Marine - Species
SC Species Regulations for Black Drum
Saltwater Fishing License required.
Limit: 5 per person per day; 14-inch TL minimum 27-inch TL maximum.
Black Drum (Pogonias cromis)
Deep-bodied, silvery-gray to dark gray with blackish fins. Young fish have 4 – 5 vertical black bars that disappear with age. Mouth inferior and horizontal, lower jaw with 10 – 13 pairs of barbels in multiple rows. Body scales large and comblike, lateral line extends to hind margin of tail fin.
14 inches, 2.2 pounds;
South Carolina State Record: 89 pounds (1978);
maximum age: approx. 60 years
Adults: Common over sandy and soft live bottoms in salt and brackish water including: estuaries, coastal rivers, shallow coastal bays, and along beaches. Spatial distribution closely tied to natural and artificial hard structures, including: reefs, rock piles, jetties, docks, pier pilings, and bridges.
- Mature by 4 – 6 years of age; approx. size at maturity: males – 23 inches, females – 25 inches.
- Spawning occurs during spring and early summer in high salinity inlets, estuaries, bays, sounds, and coastal rivers. Adults may form schools for migration to spawning grounds.
- Larvae use tidal currents to enter estuaries where they settle in shallow tidal creeks. Older juveniles leave deeper inshore waters during fall, migrate offshore to overwinter, and return inshore in the spring.
- Black drum are bottom feeders and use their sensitive chin barbels to aid in locating food. Heavy pharyngeal teeth are used to crush invertebrates.
- Adults: Feed primarily on mussels, oysters, crabs, shrimp and occasionally small fishes.
- Juveniles: Consume small crabs, amphipods, copepods, shrimp, marine worms, and small fishes. Diet of larger juveniles is similar to adults. Larvae consume primarily zooplankton.
Availability/Vulnerability to Harvest
- Adults tolerate wide salinity ranges; distribution is therefore tied to temperature and availability of hard structures or oyster reef habitat. In South Carolina, black drum are most abundant in nearshore or coastal waters February – July; cold may induce movement to deeper bays, sounds or offshore waters to overwinter.
- No commercial fishery exists for black drum in South Carolina; however, recreational harvest is potentially high since this species occupies nearshore waters during most of the year.
- Conservation concerns: degradation or loss of estuarine nursery habitat; potential for significant recreational harvest; lack of biological and spawning location data for South Carolina black drum.
Abundance of Species
Recent catches of black drum in the SCDNR trammel net survey have been near the 10-year average. The extremely high abundance noted in 1999 was due to a strong year class (i.e. lots of new juveniles), but those small fish apparently experienced poor survival during their first winter of life.
This estimate of abundance is based on the SCDNR trammel net survey. This survey catches juvenile black drum up to ages of about two years, which includes sizes within the current slot limit of 14-27 inches. The juveniles live among oyster reefs along the marsh front. Since the trammel net survey operates in this habitat, we have reasonable estimates of juvenile black drum numbers. The adults, on the other hand, live in deeper waters outside the survey areas. They can live up to 50 years and reach more than 100 pounds. The upper slot limit ensures that these long-lived, big fish can spawn successfully. More Information.
Total catch for black drum experienced a steadily increasing trend beginning in 1995 and peaking in 2008, after which it declined to levels below the 10 year average. Prior to 1995, annual catch remained relatively consistent but low. Peak years occurred in 2000, 2003 and 2006-2008 and likely reflect several strong year-classes that occurred in 1999 and the early 2000’s. The 10 year average landings (2002-2012) was relatively high, compared to most years, due to the high level of annual catches during this time period. In August of 2007 South Carolina implemented a new slot size limit (14-27 inches) and bag limit (5 fish per day per person) on black drum. The decrease in total catch as well as the increase in the numbers of black drum released alive was likely due, at least in part, to the new management regulations. More information.
Fischer W. 1978. FAO identification sheets for fisheries purposes: western central Atlantic (fishing area 31) volume 1 – 7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.
Goldstein RJ. 2000. Coastal fishing in the Carolinas: from surf, pier, and jetty. John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem, NC. 243 pp.
Jones CM, B Wells. 1998. Age, growth, and mortality of black drum, Pogonias cromis, in the Chesapeake Bay region. Fish Bull 96: 451-461.
Moore CJ. 1996. A field guide to the identification of marine species regulated in South Carolina coastal waters. Office of Fisheries Management, Marine Resources Division, South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department, Charleston, SC. 105 pp.
Moore CJ, M Barkley. 2005. South Carolina's guide to saltwater fishes. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Special Publication. Columbia, SC. 132 pp.
Murphy MD, RG Taylor. 1989. Reproduction and growth of black drum, Pogonias cromis, in northeast Florida. Northeast Gulf Sci 10: 127-137.
Neiland DL, CA Wilson. 1993. Reproductive biology and annual variation of reproductive variables of black drum in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Trans Amer Fish Soc 122: 318-327.
Peters KM, RH McMichael Jr. 1990. Early life history of black drum Pogonias cromis (Pisces: Sciaenidae) in Tampa Bay, FL. Northeast Gulf Sci 11: 39-58.
Silverman MJ. 1979. Biological and fisheries data on black drum Pogonias cromis (Linnaeus). Sandy Hook Laboratory, Northeast Fisheries Center, National Marine Fisheries Service. Highlands, NJ. 35 pp.
Sutter FC, RS Waller, TD McIlwain. 1986. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Gulf of Mexico) – black drum. U.S. Fish Wildl Serv Biol Rep 82 (11.51). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4. 10 pp. Accessed: August, 2009.