Freshwater Drum

Media
Freshwater drum side view photo with black background
Scientific Name
Aplodinotus grunniens
Family
Sciaenidae (drums) in the order Perciformes (perchlike fish)
Description

The freshwater drum is a silvery, deep-bodied fish. The head and body slope upward from the snout to the dorsal fins and give the fish a distinct humpbacked appearance. The lips are milky white, and the pelvic fins are white, often tinged with orange. The dorsal fin is long and is divided into two distinct parts.

Common Name Synonyms
Sheepshead
Sheephead
Size

Total length: 12-20 inches; weight: 12 ounces to 5 pounds; maximum weight (in Missouri) about 40 pounds.

Where To Find
image of Freshwater Drum distribution map

Occurs statewide; most abundant in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and downstream sections of their larger tributaries.

Occurs in large rivers, lakes, and impoundments over most of Missouri, usually found in association with sandy or mixed mud-and-sand bottoms. Often found in depths of 30 feet in rivers with larger pools and reservoirs.

Long thought to be a mollusk eater (because of its heavy "throat teeth"), this species actually eats mainly fish, crayfish, and immature aquatic insects. Microcrustaceans and zooplankton are the foods of larval drum, which can also feed on other fish fry because of their unusually large mouths and their ability to roll the ingested fry into a ball.

This species is harvested both commercially and as a sport species.

Life Cycle

Individuals can live for 13 years.

Various groups of Native Americans used the otoliths (ear bones) as jewelry. In the Great Lakes, especially Lake Erie, people walk the beaches looking to collect these otoliths, which they call "lucky stones."

We humans often don't realize that there are sounds underwater, and animals making them. Drum fish (members of the Sciaenidae, the drum family) get their name from the grunting, croaking, or “drumming” sound they make using specialized muscles associated with the swim bladder. In this species, the sound is thought to be used in mating activities.

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Similar Species

Where to See Species

This area has a gravel boat ramp and provides access to the Mississippi River via Little Calumet Creek.
This area offers access to the Missouri River. There is a concrete boat ramp.
This area has a concrete boat ramp that provides access to the Des Moines River.
About Fishes in Missouri
Missouri has more than 200 kinds of fish, more than are found in most neighboring states. Fishes live in water, breathe with gills, and have fins instead of legs. Most are covered with scales. Most fish in Missouri “look” like fish and could never be confused with anything else. True, lampreys and eels have snakelike bodies — but they also have fins and smooth, slimy skin, which snakes do not.