Our state fish most likely got its common
name from the drumlike sound males make by vibrating a muscle
connected to their swim bladders. Most fish in the drum
family, including croaker, make similar sounds.
The red drum can be found in coastal and estuarine waters
from Massachusetts to Mexico. Using its senses of sight
and touch, the red drum searches the ocean or estuarine
bottom for crabs, shrimp, and sand dollars. It also feeds
on other fish such as menhaden, spot and mullet. Spawning
occurs in ocean waters near inlets from September to February.
Like most of the economically important fish in North Carolina,
the red drum depends greatly on estuaries during the early
years of its life. The females eggs hatch within 24
hours after fertilization. The newly-hatched red drum are
carried by currents into the estuaries, which serve as nurseries
for the next six to eight months. There, they find protection
and abundant food in the rich, productive estuarine environment.
Juveniles stay in the sounds and estuaries, and sometimes
the surf zones along inlets, for the first three or four
years of their lives.
As the red drum matures, it spends more and more time in
the ocean, but may swim into estuaries and inlets to feed.
Red drum live an average of 20 to 30 years. Although the
North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
indicates numbers of older fisher are declining, some red
drum are still caught that are as old as 60 years.