The sciaenids are a large family of primarily bottom associated, carnivorous fishes distributed throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, in tropical and temperate inshore waters. The majority occur on open sand and mud bottoms and some are found only in brackish waters. The exact number of species is uncertain, but there are probably about 270.
Drums are also commonly called croakers, and for good reason. They have modified muscular swim bladders that they use to produce a drumming or croaking sound when they are excited. Drums are luminescent and appear pink when first removed from the water. A drum’s tail is slightly pointed, and it has faint stripes across its back and small chin barbels. Drums or croakers are distributed mostly in temperate and tropical waters. They are bottom dwelling carnivores, feeding on benthic invertebrates and small fishes
The largest drum in the region is the Black Drum (Pogonias cromis). The scientific name is derived from the Greek and approximates to bearded grunter. This species has conspicuous chin barbels and utters the customary loud grunting sound when excited. Adults have dusky to black fins and are silver with a brassy lustre. Young drum possess 4 to 6 black vertical bars, and may be misidentified as juveniles of closely related species.
The preferred habitat is coastal waters including bays, sounds, and inlets where salinities range from near fresh to sea strength. They are commonly found near bridges, piers and other manmade structures. Black drum feed on the bottom, aided in their search for food by the chin barbels that serve as feelers. Food items include clams, mussels, oysters, crabs, worms, and some fishes. Strong throat teeth (pharyngeals), are capable of crushing shells of clams, oysters, and crabs to make them easier to digest. The species that you are most likely to see in the waters of this eco-region are listed below, with the maximum adult length:
- Atlantic Croaker Micropogonias undulatus 50 cm
- Banded Drum Larimus fasciatus 25 cm
- Black Drum Pogonias cromis 170 cm
- Cubbyu Equetus umbrosus 25 cm
- High-hat Equetus acuminatus 23 cm
- Jack-knifefish Equetus lanceolatus 25 cm
- Northern Kingcroaker Menticirrhus saxatilis 36 cm
- Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus 155 cm
- Silver Croaker Bairdiella chrysoura 30 cm
- Southern Kingcroaker Menticirrhus americanus 50 cm
- Spot Croaker Leiostomus xanthurus 38 cm