Game Fishing > Drum Family, Sciaenidae > Fresh-water drumfish

Fresh-water drumfish

Fresh-water drumfishThis well-known fish of the Middle west is also known as lake-sheepshead on the Great Lakes, white-perch on the Ohio River, gaspergou in Louisiana, and as bubbler, croaker, thunder­pumper, and other names in various sections of the country. It was first described by Rafinesque, in 1819, from the Ohio River. He named it grunniens, meaning "grunting," from the grunting sound it makes, in common with other members of the drum family, when taken from the water. It inhabits the Great Lakes and other smaller lakes in the vicinity, extending along the Mississippi Valley to Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico.

The fresh-water drum is somewhat elliptical in outline, with quite a hump over the shoulders, with a depth of about one-third of its length, while its head constitutes more than a fourth of the length of the body. The single dorsal fin has the appearance of two. The ear-bones (otoliths) are quite large and resemble porcelain in their peculiar whiteness, and have a semblance of the letter "L" seemingly cut on them. From this circumstance they are known as "lucky-stones."

It is of a grayish silvery hue, dark on the back, fading to white on the belly. In the lakes of the North it has several oblique dusky streaks or bands, resembling in a minor degree those of the sheepshead of the coastwise streams and bays. In southern waters the streaks are not so apparent, and it is called white-perch, owing to its silvery appearance. It is a bottom fish, feeding mostly on mollusks, which it crushes with the blunt teeth of the throat. It also feeds on small fishes, crawfish, and other small organisms. Its spawning habits are unknown, but it probably spawns in the spring and summer.

On the Great Lakes it grows to an enormous size, occasionally reaching fifty or sixty pounds, though as usually taken by anglers it is from three to ten pounds in weight. It is of no value as a food-fish in that region, being seldom eaten and heartily despised. On the Ohio and lower Mississippi rivers its weight is much less, from one to six pounds, and it is there considered a good pan-fish, selling readily in the markets. There is no doubt but that it is of better flavor in southern waters when of small size.

As a commercial fish it is taken in nets in the North, and in fyke-nets in the southern extent of its range. On northern lakes it is often taken by anglers when fishing for black-bass, and being a strong, vigorous fish with the family habit of boring toward the bottom when hooked, it furnishes fair sport, and with considerable jeopardy to light tackle, when of large size. The angler is at first elated with what he imagines to be a fine bass until its identity is established, when his enthusiasm gives place to infinite disgust. And this is one reason why it is despised in northern waters, and very unjustly, too, for it is game enough, so far as resistance is concerned, and is entitled to that much credit.

In southern waters it bites freely at small minnows, crawfish, or mussels, and is there better appreciated and has a fair reputation as a game-fish. I have enjoyed fishing for it with light tackle on White and St. Francis rivers in Arkansas, and some of the streams in Mississippi. Light black-bass tackle is quite suitable for it.