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What is a Red Drum?

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  • Written By: Kecia Hambrick
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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A red drum, of the genus Sciaenops, is a game fish exclusively native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Also referred to as a channel bass, redfish, or just "red," the red drum was designated as the state fish of North Carolina in 1971. It is characterized by its large black spot located near the base of the tail. The fish commonly have smaller spots lining their sides, but it's rare for the fish to have no spots. A reddish-bronze color is the most common shade of a red drum, but it can also range from a dark copper to shiny silver.

Red drums tend to develop quickly, with most growing up to 11 inches (28 cm) and weighing approximately 1 pound (453.5 grams) within the first year of life. Throughout a red drum's life, it can grow to be 5 feet (1.5 meters) and may weight as much as 90 pounds (40.8 kilograms). If not caught, these fish can live up to 30 or more years, with the oldest recorded redfish being 37 years old.

The spawning season of a red drum typically ranges from August to October. During this period, the males charm the females with a drum-like sound created by vibration in the swim bladder. Approximately 2 million eggs can be laid by a female each season, and their eggs typically incubate within 24 hours. These fish generally reach sexual maturity between three to four years of age.

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Red drums prefer to live the first three years of their lives around the bays. When they are young, they feed on worms and tiny crabs. As they get older, they tend to venture out to the Gulf of Mexico, where they eat larger crustacean, shrimp, and even their relative, the Atlantic croaker fish. They are mainly bottom feeders and partake in an action known as tailing, which involves a fish feeding with its head down near the bottom and its tail high above. Red drums can be found feeding throughout the day.

The red drum is a popular sport fish due to its liking of many varieties of bait. Good live bait to use for catching red drums include shrimp and small blue crabs. Artificial bait also works well, the best generally being plastic worms, spoons, and plugs. Mature red drums generally put up a good fight when hooked, so using anywhere from 10-pound (4.5-kilogram) to 40-pound (18-kilogram) strength line is recommended when attempting to catch these fish.

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