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Home > Biological Info > Red Drum

Biological Info: Red Drum

Red Drum

Scientific Name:
Sciaenops ocellatus
Common Names:
Redfish, Red, Spottail, Channel Bass, Poisson Rouge
Range & Habitat:
Red drum are found Gulfwide, from low-salinity or even freshwater estuaries out to offshore waters at least 50 feet deep. Red drum are not fussy about bottom type, being found on everything from soft mud to hard bottoms of shell hash and oyster reefs. Often, large schools of large red drum will congregate at nearshore artificial reefs and oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf.
Identification & Biology:
Red drum can be silvery-gray with a copper cast or bright copper colored with an iridescent gray cast. Color depends largely on the water the fish comes from. The belly is typically white. Most fish will have a single ocellated spot located just ahead of the tail fin. Occasionally, more than one spot can be found, and rarely, any spots are present.

Red drum, like many other members of the drum family, spawn in high salinity waters in areas of high tidal current flow, such as areas near barrier island passes. Spawning usually takes place over an 8 or 9 week period from mid-August to mid-October. During this period, male red drum stake out, in large numbers, the prime spawning areas in and near the passes, being ready to spawn virtually every night. There they form large schools at night, called drumming aggregations, because of the drumming sound that they make with their air bladders to attract females. Females, on the other hand, tend to appear at these areas only when immediately ready to spawn, which seems to be once every 2 to 7 days. This means that the large majority of redfish taken during this time by recreational fishermen are males, rather than females. While the 2-month spawning period is less than half that for spotted seatrout, the spawning potential of an individual redfish is truly stupendous. At an average of 1½ million eggs per spawn, and a spawning every 2 to 4 days, the average female can be expected to produce 20-40 million eggs per season.

While it has been a generally accepted rule of thumb that redfish leave inshore waters when they mature at around age 5, there is a lot of variation in this. Immature 2 to 5 year old fish have been found in the offshore schools. Also, a small percentage of females mature at age 3 and about 9 pounds in weight. A few males mature even sooner, at age 2 and 5½ pounds. All females are mature by age 6 and all males by age 5. Once mature, redfish typically will spawn for the rest of their lives.

Red drum are aggressive and opportunistic feeders and the result is evident in their growth rate. At age 1 they average over 13 inches and by age 2, they average over 21 inches long. Blue crabs make up a large part of their diet, but fish and shrimp are also eaten. Although red drum have been known to come to the surface to take topwater artificial baits, they are typically bottom feeders. Commonly eaten fish include searobins, lizardfish, menhaden, mullet, pigfish, spot, Atlantic croakers, and flounder. Most of these are bottom-living species.
Very common from 1-10 pounds in estuaries, although larger fish are not uncommon. Red drum caught in offshore waters are usually over 10 and often over 30 pounds.
Food Value:
Good, with smaller fish being considered better table fare than larger fish.
More Info:
Understanding Redfish Biology (fact sheet)

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