Freshwater drum

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Freshwater drum
Scientific classification

Rafinesque, 1819
A. grunniens
Binomial name
Aplodinotus grunniens
Rafinesque, 1819

The freshwater drum, Aplodinotus grunniens, is a fish endemic to North and Central America. It is the only species in the genus Aplodinotus, and is a member of the family Sciaenidae. It is the only North American member of the group that inhabits freshwater for its entire life. [2] Its generic name, Aplodinotus, comes from Greek meaning "single back", and the specific epithet, grunniens, comes from a Latin word meaning "grunting". [3] It is given to it because of the grunting noise that mature males make. This noise comes from a special set of muscles within the body cavity that vibrate against the swim bladder. The purpose of the grunting is unknown, but due to it being present in only mature males, it is assumed to be linked to spawning. [2]


The drum typically weighs 5–15 lb (2.3–6.8 kg). The world record was caught on Nickajack Lake in Tennessee, and weighed in at 54 lb 8 oz (24.7 kg). The freshwater drum is gray or silvery in turbid waters and more bronze or brown colored in clearer waters. It is a deep bodied fish with a divided dorsal fin consisting of 10 spines and 29–32 rays.

The Freshwater drum is also called shepherd's pie, gray bass, [4] Gasper goo, Gaspergou, [5] gou, [5] grunt, grunter, [4] grinder, wuss fish, gooble gobble and croaker. It is commonly known as sheephead or sunfish in parts of Canada, [6] the United Kingdom, [7] and the United States. [4] [5] [8] [9]

Geographic distribution

Freshwater drum are the only North American member of their family to exclusively inhabit freshwater (freshwater family members in genera Pachypops , Pachyurus , Petilipinnis and Plagioscion are from South America, [10] while Boesemania is Asian [11] ). Their great distribution range goes as far north as the Hudson Bay, and reaches as far south as Guatemala. Their longitudinal distribution goes as far east as the eastern Appalachians and stretches as far west into Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. [12] Freshwater drum are considered to be one of the most wide-ranging species in North America.


The freshwater drum prefers clear water, but it is tolerant of turbid and murky water. They prefer the bottom to be clean sand and gravel substrates. [13]

The diet of the freshwater drum is generally benthic and composed of macroinvertebrates (mainly aquatic insect larvae and bivalve mussels), as well as small fish in certain ecosystems. [14] Freshwater drum show distinct seasonal differences in their diet. In April and May, the drum feeds on dipterans. During these months, dipterans make up about 50 percent of the freshwater drum's diet. [15] In August through November, they tend to eat fish (which are primarily young-of-the-year gizzard shad). The percentage of fish in their diet at this time ranges from 52-94 percent. [15] Other items in the drum's diet are mollusks and crayfish. Freshwater drum tend to hang out with walleye.

The freshwater drum competes with several organisms. During its early stages in Lake Erie, it has been shown to compete with yellow perch, the trout-perch, and the emerald shiner. [16] During its adult lifetime, it competes with yellow perch and silver chub in deep water, and competes with black bass in the shoal areas. [16]

Predators on drum include humans and other fish. During its first year, the freshwater drum serves as a forage fish for many species of predatory fish. These include smallmouth bass, walleye, and many other piscivores. [16] After its first year, the primary predators on freshwater drum are humans. The drum is an important commercial crop on the Mississippi River, but in other areas it constitutes only a small portion of the commercial catch. [2] Consistent with other Sciaenids, freshwater drum are strongly nocturnal with the bulk of most catches being derived from night angling/sampling. [17] Commercial fisheries are present for this species, although market price tends to be quite low. Thus, many freshwater drum are harvested as bycatch from targeted higher-value species. [18]

There has been some research on the freshwater drum's impact on the invasive Zebra mussel in northern lakes and rivers. Zebra mussels are consumed by freshwater drum once they reach a length of 25 cm (9.8 in), but drum under 35 cm (14 in) in length only eat small mussels and reject the larger ones. [19] The fish larger than 35 cm (14 in) exhibit less selectivity and consume mussels relative to their availability in lakes. These larger fish are not restricted by their ability to crush the zebra mussels, but they are restricted by the size of the clumps that they can remove. [19] Though the drum do eat zebra mussels, they are not having an impact on the spread of this invasive species. Though they do not control the population of zebra mussels, they do contribute to a high mortality in the zebra mussels. [13]

Life history

Typical freshwater drum, Lake Jordan, Alabama Typical Freshwater Drum Lake Jordan Alabama.jpg
Typical freshwater drum, Lake Jordan, Alabama

During the summer, freshwater drum move into warm, shallow water that is less than 33 ft (10 m) deep. [20] The freshwater drum then spawn during a six to seven-week period from June through July when the water reaches a temperature of about 65 °F (18 °C). [21] During the spawn, females release their eggs into the water column and males release their sperm. Fertilization is random. [13] Males generally reach sexual maturity at four years, whereas females reach maturity at five or six years. [13] Females from six to nine years old have a clutch size of 34,000 to 66,500 eggs and they spawn in open water giving no parental care to their larvae. [21] The eggs then float to the top of the water column and hatch between two and four days. [13] Due to the broadcasting of eggs in open water and lack of parental care, many eggs and larvae fall victim to predation upon hatching, the pro-larvae average 3.2 mm (0.13 in) long. The post larval stage begins about 45 hours after hatching and a length of 4.4 mm (0.17 in) is attained. [21]

Females grow at a faster rate than the males and adult characteristics start to form at a length of 15 mm (0.59 in). [20] [21] Females continue to outgrow the male throughout their lives reaching a length of 12 to 30 in (30 to 76 cm). Usually the freshwater drum weighs 2–10 lb (0.91–4.54 kg), but they can reach well over 36 lb (16 kg). [13] Freshwater drum are long-lived and have attained maximum ages of 72 years old in Red Lakes, Minnesota and 32 years old in the Cahaba River, Alabama. [22] Using sectioned otoliths from archaeological sites near Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin, freshwater drum have attained the age 74 years.[ citation needed ] Though they can reach a very old age, the average age of a freshwater drum is between 6 and 13 years. [13]

Current management

There are not currently any management practices for the species. The freshwater drum is not federally or state listed by any states. Although the commercial harvest is up to 1 million pounds per year, they are in no danger of overharvest. [13] In the Mississippi River alone, the commercial catch has reached about 300,000 lb (140,000 kg) in recent years. [23] Due to its abundance, many states allow bowfishing and other non-conventional means to harvest the fish.

See also

Related Research Articles

Perch genus of fishes

Perch is a common name for fish of the genus Perca, freshwater gamefish belonging to the family Percidae. The perch, of which three species occur in different geographical areas, lend their name to a large order of vertebrates: the Perciformes, from the Greek: πέρκη, simply meaning perch, and the Latin forma meaning shape. Many species of freshwater gamefish more or less resemble perch, but belong to different genera. In fact, the exclusively saltwater-dwelling red drum is often referred to as a red perch, though by definition perch are freshwater fish. Though many fish are referred to as perch as a common name, to be considered a true perch, the fish must be of the family Percidae.

White perch species of fish

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Burbot species of fish

The burbot is the only gadiform (cod-like) freshwater fish. It is also known as bubbot, mariah, freshwater ling, the lawyer, coney-fish, lingcod, freshwater cusk, and eelpout. The species is closely related to the marine common ling and the cusk. It is the only member of the genus Lota. For some time of the year, the burbot lives under ice, and they require frigid temperatures to breed.

American paddlefish A planktivorous freshwater fish in the Polyodontidae family native to North America.

The American paddlefish is a species of basal ray-finned fish closely related to sturgeons in the order Acipenseriformes. Fossil records of paddlefish date back over 300 million years, nearly 50 million years before dinosaurs first appeared. American paddlefish are smooth-skinned freshwater fish commonly called paddlefish, but are also referred to as Mississippi paddlefish, spoon-billed cats, or spoonbills. They are one of only two extant species in the paddlefish family, Polyodontidae. The other is the critically endangered Chinese paddlefish endemic to the Yangtze River basin in China. American paddlefish are often referred to as primitive fish, or relict species because they retain some morphological characteristics of their early ancestors, including a skeleton that is almost entirely cartilaginous, and a paddle-shaped rostrum (snout) that extends nearly one-third their body length. They have been referred to as freshwater sharks because of their heterocercal tail or caudal fin, which resembles that of sharks. American paddlefish are a highly derived fish because they have evolved with adaptations such as filter feeding. Their rostrum and cranium are covered with tens of thousands of sensory receptors for locating swarms of zooplankton, which is their primary food source.

Zebra mussel species of mollusc

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Zander species of fish

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Warmouth Species of fish

The warmouth, is a freshwater fish of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) that is found throughout the eastern United States. Other local names include molly, redeye, goggle-eye, red-eyed bream, and strawberry perch.

Green sunfish species of fish

The green sunfish is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) of order Perciformes. A panfish popular with anglers, the green sunfish is also kept as an aquarium fish by hobbyists. They are usually caught by accident, while fishing for other game fish. Green sunfish can be caught with live bait such as nightcrawlers, waxworms, mealworms, and blood worms. Grocery store baits such as pieces of hot dog or corn kernels can even catch fish. Small lures have been known to occasionally catch green sunfish. They can be caught with fly fishing tackle.

Quagga mussel species of mollusc

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Tench species of fish

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Sauger species of fish

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<i>Bidyanus bidyanus</i> species of fish

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The lake sturgeon, also known as the rock sturgeon, is a North American temperate freshwater fish, one of about 25 species of sturgeon. Like other sturgeons, this species is an evolutionarily ancient bottom feeder with a partly cartilaginous skeleton, an overall streamlined shape and skin bearing rows of bony plates on its sides and back, resembling an armored torpedo. The fish uses its elongated, spade-like snout to stir up the substrate and sediments on the beds of rivers and lakes while feeding. The lake sturgeon has four purely sensory organs that dangle near its mouth. These organs, called barbels, help the sturgeon to locate bottom-dwelling prey. Lake sturgeons can grow to a relatively large size, topping 7.25 ft long and weighing over 240 lb (108 kg).

Bigmouth buffalo species of fish

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A lucky stone is actually the unique ear bone or otolith of a freshwater drum, also known as the sheephead fish. The fish's otoliths are quite large and look almost polished and ivory-like. In times past they have been worn as protective amulets, made into jewelry, and traded into areas far from the fish's native range. Lucky stones (otoliths) have been found at ancient archaeological sites, where they are thought to have been used as good luck charms to ward off illness.

Lake whitefish species of fish

The lake whitefish is a species of freshwater whitefish from North America. Lake whitefish are found throughout much of Canada and parts of the northern United States, including all of the Great Lakes. The lake whitefish is sometimes referred to as a "humpback" fish due to the small size of the head in relation to the length of the body. It is a valuable commercial fish, and also occasionally taken by sport fishermen. Smoked, refrigerated, vacuum-packed lake whitefish fillets are available in North American grocery stores. Other vernacular names used for this fish include Otsego bass, Sault whitefish, gizzard fish, common whitefish, eastern whitefish, Great Lakes whitefish, humpback whitefish, inland whitefish and whitefish.


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