The most popular unpopular gamefish

All fishermen and fisherwomen love to catch fish – especially big ones. The stronger the fish fight, the bigger the thrill. That’s the addictive quality of sportfishing. Well, that and the idea that you never know how big the next fish will be.

If I told you that you were going to catch fish that would practically fight to the death… that we would catch them until you could not reel in another… that they taste good… and that we can catch them just about any way you want, what would stop you from joining me?

I recently took my son Josh largemouth fishing on Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. We caught some nice bass; however, we also caught some huge drum. I am talking 12-to 14-pounders. Can you imagine the excitement on a 10-year-old’s face when he hooks into a fish that is one-third his height and will not stop fighting? That was the end – all he wanted to do was drum fish after he caught his first one. So as not to disappoint, I joined in on the fun and we spanked them, of course.

It was two days later that I took my son Noah smallmouth fishing. Yes, yes, we caught some smallies but dang it if he didn’t want to fish for drum. Naturally, I was happy to oblige; and yes, we smoked them.

Now, at some time, I know I have to start practicing for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on Lake Erie; that day would be with my oldest son, Frankie, not long after I fished with his brother Noah.

Frank and I headed to Sandusky with visions of giant smallmouth dancing in our heads along with stories of victories and good tournament finishes, of course. Frankie wanted all the details of every smallmouth over 5 pounds and, of course, the boat driving and handling necessary in rough water, like The Perfect Storm scenarios on the big lake.

Once on the lake, we poked around and started to catch smallmouth. Late in the day, I landed on a ridge that was loaded with giant groaners. I could not believe it when he said, “Dad let’s stay and whack ’em! PLEASE!

“I know you are practicing but can’t we catch them for just a little while?”

“Of course,” I said, “but it’s go big or go home.”

He wanted to know how to make sure you catch the big ones. I didn’t reply but just picked up a football jig with a giant trailer, tossed it out. I stroked it once, and my Powell flipping stick was doubled over.

It took Frankie all of a second to get his jig down there, and the battle began. We hammered one after the other for an hour or so. It is just so much fun, he said, they should have drum tournaments. I just looked at him.

The wind had started to blow, so I suggested we better get going. His reply: “Just a couple more casts!”

I said, “OK, but you are going to experience some big water.”

Frankie is, at times, kind of a smart $%&. So, in his usual fashion, he replied, “Your Legend can handle it. Can you?”

That’s when I decided I was going to give him a ride!

The wind had really kicked up at this stage, and as I powered over wave after wave, all he said was, “Aren’t you a little nervous?”

I just replied, “My Legend can handle this. Can you?”

When we finally got to harbor, all he could say was, “Awesome!”

I said, “I know – this bass boat handles like a big water boat!”

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, that was cool but I mean those giant drum.”

“Really!?!” I replied.

On the way home, he fell asleep and I enjoyed the quiet. I reminisced about the day and have to admit the sheepers are a blast.

Anyone I take to Lake Erie loves to catch drum, and they are often surprised when I tell them that they taste good as well. They look at me like I am crazy but it’s true!

Here is a quote from on freshwater drum: “Aplodinotus, fresh water drum is known for its succulent flesh but many fisherman are put off by its (slime layer) and dank smell.”

Now, we know all fish have a slime layer. Catfish certainly do but everyone still eats catfish. I’ve found dozens of recipes for freshwater drum out there, and not one of them tells you to throw the fish away and eat the cutting board.

I am not saying drum will replace cats. All I am saying is give them more respect; they deserve it. One more thing, did you know that at one time bonefish were considered the trash fish of the ocean? Now it is one of the most revered gamefish of the flats and one of the biggest revenue makers. Huh! Go figure.

I am not comparing the freshwater drum to the drag burning bonefish but look at the comparisons below and form your own conclusions.

RED DRUM (Sciaenops ocellatus)

AKA: Channel Bass, Redfish, Spottail Bass or simply Reds

Feeding habits: Bottom feeders – reds eat shrimp, crabs, minnows

Reds make a croaking sound when in trouble.

Angling Methods: Live bait rigs, conventional lures, fly fishing


BLACK DRUM (Pogonias cromis)

AKA: Blacks, Oyster crackers, Sea drum

Feeding habits: Bottom feeders – blacks eat crabs, shrimp, mollusks, insects, minnows

Make grunt or croaking sound when in trouble.

Angling Methods: Live bait rigs, conventional lures, fly fishing


FRESHWATER DRUM (Aplodinotus grunniens)

AKA: Silver bass, Grey bass, Croaker, Sheephead, Groaner

Feeding habits: Bottom feeders – Drum eat crayfish, mollusks, insects, minnows

Make grunt or croaking sound when in trouble.

Angling Methods: Live bait rigs, conventional lures, fly fishing. 


Next time you are out fishing maybe you can listen to the beat of a different DRUM.