Black Drum Fishing, Delacroix Louisiana
Black drum are heavy-bodied fish with large heads. Fish up to about 15 pounds have 4 or 5 wide vertical black bars set on a silver-gray body. The bars fade as the fish grow larger, eventually disappearing. All sizes of black drum can be identified by the whisker-like barbels under their chin.
Black drum have large heavy pharyngeal teeth in the back of their throat that they use to crush mollusk shells. Young black drum under 8 inches long feed mostly on marine worms and small fish. After 8 inches, they switch their diet to mollusks such as oysters, clams, and mussels. Research has shown that drum captured from oyster reef areas prefer to eat oysters over clams and mussels. Research has also shown that black drum can average eating one oyster per pound of body weight per day.
Feeding black drum swim with their heads slightly lowered, drifting their barbels (chin whiskers) over possible food items. When the barbels touch a food item, the drum stops swimming and inhales in the food item by creating a suction with its gill covers and mouth. The drum slowly swims forward while crushing the food item with its massive pharyngeal teeth. As the food item is crushed, small shell particles fall from the drum’s gills. After finishing, the drum ejects the rest of the shell from its mouth. Black drum can break apart and crush oyster clusters, but seem to select singles for ease of feeding. They feed both during daylight hours and at night, but feeding is less intensive during early morning hours. While feeding, schools of black drum often dredge up the bottom, creating muddy plumes in the water which can be easily seen from the air.