Characteristics - deep bodied, silvery fish; head and body slope steeply up from the snout and dorsal fin; long dorsal fin divided into two lobes; commonly weigh up to 5 lbs.
Distribution - rivers, and Manitoba's larger lakes.
Foods - fish, crayfish, immature insects
Expert's Tip - Drum are bottom feeders that can be caught easily from the bank on nightcrawlers.
Other names-- sheepshead, silver bass
The freshwater drum is a common fish species in the Red and Assiniboine rivers and a large number of streams/rivers that flow into Lake Manitoba. Drum are very tolerant of turbidity and prefer quiet waters without swift currents. They are however very tolerant to current and have adapted to rivers with good current.
This fish is best described as a deep bodied, silvery fish whose head and body slope steeply up from the snout to the dorsal fin, resulting in a hump-backed appearance. It has a long dorsal fin that is divided into two lobes. The first has 8 to 9 spines, and the second has a single spine with 24 to 32 soft rays. The anal fin has 2 spines with the second spine larger than the first. The pelvic fin has one spine with 5 rays. Ctenoid scales cover the body and upper head. The lateral line is complete and extends through the caudal fin. The back is gray, with the sides silvery and belly and lower region of the head white. Adults commonly weigh up to 5 pounds, but many monsters prowl Manitoba's great southern lakes. Lake Manitoba is widely known as the Drum fishing hang-out of many. The whitemud river and Lake Manitoba Narrows yield fish (on a regular basis) in the 10-15lb range. Spring, early summer is best for theses bruits.
The drum spends most of its time on or near the bottom feeding mainly on fish, crayfish, and immature insects. Moving slowly along the bottom, it moves small rocks and other bottom materials with its snout, capturing displaced aquatic life. In the rivers of Southern Manitoba, drum spawn during June when the whater temperatures range from 66 to 72 degrees F. Unique to the freshwater fish species in North America and characteristic of many saltwater fish, the eggs and larvae are bouyant and float on the water surface during development.
Growth studies made of the Drum indicate freshwater drum average 5 inches in total length by the end of the first year of life and 8.0, 12.0, 13.5, 15.0, 17.0, 18.5, and 19.5 inches in succeeding years.
The drumming sound made when the fish is handled is produced by a special apparatus that is located in the body cavity, which is connected with the swim bladder. Two enlongated muscles move a tendon over the swim bladder and produce the sound. Only sexually mature males possess this structure. Another unique feature of the drum is the large-sized otolith located in the sacculus. It has white, enameled surfaces and alternating light and dark bands that can be used to age the fish. Otoliths are often kept by fishermen for lucky pieces and sometimes made into jewellery.
The freshwater drum is not yet an important commercial fish in Manitoba. Commercial harvest is limited. As a sport fish the freshwater drum is not sought after by a large number of anglers. When hooked a larger drum will test an anglers skills and equipment quite well. Drum are an important part of the forage base of many other Manitoba sport fish pike, walleye and sauger all prey upon young of the year drum.