(A.K.A. Redfish, Channel Bass)
Key Distinguishing Markings:
- General coloration is iridescent silvery-gray overall, with a coppery cast that is usually darker on the back and upper sides.
- One (or more) black ocellar spots on the upper sides near the base of the tail.
- Chin without barbells.
- Inferior horizontal mouth.
- Body elongate and robust.
- Dorsal fin continuous but deeply notched, with 10 spines in the anterior portion and with 1 spine and 23-25 soft rays in the posterior portion.
- Maximum adult size is nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) total length.
- The largest recorded red drum was 59 inches and 98 pounds.
- The Maryland state record was caught in 1977 in Tangier sound and weighed 74 pounds 6 ounces. (This record will stand for the foreseeable future, since red drum over 27 inches are not currently legal to keep).
- Historic distribution of red drum on the Atlantic coast is from the Gulf of Main to northern Mexico.
- This species has become uncommon north of New Jersey.
- Red drum are more abundant in the Gulf of Mexico than along the Atlantic coast.
- Adult red drum occur in Chesapeake Bay from May through November and are most abundant near the bay mouth in salinities above 15 parts per thousand.
- Juveniles are most abundant in estuarine waters and inlets, while fish older than age-5 primarily inhabit coastal and offshore waters, often in large schools.
- Juveniles feed on zooplankton and invertebrates such as small crabs and shrimp.
- Red drum expand their diet to include fish and larger invertebrates as they grow into adults.
- Males first spawn between ages two and three (21 inches in length), while females mature at ages three to five (36 inches in length).
- Spawning occurs at night in the summer and fall in nearshore waters.
- Large females can produce up to several million eggs in a single season.
- Following their first spawn, red drum spend less time in the estuaries and more time in ocean waters.
- The recreational season for catching red drum is open year round.
- Currently, recreationally caught red drum must be at least 18 inches but no more than 27 inches to keep, and anglers are permitted 1 fish/person/day.
- Commercially caught red drum must be 18 to 25 inches, with a 5 fish per day limit.
- For current recreational and commercial size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.
- Surf casters along the 35 miles of Maryland's Atlantic coast catch large red drum in late fall and may occasionally catch smaller legal size fish.
- Red drum derive their name from the croaking or drumming sound they produce by resonating their large swim bladder.
- The oldest recorded red drum was 62 years old.
- Due to their unusual growth pattern, a 36-inch red drum may be anywhere from 6 to 50 years old.
Family: Sciaenidae (drums and croakers)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Illustration by Duane Raver, USFWS