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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
Pool 19, Mississippi River Lee Amenities listed are at City of Ft. Madison boat ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 19 33500.00
Red Rock Reservoir Marion 4 miles north of Knoxville 15250.00
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 16, Mississippi River Scott The amenities list are for Buffalo Shores campground in Buffalo, Iowa. Amenities at other locations in Pool 16 vary by location. 13000.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Big Spirit Lake Dickinson 1m N Spirit Lake 5684.00
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Saylorville Reservoir Polk North edge of Des Moines 4970.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Big Creek Lake Polk 2 miles north of Polk City 814.00
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge 811.00
North Twin Lake Calhoun 4 miles north of Rockwell City 453.00
Roberts Creek Lake Marion 6 miles northeast of Knoxville 288.00
Elk Lake Clay 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Ruthven 261.00
Blue Heron Lake (Raccoon River Park) Polk southwest of West Des Moines; Raccoon River Park 232.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
New Albin Big Lake Allamakee 200.00
Iowa River (Marshalltown to Coralville Lake) Iowa 104.00
RAPP Park Lakes Page north edge of Shenandoah 95.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Des Moines River (Stratford to Saylorville Lake) Polk 57.00
Des Moines River (Saylorville to Red Rock) Marion 50.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Des Moines Water Works Recharge Basins Polk George Flagg Pkwy. Des Moines 35.00
Boyer River (Dunlap to Missouri River) Pottawattamie 34.00
Iowa River (Coralville Lake to River Junction) Johnson 29.00
Mohawk Park Lake Linn East side of the Cedar River off J Ave. 26.00