Puppy drum are a popular winter species for table and junior anglers due to their delicious, easy-to-catch, and tasty meat. They are found in bays, lagoons, and river mouths along the Gulf of Mexico and east Atlantic coastline. As they mature, they move to deeper waters for spawning, but are often wormy and not suitable for consumption beyond the mid-20 inch range.
Puppy Drum - Inshore Eats
Puppy drum are great eating, fun to catch on light tackle, making them a perfect winter time species for both the table and junior anglers. I think of this fish on crummy days when you just don't want to head out too far. As colder weather sets in, the wind and the seas can make heading offshore uncomfortable, at times. With the water temperature dropping, bigger black drum move offshore and the smaller puppy size move into coastal rivers in search of warmer water. It's times like these that fishing these close in waters can put some good eats on your table and keep you from freezing your tail off.
The puppy drum is just a juvenile black drum. This inshore species has broad distribution throughout the Gulf of Mexico and east Atlantic coastline in bays, lagoons and river mouths out to nearshore offshore waters. As a bottom dweller, the species is often found around mud, sand and shell bottoms, with larger fish common on oyster reefs. Black drum are a close relative of another delicious bottom feeder, the redfish. The reason so many inshore anglers love to target puppy drum is because they make great table fare. The meat of juvenile fish is very similar to that of the redfish. White, flaky, very tasty. Puppy drum, the ones that are about 20 inches, make the perfect eating size. If you fish for them, you know. If you don't, this fish really is fine eating, compared to their larger more mature brethren.
As black drum near maturity they will move out of the rivers, estuaries and close in coastal waters to deeper waters for spawning. Mature black drum can reach impressive size, 40 to 50 lbs, as they set up residence offshore. Offshore is relative, as they are not way out, but rather in deeper waters nearshore. What really distinguishes the bigger fish from the puppy size is the increasing likelihood of finding worms in the flesh, as they get up towards 30 inches and beyond. It is recommended you avoid trying to eat black drum beyond the mid-twenty inch range, due to this worminess. The big fish remain a great sporting fish with some seriously fight in them, but are incredibly poor eating.
Puppy Drum Bait
As bottom feeders, black drum feed heavily on oysters, shrimp, small crabs, clams and mussels. Cut bait and artificials work well when puppy drum are feeding heavy. When you think about all the bait options, the one that is easiest to get your hands on is shrimp. Every bait shop on the coast has it. You are going to want to fish the shrimp on the bottom, so jigheads or a knocker rig work well. Keeping in mind that puppy drum do not have big mouths, choosing the right size shrimp is key.
Puppy drum appear to stage within a given water temperature. That would be low to mid-70 degrees on the central Gulf coast of Florida. Your temperature zone is relative to your area. Once you find that sweet spot, you will be able to stay on the fish. Look for those deeper holes and channel edges that hold warmer water to have fish. Remember, as the tide move water in and out, the fish will move with it.
Puppy Drum Fishing Video
If you want to learn more about black puppy drum and how to fish for them, check out our video Black Drum Fish | Puppy Drum with Captain William Toney. He puts on an excellent demonstration fishing in the Homosassa River, along with a deep analysis of the fishery and why the techniques he's explaining work. If you want to accelerate your curve, watch to learn about the rig he uses, how he threads shrimp onto a jighead for better action, bait presentation, bottom fishing in rivers, how to recognize a black drum bite, vessel positioning and pick up a whole heap of inshore fishing knowledge. William Toney brings four generations of fishing wisdom and a cool demeanor to the video, so please enjoy.
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