Freshwater Drum: What Is It? How To Catch Freshwater Drum?

Freshwater Drum: What Is It? How To Catch Freshwater Drum?

What Is A Freshwater Drum?

Only one Sciaenidae family member inhabits fresh water, and that is the freshwater drum or sheepshead (Aplodinotus grunniens). All the others live in saltwater or brackish water, including the prized red drum or redfish, as it is more commonly known.

Despite being commercially fished, freshwater drums have average eating quality. The majority of sport fishers rarely target them, which is probably why. When they learn they’ve tied into one, tournament bass anglers and walleye devotees scream in the air that they detest them. However, when hooked, freshwater drums are large, strong, and vigorous fighters, making them excellent fly-rod sports just like their red saltwater cousins. Therefore, it makes sense that fly fishers are paying more and more attention to them. 

Freshwater drums are common in North America east of the Rockies, particularly in the Great Lakes and their tributaries, as well as the St. They, are omnivorous, opportunistic feeders, preying on anything from mollusks to invertebrates to baitfish, which explains why they are frequently caught by accident by bait and hardware anglers while pursuing more well-known species.

Between late April and early June, as soon as the water temperature rises above about 17 degrees, the majority of spawning occurs in shallows with a sandy or gravelly bottom. To spawn, however, some fish migrate to the lower reaches of rivers. The Moira, where I was raised, is an example of this river.

The Maximum Size Of A Freshwater Drum

The average adult weight for freshwater drums is 5–15 lbs. (2.3-6.8 kg). 54 lbs. was the weight of the largest freshwater drum ever caught. 8 oz (24.7 kg). They can extend farther than 30 inches.

How Quickly Do Freshwater Drums Develop?

A freshwater drum can grow more than 4 inches per year. Females mature physically before males do, and they continue to outgrow males throughout their entire lives. So, the majority of the truly large drums are female.

How To Catch Freshwater Drum

Pattern Freshwater Drum by Season


Where to Fish: Rivers and streams should be your main areas of attention. Here, almost all of the drums will travel to spawn and feed. Concentrate your attention near eddies and still areas near swift main currents. Drum will follow closely after the baitfish in these shallow pools.

Live bait such as worms, minnows, shiners, crayfish, and shrimp are recommended as bait. Additionally, lures currently shine very brightly. Small crankbaits, jerk baits, and spinners can all be thrown into the faster current and then reeled upstream along the fast/slow transition mark. Drums that are larger and more aggressive will hunt here.

How to: Cast your live bait into the slow water along the current’s ebb and flow with the main current. Let your bait sit here until you detect a bite. Cast your lures into the faster current along the edge of the transition zone if you’re lure fishing, and reel your bait upstream slowly. Big drums that are in need of food will be attracted to it and want to bite.


Fishing locations: Remain in the deeper reaches of rivers and lakes. The shallower rivers are still home to drums, but unless the water is moving quickly, it is unlikely that there will be enough food there to keep them alive. Fish deeper where the invertebrates and baitfish are going, as opposed to shallow water.

Live nightcrawlers, worms, freshwater shrimp, minnows, and shad are recommended as bait. Shiners also work well. Though I believe they are less dependable in the summer, lures can still be effective.

How to: Drop or cast your live bait over deeper river channels or the cliffs at lake points. To find the fish, I advise scattering a few baits across the water in various directions. The best time to use fishing electronics to find drums is right now.


Where to Fish: The same techniques you used in the spring work well in the fall. Drum frequently returns to the rivers to eat small fish and invertebrates. Pay attention to the areas where the current speeds up and slows down.

Recommendations for Bait: Minnows, shad, shiners, freshwater shrimp, crayfish, and mollusks are examples of live bait. Mid-fall is a great time to use lures because drums are aggressively feeding and pursuing food as they get ready for the starvation-inducing winter.

How: Cast your live bait into the slow water near the edges of the main currents that are moving quickly. Let your bait soak here until you detect a bite. Disconnect from the anchor if you’re on a boat and go after your fish. When casting lures, drop your diving lures into the current downstream and slowly reel them back upstream toward you. Make sure to keep your baits right next to the slow water so that drums can see it.


Fish will follow warmer water down into deeper areas of lakes or deeper rivers in order to survive the winter. Pay attention to the elevated humps surrounded by deep water.

Using live bait is advised. The best results appear to be obtained with shrimp, worms, minnows, shad, and shiners. Cut bait might also be effective.

How to: Drop your bait into the river’s deepest stretches from the shore. Your baits should be thrown into a lake or river near raised bottoms from a boat. Until you need to re-bait or you get a bite, this is where you’ll let your baits soak.

Recommended Gear To Catch Freshwater Drum

Rods & Line

You’re going to need some sturdy equipment for a large freshwater drum. The weight of an adult drum ranges from 5 to 15 pounds. You’re going to be fighting a powerful animal, frequently against a current.

Avoid cutting corners in this area. Buy high-quality rods and reels that cost a little more but will last and be able to withstand the aggressive drums you intend to hook into.

I suggest a 6 1/2 – 7 1/2 foot medium or medium-heavy powered spinning or casting rod for freshwater drum fishing in lakes and rivers. A freshwater drum on a run can be driven out of the current and turned back upstream using this kind of rod, which has enough backbone.

A medium-capacity spinning or casting reel that will fit your chosen rod is also necessary. Before purchasing a reel, choose the rod.

There are two ways to get a fishing line. Consider using a slightly heavier line when launching live bait into slow-moving water. I believe that for 60% of all drum fishing, a monofilament of 10–20 lb. test will be effective. That line class might be excessive if all you are catching are small drums.

I believe you should use a smaller diameter fishing line if you are casting lures and reeling them down into the current for a large fast-water drum so that your bait can dive and slice through the water more effectively. Choose a braid with a 10-15 lb. test because it will be more durable and offer less stretch than mono.

 Boats & Electronics

Boats and electronics are, in all honesty, luxury goods. That’s not true, I’m afraid. For freshwater drums, a boat is not a luxury item. They can be necessary for carrying out certain types of fishing, and they make it much simpler to fight large fish in a current.

Having said that, you can catch drum without a boat or sophisticated electronics. I would argue that owning electronics doesn’t actually provide you with many advantages. Just throw your lures in the current where it changes from fast to slow.

There will undoubtedly be fish piled there, you know. The location of the line is obvious. There’s no need for a $200 computer screen to direct you where to cast.

Although not necessary, boats are much more useful for drumming than electronics. As I previously mentioned, a boat is helpful. The majority of situations call for a flat-bottomed or v-hull boat in the 10-15 foot range. 

Terminal Tackle

Terminal tackle choices can still affect your success even though they are not nearly as crucial as rod, reel, and line selections. Freshwater drum has relatively small mouths and naturally consume smaller prey

So, you don’t want a big hook. I believe a size 2 or 4 hook would be adequate for the majority of drum fishing techniques. You can use a standard single hook, but I believe a circle hook is best for bait fishing.

Drums have small mouths, but despite this, they frequently swallow and engulf a bait faster than you can set the hook. Fish that are gut-hooked or deep-hooked may result from this.

This could be very harmful to the fish in addition to costing you money and hooks. I suggest a decent circle hook to prevent this. These hooks, which are made especially for bait fishermen, almost always land the fish perfectly in the corner of the lip.

One thing to keep in mind about circle hooks is that they function best when the hook is not set as you would normally do with a regular hook. Retract the line and allow the fish to hook itself as an alternative. Unless tension drives that point into the flesh, the hook will slide and shift to the mouth corner.

Just resist the urge to set a large hook, despite your natural inclinations. We don’t need to be overly specific when it comes to weights, but a good-sized egg sinker would be ideal.

You only need to balance the weight size and water current speed. A heavy sinker isn’t necessary in calm water, but it is in faster current.


For freshwater drum, there are numerous bait choices. Shiners, minnows, worms, freshwater shrimp, crayfish, and shad are a few of the more popular options. Drum will also take bites from dead or cut bait such as cut fish, dead fish, and dead shrimp.

Live bait, in my opinion, is always preferable to dead bait for drums in the majority of situations. While live and dead bait will entice bites from drums, don’t overlook artificial lures. 

Contrary to popular belief, artificial lures are a better choice for larger and more aggressive drum. These lures include jigs, spinners, crankbaits, and jerkbaits.

A small crankbait or jerkbait, in my opinion, is the ideal freshwater drum bait. Drum, despite their large size, have relatively small mouths, so it is preferable to use smaller baits when fishing.