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Published on: Apr. 20, 2011

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It has always been a pet peeve of mine that some fish species are awarded the title of “sport fish,” while others are cast aside by the media and angling public as “non-sport” or “rough fish.” Just this past spring, I was up a local river, wetting a line, when some commotion broke out in a nearby boat. One of the anglers had hooked into a heavy fish that apparently had no intention of coming to the surface. After 4 or 5 minutes of watching them follow this fish around with the trolling motor and listening to the angler repeatedly chant “Don’t get off! Don’t get off!” the fish finally ran out of steam and was netted by the angler’s companion. After all that excitement, the first comment out of the anglers’ mouth was “It’s just one of those drum! All that for nothin’ but a stinkin’ rough fish.” At that point, the poor 10-pound drum was unceremoniously dumped overboard.

Let’s think about this for a minute. The drum slammed into the angler’s lure and put up one heck of a fight, giving the angler several minutes of excitement. A 10-pound fish is nothing to sneeze at, regardless of species, and drum are not bad eating. In my book, that’s a sport fish.

Can’t Beat a Drum

Our drum is the only North American freshwater member of a large family of fish (Sciaenidae), which contains approximately 270 species worldwide. Members of this family, most of which are found in salt or brackish water, include several well-known sport fish such as whiting, sea trout and redfish (red drum). The name “drum” comes from the grunting or croaking sounds that some species make by vibrating muscles in the body wall adjacent to the swim bladder. This “drumming” is thought to be associated with spawning activities.

The native range of the freshwater drum in the United States extends from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, west to the Rocky Mountains and east to the Appalachians. In Missouri, drum are found in reservoirs and medium to large streams throughout the state. Most of the drum caught by anglers average 12 to 20 inches and weigh 1 to 5 pounds. However, the Missouri state record, taken from Lake of the Ozarks in 1980, weighed 40.5 pounds. The world record from Nickajack Lake, Tenn., tipped the scales at 54.5 pounds!

Drum generally hit bait hard and, once

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