time of year. Their behavior, diet, and size also differ, which contributes to the challenge and excitement of fishing for these species.

The Majestic Red Drum

red drum also known as redfish

The red drum, also known as the redfish or channel bass, is a beloved fish among anglers. With its copper-bronze body and a signature black spot near the tail, it’s hard to miss this beauty in the waters. During the first three years of their life, they are typically found in the shallow waters near the shoreline.

They can grow quite large, some even reaching over 100 pounds. They are also considered one of the fastest-growing fish, reaching 30 inches in length in just 3 years!

However, most reds caught by anglers usually weigh between 20 to 40 pounds. They are strong swimmers and can put up a good fight, making them a thrilling catch for any fishing enthusiast.

Understanding the Black Drum

Black drum fish are usually found in brackish waters and are known for their preference for mollusks and crustaceans.

On the other hand, the black drum, or Pogonias cromis, is a member of the drum family that is as fascinating as the red drum. Characteristically silver-grey with a high back, these fish also sport whisker-like barbels under their chin, which it uses to sense food on the seabed.

Black drum fish are usually found in brackish waters and are known for their preference for mollusks and crustaceans. Their growth pattern is similar to the red drum, but they are known to grow even larger, with some specimens reaching well over 100 pounds!

Red Drum vs Black Drum – Key Differences

  • Appearance: Red drum have a reddish-bronze color and a distinctive black spot near the tail, while black drum are silver-grey and have whisker-like barbels.
  • Habitat: Red drum are usually found in shallow waters, especially in their first three years, whereas Black Drum fish are more common in brackish waters.
  • Diet: Red drum are not as picky eaters as black drum, who prefer mollusks and crustaceans.


Spawning Season

Both the red drum and black drum have a specific spawning season, which usually begins in late summer and continues into early fall. During this time, you’ll often hear the drumming sounds they make, especially the males, who drum to attract females.


Interestingly, both fish undertake seasonal migrations. In the cooler months, they move to deeper waters, while in the warmer months, they can be found in the shallower waters closer to the shore.

Feeding Habits

Both fish are bottom feeders, meaning they eat organisms found on or near the ocean floor. The Black Drum’s diet is a bit more specialized, favoring mollusks and crustaceans, while the red drum is more opportunistic, eating a variety of prey.

How to Identify Red Drum

Identifying a red drum is fairly easy once you know what to look for. First, check for the reddish-bronze color that gives this fish its name. Next, look for the distinctive black spot near the tail. This spot is present in all red drum and is a surefire way to distinguish them from other species.

Another clue is their size. If you’re fishing in the gulf or along the coast and you catch a large, strong-swimming fish, it might very well be a red drum. These fish are known for their fighting spirit and can be a challenge to reel in, adding to the excitement of the catch.

How to Identify Black Drum

To identify a Black Drum, look for the silver-grey color and the high back. These fish also have whisker-like barbels under their chin, which they use for sensing food on the seabed. Notably, Black Drum fish lack the black spot that characterizes their red counterparts.

Size can also be a hint when identifying Black Drum. These fish can grow quite large – some reaching well over 100 pounds. So, if you’re pulling up a heavy fish from the depths, it could very well be a Black Drum!

Fishing for Red Drum

Best Times

Fishing for Red Drum can be an exciting experience. These fish are known for their strength and speed, making them a challenging catch. The best time to fish for red drum is during the early morning or late evening when they are most active.


During the spawning season in late summer and early fall, the red drum can often be found in large schools. Using live bait such as shrimp or cut bait like mullet can be effective. And remember, look for that distinctive black spot to confirm you’ve got a red drum!

Fishing for Black Drum

Best Times

Like the redfish, the black drum are most active in the early morning or late evening. They can be found in both shallow and deeper waters, depending on the time of year.


They are especially fond of mollusks and crustaceans, so using these as bait can be particularly effective. It’s also worth noting that black drum are less likely to be attracted by fast-moving lures due to their bottom-feeding nature.

Best Baits To Use

Some of the best baits for black drum and redfish include:

  • Peeler crabs
  • Sea clams
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Cut fish
  • Blood worms

Best Spots to Fish for Red Drum on Outer Banks

The Outer Banks is renowned for its successful red drum fishing. A thriving catch-and-release industry has emerged in Pamlico Sound, particularly around the Neuse and Pamlico river mouths, where anglers often target fish weighing over 50 pounds.

Top Places to Catch Black Drum OBX

By targeting areas with shallow water, particularly around docks, rock piles, or submerged debris, your chances of catching these fish increase significantly. Often, you’ll find them mingling with redfish, sheepshead, and speckled trout, as these species tend to inhabit similar environments.

Drum Fish and the Ecosystem

Both fish play a vital role in the aquatic ecosystem. By feeding on bottom-dwelling organisms, they help control their populations, thus maintaining a balance. They are also a food source for larger predators, contributing to the food chain.

Furthermore, due to their popularity among anglers, they play a significant role in local economies, supporting recreational fishing industries and tourism. So, every time you cast your line for a redfish or black drum, remember, you’re interacting with an essential part of the ecosystem.

Conservation of Drum Fish

Conservation is crucial for maintaining healthy populations of these popular game fish. Overfishing and habitat destruction pose significant threats to these species. As responsible anglers, it’s essential to follow local fishing regulations, including size and bag limits, to ensure these beautiful fish continue to thrive for generations to come.

Catch and release practices can also contribute to conservation efforts. By carefully handling and releasing undersized or excess fish, anglers can help preserve drum fish populations and the sport of fishing.

Interesting Facts

  • Drumming Sounds: They get their name from the drumming or croaking sounds they make, especially during the spawning season.
  • Large Size: Both can grow quite large, with some reaching well over 100 pounds!
  • Distinctive Features: Red Drum are known for their distinctive black spot near the tail, while Black Drum are recognizable by their whisker-like barbels.


Due to their popularity among anglers, both of these fish are prized targets in fishing tournaments.

From Texas to the Chesapeake Bay, both fish are celebrated parts of the local culture.


Regardless of which of these fish you are fishing for, the experience is sure to be a thrilling one. With their unique behaviors and characteristics, they offer endless enjoyment and challenge for anglers. So, next time you’re on the water, casting your line into the depths, remember what you’ve learned about “Red Drum vs Black Drum” and take a moment to appreciate these remarkable creatures of the deep. Happy fishing!

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