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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Overhead River Habitat (River Scout)

Range / Habitat

  • Freshwater drum occurs in North and Central America. Its range extends from east of the Rocky Mountains in the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River basins from central Canada south to the Gulf of Mexico, and through Mexico into Guatemala.
  • Found on bottoms of medium to large rivers and lakes and prefers clear water, but can withstand a turbid environment, so also occasionally found in silty or muddy lakes and rivers.

Physical Characteristics

  • Freshwater drum is purple-gray in color, with silver sides and white below; dusky fins, except for the white pelvic fin.
  • Grow up to about 37 inches (95 cm) and weigh up to 54 lbs. (24.7 kg).
  • This is a rounded fish with a blunt snout and a humped back. The tail is rounded and small and the dorsal fin is deeply notched and extends from the back almost to the tail.

Diet / Feeding

  • Feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, insects, and fishes.
  • Prefers mollusks and will search the bottom mud and debris for them. Flattened teeth at the back of the throat will crush hard shells, spitting out the shell fragments and swallowing the soft tissue.
  • Although bottom-oriented in its feeding behavior, the freshwater drum consumes a considerable amount of fish.

Reproduction / Growth

  • The characteristic drumming or croaking sound is produced by the air bladder in sexually mature males.
  • Drumming is more frequent in early summer and it is believed that it is related to spawning behavior. It may be a signal that stimulates males and females to congregate in common area to spawn.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Freshwater drum is sometimes called “sheeps-head” or “gaspergou.”
  • It is the only freshwater fish on which the lateral line, a sense organ used to detect motion in the water, runs right through the tail.
  • This species has the greatest north-south range of any North American freshwater fish.
  • It is similar to its marine relative, the red drum, except for its coloration.
  • The freshwater drum is a popular game fish and is considered tasty.

Peterson Field Guides -  Freshwater Fishes. Page, L.M.; Burr, B.M., pg. 326
McClane’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America. McClane, A.J., 
   pgs. 194 -195
The Fishes of Tennessee. Etnier, D.A. ; Starnes, W.C., pgs. 602 - 603
Fishes of Alabama. Boschung, H. T.; Mayden, R.L., pg. 605