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Red Drum Red Drum, also known as Channel Bass, Redfish, Spottail Bass or simply Reds, is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Northern Mexico. Red Drum usually occurs along coastal waters. They are tolerant of a wide variety of salinity levels and are often caught in waters sporting largemouth bass. Red Drum are relatives of the Black Drum and both make a croaking sound when in trouble.
All reds sport one large black spot on tail. Multiple spots is not uncommon. It is believed spot near their tail helps fool predators. Drums are an iridescent silvery-gray overall, with a coppery cast that is usually darker on the back and upper sides. Their bodies are elongate and heavy, and their mouths inferior. Drum move from the estuaries around three years of age into the open ocean where they can grow over fifty pounds.
Mature Red Drum spawns in near shorelines around cuts and passes to estuaries around mid-August to mid-October. Up to two million eggs are laid per female. These free floating eggs hatch after 24 hours. Young drum feed on zooplankton and invertebrate. As they grow in size they expand their diet to include fish and larger invertebrates.
Red Drum in Texas
The most distinguishing mark on the red drum is one large black spot on the upper part of the tail base. Having multiple spots is not uncommon for this fish but having no spots is extremely rare. The color of red drum ranges from a deep blackish, coppery color to nearly silver. The most common color is reddish-bronze. Red drum is a fast growing fish reaching approximately 11 inches and one pound in its first year, 17-22 inches and 3 1/2 pounds in two years, and 22-24 inches and 6-8 pounds in three years. The record red drum was 94 pounds and was caught on the East coast. The current Texas record is 59 1/2 pounds.
For the first three years of their lives red drum live in the bays or in the surf zone near passes. Evidence from tag returns show that they remain in the same area and generally move less than 3 miles from where they were tagged. As they mature, they move from the bays to the Gulf of Mexico where they remain the rest of their lives, except for infrequent visits to the bays. Although there is little evidence of seasonal migrations, anglers find concentrations of red drum in rivers and tidal creeks during the winter. Daily movement from the shallows to deeper waters is influenced by tides and water temperatures. During the fall, especially during stormy weather, large adult red drum move to the gulf beaches, possibly for spawning, where they can be caught from piers and by surf anglers. This is known as the "bull redfish run."
Young red drum feed on small crabs, shrimp, and marine worms. As they grow older, they feed on larger crabs, shrimp, small fish, and sometimes their cousins, the Atlantic croaker. They generally are bottom feeders but will feed in the water column when the opportunity arises. A phenomenon called "tailing" occurs when the red drum feed in shallow water with their head down in the grass and the tail exposed to the air. Predators include humans, birds, larger fish, and turtles.
Between the third and fourth year, the red drum reaches sexual maturity. Spawning season is from mid-August through mid-October in Gulf waters, near the mouths of passes and shorelines. Eggs incubate for 24 hours. Larvae are carried into tidal bays by the current. They move to quiet, shallow water with grassy or muddy bottoms to feed on detritus (dead or decomposing plant and animal matter). The oldest recorded red drum was 37 years old!
During spawning, red drum males attract females by producing a drum-like noise by vibrating a muscle in their swim bladder. They sometimes swim in water so shallow that their backs are exposed.
Red drum are related to black drum, spotted seatrout, weakfish, mullets and croakers, most of which also make drumming sounds. Scientists believe that the black spot near their tail helps fool predators into attacking the red drum's tail instead of their head, allowing the red drum to escape.
Red drums prefer shallow waters (1-4 feet deep) along the edges of bays with submerged vegetation such as seagrasses. They are found over all bottom types but they seem to prefer areas with submerged vegetation and soft mud. These fish are also commonly found around oyster reefs. Breaks in continuity of shorelines such as coves, points, jetties, old pier pilings, and guts attract them. They prefer soft mud along jetties, pier pilings and jetties. They are often found in water so shallow that their backs are exposed while swimming. During cold spells large numbers of red drum can be found in tidal creeks and rivers. They can live in fresh water and have been found many miles upriver.
The red drum is a popular game fish in coastal waters from Massachusetts to Mexico. Red drum is considered a great sport fish because it will hit on most kinds of bait. The Texas record for a red drum catch was 59.5 pounds (23 kg); however, a red drum weighing 94 pounds (42.69 kg) was caught along the North Carolina coast.