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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

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Marine Fisheries - Black Drum

Marine Fisheries

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BLACK DRUM, Pogonias cromis

8-point rule

Black drum

Life History

Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) is the largest member of the drum family (Sciaenidae), reaching sizes of over 46 inches and 120 pounds. The range of black drum extends along the nearshore western Atlantic coast from the Gulf of Maine to Florida, into the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Argentina. Along the Atlantic Coast, black drum are thought to migrate northward and inshore each spring and southward and offshore by late fall. Juvenile black drum can be found throughout the estuarine waters of North Carolina, while adults tend to congregate around structure including bridge and dock pilings. They are primarily bottom feeders; juvenile diets consist mainly of small fish and invertebrates, while the adult diet consists primarily of mollusks and crustaceans. Spawning is thought to occur in the offshore waters of the mid-Atlantic during the winter and early spring. The number of juvenile fish entering the population annually (recruitment) is thought to be highly variable and dependent on natural environmental conditions. Females are sexually mature between the ages of 4 and 6 (25 to 28 inches) and spawn yearly though adulthood. An average-sized female may spawn 32 million eggs each year. At ages 4 and 5 (22 to 25 inches) males are mature. The species is long-lived, reaching up to 60 years of age. Black drum are approximately 11 to 14 inches at age 1, 15 to 17 inches at age 2, and 19 to 21 inches at age 3.

Fisheries


The North Carolina fisheries coincide with the seasonal migration of black drum as they move northward and inshore each spring and southward and offshore by late fall. Black drum are landed all year and are most commonly abundant in the fall (October and November) and winter (February). Black drum are caught in several North Carolina commercial fisheries including the pound net, estuarine gill net, haul seine, and flounder trawl fisheries. Commercial landings in 2017 (182,979 pounds) were above the 10 year average (117,310 pounds) and have increased since 2015 (Figure 1). Recreationally, juvenile black drum are frequently caught for personal consumption, while larger black drum are often caught and released for sport. In 2017, 16 citation sized black drum (greater than 35 pounds or 40 inches) were released as part of the North Carolina Saltwater Fishing Tournament, and one citation was given for recreationally harvested fish. Recreational landings of black drum in 2017 (65,455 fish equivalent to 164,295 pounds) were below the 10 year average (148,544 fish equivalent to 263,743 pounds) and have increased since 2014 (Figure 2). Recreational releases have also increased since the implementation of the 14 to 25 inch total length slot limit and 10 fish bag limit in 2014; however, the number of releases decreased approximately 58 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Management

Black drum are included in the North Carolina Fishery Management Plan for Interjurisdictional Fisheries. This plan defers management to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission compliance requirements. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plan includes all states from Florida to New Jersey. The management unit is defined as the black drum resource throughout the range of the species within U.S. waters of the northern Atlantic Ocean from the estuaries eastward to offshore boundaries of the federal Exclusive Economic Zone (3 to 200 miles).

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Black Drum in 2013. The management plan required all states to maintain their current regulations for black drum and implement a maximum possession limit and minimum size limit (of no less than 12 inches) by Jan. 1, 2014 and to further increase the minimum size limit (to no less than 14 inches) by Jan. 1, 2016. In response to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission requirement, the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission implemented a 14 to 25 inch total length slot size limit (allowing possession of one fish over 25 inches), a 10 fish recreational bag limit and a 500 pound commercial trip limit effective Jan. 1, 2014.

Stock Overview

  • Assessment: Yes
  • Terminal Year of Last Assessment: 2012
    • Overfishing: No
    • Overfished/Depleted: No

The peer reviewed and accepted for management 2015 Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission benchmark stock assessment for black drum determined that the stock is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission categorized the stock in 2016 as “rebuilt/sustainable.” Black drum are considered a data-poor species, thus traditional stock assessment methods cannot be applied. Data-poor models rely upon catch-based modeling methods to estimate reference points on historical catch data and life history information. From the results of the stock assessment, the median yearly poundage of black drum in the stock (biomass) was well above the level needed to produce maximum sustainable yield (the largest catch that could be taken continuously from the stock under average environmental conditions). In 2016, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission fishery management plan was reviewed and it was determined no additional management measures were needed beyond those established in the 2013 plan. However, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission plan review team recommended that a management mechanism (traffic light analysis) be developed to evaluate stock status and recommend management action if needed between benchmark stock assessments. This “traffic light” method allows managers to examine a set of indicators that detect major changes in trends that may indicate a reassessment of the reference points should be undertaken.

In North Carolina, a relative index of abundance for black drum is obtained based on a catch per unit of effort from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Pamlico Sound Independent Gill Net Survey. This index, an input in the 2015 benchmark stock assessment, provides an indication of relative stock abundance for black drum in Pamlico Sound. The catch per unit effort has fluctuated during the time series for the survey and has increased since 2014 with the highest value recorded in the time-series occurring in 2016.

Figure 3

Research Needs

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission 2016 fishery management plan review research needs include: exploration of alternative assessment models, characterization of commercial and recreational discards; increased biological sampling characterizing size and age composition; continues fishery-independent surveys and collection of biological samples; collection of age samples and age archived samples conducting reproductive studies; conducting high reward tagging studies; improving sampling of nighttime fisheries; collection of genetic material; and obtaining better estimates of harvest from the black drum recreational fishery.

Links

Management Agencies

North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries
Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Fishery Management Plans Amendments, Revisions and Supplements

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Stock Assessment Reports

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission

Contacts

For more information, contact Chris Stewart at Chris.Stewart@ncdenr.gov or 910-796-7370
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N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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