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6 Reasons to Try Freshwater Drum Fishing

There are many reasons to try freshwater drum fishing. Drum are the only member of the Sciaenidae fish breed to live in freshwater, and catching a drum fish, also known as sheepshead, is thrilling for many anglers. Freshwater drum numbers tend to spike in June and July, offering anglers a way to fill the weeks before the salmon season starts later in the summer.


Whether you’re looking to enrich your fishing hobby or find a more serious angling adventure, here are six reasons to try freshwater drum fishing for yourself:

1. Drum Are Everywhere

The freshwater drum population is massive in North American lakes and rivers. You can travel to almost any freshwater waterway in the country and spend the day catching nothing but drum fish. 

The Mississippi River basin is the most common drum habitat, but there are huge drum fish populations in at least 27 states, from Montana, Nebraska, and Texas in western regions to Georgia, Vermont, and Virginia in eastern territories.

If you fancy crossing the northern border into Canada for an angling trip, you can head to Lake Winnipeg to fish for freshwater drum. Alternatively, you can travel south to Mexico and Guatemala to fish southern freshwater rivers and lakes for drum.

2. Drum Are Quite the Catch

Another reason to try freshwater drum fishing is that they are a great catch, reaching weights between 10 and 50 pounds. In 1972, Benny Hull set a drum fish rod-and-reel record by catching a 54.6-pounder at Nijack Lake in Tennessee.

Drum are exciting to catch, especially when using light tackle. They will put up a bit of a fight, making it a rewarding challenge to bring in a big catch. 

If you choose to fish for drum from a boat, it’s important that you maintain boating safety. Make sure you’re wearing proper safety equipment and that your fishing gear doesn’t make your boat overweight. You won’t be standing still as you reel in a freshwater drum, and you don’t want to end up going overboard.


3. Fish for Drum All Year Round

You can fish for freshwater drum all year round. While numbers spike in the summer months, freshwater drum can be caught in the autumn and winter—if you can lure them out of hiding. Unlike many other sportfish, which tend to school in the deepest parts of waterways for a winter rest, freshwater drums can be lured from the water floor on the hottest and coldest days.

During the spring and fall, freshwater drum will school in shallow waters, and they’ll descend to the depths of the waterway during the summer and winter months. Drum tend to gather on the edge of steep bottom channels and ledges and in deep pools. 

Summer is when drum populations hit their peak, with freshwater drum gathering in huge schools. Spring is a great time to fish for freshwater drum, too, as this is when they gather to spawn.

freshwater drum fish

4. Freshwater Drum Are Easy to Catch 

Anglers enjoy the thrill of the catch, and freshwater drum can be easily caught with multiple types of lure and a variety of foods. Adult freshwater drum fish have quite the appetite and a varied diet that can include crayfish, insects, mussels, and small fish.

You can use a range of bait to catch them, from redworms, shad, crayfish, minnows and crickets to blade baits, jerk baits, and jigs. They can be caught as soon as your line is cast or by trolling and bottom-fishing. Whether it’s in deep or shallow water, day or night, you can expect a drum to take a bite out of your bait.

5. Most Anglers Don’t Fish for Drum

Many anglers hold out trying to catch fish that play hard to get, which means very few fish for freshwater drum. Drum aren’t challenging to catch, and you can land up to 50 in one session. At the end of the day, that’s what fishing is all about: catching fish. 

Because freshwater drum are available all year round and very few anglers fish for them, you can enjoy a fishing expedition at any time with little competition.

6. Freshwater Drum Can Be Cooked and Eaten

You can cook and eat your freshwater drum catch; your well-earned evening meal can perfectly round off a full day of fishing. Freshwater drum tastes similar to redfish.

You can fillet your catch to remove bones and when it’s cooked, it has a firm, not flaky texture. You eat freshwater drum baked, broiled, fried, grilled, and smoked.

If you have a large harvest, consider making a chowder or fish stew with leftovers. A quick online search can help you find additional recipes for your freshwater drum catch.

To preserve its flavor, you will need to get your catch on ice as soon as you can. Avoid carrying drum in wire baskets, as the fish flesh will quickly spoil when not properly chilled.

freshwater drum fish

A Favorite Drum Fish Recipe

Pan-fried drum is a favorite among anglers who eat their catch, mainly because it’s quick, easy, and delicious.

To make this dish, season your freshwater drum fillets with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Then, in a separate bowl, mix some flour and breadcrumbs with one egg and some milk. Add half an inch of canola oil to a heavy-bottom pan and heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cover your fillets in the flour and breadcrumb mixture, ensuring the flour sticks to and covers the fish. Put your fillets in the pan and fry them on each side for three minutes or until golden brown. Serve and enjoy.

Feed Your Fishing Obsession

If you’re looking for a new type of fishing to augment your hobby, you might benefit from trying freshwater drum fishing. Chances are, you won’t have to travel far to reel in an impressive harvest at any time of the year.

Mossy Oak is another great resource for tips on how to manage your outdoor lifestyle. Packed with fishing blogs and videos, the Mossy Oak website is a great resource for all things angling. Whether you enjoy fishing as a hobby or you’re an elite angler, our website has something for you.

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