In the last few years, freshwater drum have really captured the imagination of anglers in this part of the world. One of the reasons might be a rise in the number of fish in our lakes and rivers along with an increase in overall size of the fish caught.
If you have never caught a large drum, it’s hard to describe the fight that these fish put out. When I caught an absolute monster drum two years ago, it gave me all the battle I could handle on a level wind reel, long rod and stout line. Never mind that it took two guys on the net to get it in the boat. Since that day on Lake Manitoba I have become fascinated by these fish and I’m not alone. Hooked contributor Josh Wood spends a lot of angling time each year targeting big freshwater drum. While Josh and his friends have caught their share of trophy fish that they have released, Josh also happens to be an excellent cook and he counts drum as some of the best table fare in Manitoba.
Josh relates that many his friends prefer this species over walleye at the dinner table. Sacrilege you say! Not so says Josh.
He does have a few important tips to remember when cleaning them for the table though. Josh says the quality of flesh greatly improves if the fish is bled out and put on ice as soon as possible. He also makes sure not keep any of the red meat on the flesh, leaving the belly meat on the skin for sure.
He likes drum smoked, treating it like candied or barbequed salmon with great success. Filleted and beer battered it’s great fried, and as mentioned most of his friends prefer it over walleye! His favourite way to prepare though, is by boiling it in good Icelandic tradition. He puts the water on a low boil and cuts the flesh into one-inch squares. He will cook for about five to six minutes and serve with a butter garlic sauce along with some thin pasta. He will also make up jambalaya with it and a seafood chowder.
FEATURES OF A DRUM
One of the unique features of drum is the ear bone called otolith. They can get very large and have a unique L shape. Many people that harvest drum will cut out these otoliths and keep them as a “Lucky” stone. It’s not recommended to keep larger drum, as these fish tend to be quite old, though there is a bit of research lacking on just how old they can get. Some fish have been reported to live up to a hundred years of age. As I have written about in previous articles, freshwater drum also crunch on Zebra Mussels, which is another reason to let those bigger fish go.
Drum start getting serious about the spawn in June but that extends well into July in this part of the world. I can remember vividly to this day, hearing these fish make the unique drumming sound that gives them their name. This sound is produced on purpose as the fish contract strong muscles on the sides of their air bladder. This occurred one night on the Red River while fishing for catfish. It was like a low hum of distant traffic on a freeway.
Drum lay their eggs in open water and they drift freely, hatching in about 30 hours in water that is at least 21 Celsius. Young drum grow quickly and can reach 13 centimetres (five inches) in their first year. After that things slow down a bit and it can be five years before they reach 30 centimetres in length and ten years to get to 44 centimetres.
While small drum are limited in their food sources, once the drum gets up in size they feed heavily on minnows, insects, crayfish just about anything a walleye might eat. Many anglers who fish for big drum will hook on a nightcrawler or gob on some salted shiners. I prefer trolling small crankbaits for them and my monster drum was caught on a #5 Berkley Flicker Shad in the natural minnow colour. If you really want to get serious when you find a school of large drum you can anchor up and pitch jigs and bait to them. Your arms might get tired after a while though!
Give drum a try as table far this summer making sure you follow all the steps of correct preparation. I don’t think you will be disappointed.