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Freshwater Drum

Freshwater Drum


deep bodied, silvery fish; head and body slope steeply up from the snout and dorsal fin; long dorsal fin divided into two lobes; commonly weigh up to 5 lbs


Freshwater Drum Distribution

Mississippi and Missouri rivers, large interior rivers


fish, crayfish, immature insects

State Record

46 pounds, 0 ounces - Spirit Lake, Dickinson County, October 1962 - R.F. Farra, Clarion, Iowa

Expert Tip

Drum are bottom feeders that can be caught easily from the bank on nightcrawlers


The freshwater drum is a common fish species in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and a large interior streams over most of the state. It is also found in the large flood control impoundments and in some of the larger and deeper natural lakes. Drum are very tolerant of turbidity and prefer quiet waters without swift currents.

This fish is best described as a deep bodied, silvery fish whose head and body slope steeply up from the snout to the dorsal fin, resulting in a hump-backed appearance. It has a long dorsal fin that is divided into two lobes. The first has 8 to 9 spines, and the second has a single spine with 24 to 32 soft rays. The anal fin has 2 spines with the second spine larger than the first. The pelvic fin has one spine with 5 rays. Ctenoid scales cover the body and upper head. The lateral line is complete and extends through the caudal fin. The back is gray, with the sides silvery and belly and lower region of the head white. Adults commonly weigh up to 5 pounds, but the current Iowa record was a 46-pound fish caught in Spirit Lake in 1962.

The drum spends most of its time on or near the bottom feeding mainly on fish, crayfish, and immature insects. Moving slowly along the bottom, it moves small rocks and other bottom materials with its snout, capturing displaced aquatic life. In the Mississippi River, drum spawn during May and June when the whater temperatures range from 66 to 72 degrees F. Unique to the freshwater fish species in North America and characteristic of many saltwater fish, the eggs and larvae are bouyant and float on the water surface during development.

Growth studies in the Mississippi River report that freshwater drum average 5 inches in total length by the end of the first year of life and 8.0, 12.0, 13.5, 15.0, 17.0, 18.5, and 19.5 inches in succeeding years. Fast-growing drums in the Mississippi River reach 7 to 8 years of age, seldom more than 10 years, but there is a record of a 17 year old specimen.

The drumming sound made when the fish is handled is produced by a special apparatus that is located in the body cavity, which is connected with the swim bladder. Two enlongated muscles move a tendon over the swim bladder and produce the sound. Only sexually mature males possess this structure. Another unique feature of the drum is the large-sized otolith located in the sacculus. It has white, enameled surfaces and alternating light and dark bands that can be used to age the fish. Otoliths are often kept by fishermen for lucky pieces and sometimes made into jewelery.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
DeSoto Bend Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley 811.00
North Twin Lake Calhoun 4 miles north of Rockwell City 453.00
Elk Lake Clay 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Ruthven 261.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
New Albin Big Lake Allamakee 200.00
RAPP Park Lakes Page north edge of Shenandoah 95.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Boyer River (Dunlap to Missouri River) Pottawattamie 34.00
Mill Creek (Lake) O'Brien 1 mile east of Paullina 23.00