Red Drum is the official NC State saltwater fish and is also commonly called Redfish, Channel Bass, Puppy Drum, and simply Red. The largest of the drum family, the world record is 94 pounds 2 ounces and was caught in NC!
Adult red drum are generally around 30” and larger and take 3-4 years to reach maturity (long time for a fish) and then live for 30-40 years or longer reaching weights well over 40 pounds. We sometimes call these monster size drum, Old Drum, or Big old drum.
These big bruiser live in the ocean and while you will at certain times of the year find them around the inner parts of inlets, and up in the big sounds and lower part of large rivers (Pamlico Sound, Neuse River as examples).
You won’t find them in the smaller rivers and creeks and they spend their winters in deeper water offshore. During the Summer, fall and early winter, they are often in the surf though so they can be caught from shore.
Juvenile red drum are often called Puppy Drum. Back in the 70’s when I was growing up here a lot of folks thought Red Drum and Puppy drum where two related but distinct species (like red drum and black drum). Since then, science has revealed a lot about these wonderful fish and have helped us bring them back from the edge of being wiped out.
We fisherman further categorizes the juveniles as slot fish or under/over the slot. As mentioned before the slot refers to the “keeper” size which is currently 18” to 27”. A few “over” the slot fish are still juveniles but most are adults.
Puppy Drum spend their adolescents in the shallow creeks, sounds and marshy areas. The smaller ones (mainly under slot) will stay in the creeks over the winter.
Catching Red drum
First and for most, if you are fishing with live bait you should use a very short leader with the weight close to the hook and use a circle hook. This will help ensure you get a mouth hook and lessen the chance of a deep gut hook. This is important because there is a slot for keeping drum so if the fish is outside the slot, you have to release it.