Freshwater drum

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Freshwater drum
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Acanthuriformes
Family: Sciaenidae
Genus: Aplodinotus
Rafinesque, 1819
A. grunniens
Binomial name
Aplodinotus grunniens

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 and during the spawning season, it is assumed to be linked to spawning.[2][4]

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 Russell fish, shepherd's pie, gray bass,[5] Gasper goo, Gaspergou,[6] gou,[6] grunt, grunter,[5] grinder, gooble gobble, and croaker. It is commonly known as sheephead and sunfish in parts of Canada,[7] the United Kingdom,[8] and the United States.[5][6][9][10]

Geographic distribution[edit]

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,[11] while Boesemania is Asian[12]). 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.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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 to 94 percent.[16] Other items in the drum's diet are mollusks and crayfish.

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.[17] During its adult lifetime, it competes with yellow perch and silver chub in deep water, and competes with black bass in the shoal areas.[17]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] 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 zebra mussels, but they are restricted by the size of the clumps that they can remove.[20] The drums' eating of zebra mussels contributes to a high mussel mortality, but not enough to have an impact on their spread, or control the population.[14]

Life history[edit]

Typical freshwater drum, Lake Jordan, Alabama

During the summer, freshwater drums move into warm, shallow water that is less than 33 ft (10 m) deep.[21] 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).[22] During the spawn, females release their eggs into the water column and males release their sperm. Fertilization is random.[14] Males generally reach sexual maturity at four years, whereas females reach maturity at five or six years.[14] 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.[22] The eggs then float to the top of the water column and hatch between two and four days.[14] 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.[22]

Females grow at a faster rate than the males and adult characteristics start to form at a length of 15 mm (0.59 in).[21][22] 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).[14] Freshwater drums 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.[23] Though they can reach very old age, the average age of a freshwater drum is between 6 and 13 years.[14] In some cases, otoliths provide such a long record of growth that they can be studied using the same techniques as those used by dendochronologists. [24]

Current management[edit]

There are few management practices for the species, and in many regions daily bag limits are unlimited. 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.[14] In the Mississippi River alone, the commercial catch has reached about 300,000 lb (140,000 kg) in recent years.[25] Due to its abundance, many states allow bowfishing and other non-conventional means to harvest the fish.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2019). "Aplodinotus grunniens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T193261A129639199. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T193261A129639199.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Fish of the Great Lakes: Wisconsin Sea Grant. Freshwater Drum Aplodinotus grunniens. Wisconsin Sea Grant 2002.
  3. ^ Texas Parks and Wildlife. Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens). Texas Parks and Wildlife 2011.
  4. ^ Schneider, H., Hasler, A. D.: Laute und Lauterzeugung beim Süßwassertrommler Aplodinotus grunniens Rafinesque (Sciaenidae, Pisces). In: Zeitschrift für vergleichende Physiologie. Volume 43, 1960, pp. 499–517.
  5. ^ a b c Life History Notes: Freshwater Drum Archived 2007-06-21 at the Wayback Machine Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  6. ^ a b c Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens). Texas Parks and Wildlife. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  7. ^ Lilabeth, Miranda and Alrene G. Sampang. Common Name of Aplodinotus grunniens. Fishbase. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  8. ^ Cruz, Tess and Alrene G. Sampang. Common Name of Aplodinotus grunniens. Fishbase. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  9. ^ Freshwater Drum: Nature Snapshots from Minnesota DNR. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Nature Snapshots. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  10. ^ Fishes of North Dakota: Drum Family. United States Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Retrieved on 2007-07-14.
  11. ^ Casatti, L. (2005). "Revision of the South American freshwater genus Plagioscion (Teleostei, Perciformes, Sciaenidae)" (PDF). Zootaxa. 1080: 39–64. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1080.1.4.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ I. Baird (2011). "Boesemania microlepis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011: e.T181232A7664209. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-1.RLTS.T181232A7664209.en.
  13. ^ Sluss, Aaron. Aplodinotus grunniens Freshwater Drum. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology 2008.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Freshwater Drum. Ohio Department of Natural Resources 2011.
  15. ^ Rypel, A.L., D.R. Bayne, J.B. Mitchell and R.H. Findlay. 2007. Variations in PCB concentrations between genders of six warmwater fish species in Lake Logan Martin, Alabama, U.S.A., Chemosphere, 68: 1707-1715.
  16. ^ a b Griswold, Bernard L and R.A. Tubb. 1977. Food of Yellow Perch, White Bass, Freshwater Drum, and Channel Catfish in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie. Ohio Journal of Science. Volume 43, Issue 1, 1977.
  17. ^ a b c Daiber, Franklin C. 1952. The Food and Feeding Relationships of the Freshwater Drum, Aplodinotus Grunniens Rafinesque in Western Lake Erie. The Ohio Journal of Science. v52 n1 (January, 1952), 35-46.
  18. ^ Rypel, A.L., and J.B. Mitchell. 2007. Summer nocturnal patterns in freshwater drum (Aplodinotus grunnniens). American Midland Naturalist, 157: 230-234.
  19. ^ "Nearshore Waters of the Great Lakes" Archived 2007-06-02 at the Wayback Machine (Government website). Environment Canada. Section 7.2.3. Retrieved on 2007-09-26.
  20. ^ a b Morrison, Todd, W.E. Lynch, and K. Dabrowski. 1997. Predation of Zebra Mussels by Freshwater Drum and Yellow Perch in Western Lake Erie. Ohio State University.
  21. ^ a b Bur, Michael T. 1984. Growth, Reproduction, Mortality, Distribution, and Biomass of Freshwater Drum in Lake Erie. Journal of Great Lakes Research. Volume 10, Issue 1, 1984, Pages 48-58.
  22. ^ a b c d Swedberg, Donald V. and C.H. Walburg. Spawning and Early Life History of the Freshwater Drum in Lewis and Clark Lake, Missouri River. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. Volume 99, Issue 3, 1970.
  23. ^ Rypel, A.L., D.R. Bayne, and J.B. Mitchell. 2006. Growth of freshwater drum from lotic and lentic habitats in Alabama. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 135: 987-997.
  24. ^ Richard, J.C., and A.L. Rypel. 2013. Waterbody type influences climate-growth relationships of freshwater drum. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142: 1308-1320.
  25. ^ Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Fishes of Minnesota: Freshwater Drum (Sheepshead). Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2011.