Black drum (Pogonias cromis) can be found in nearshore waters along the Atlantic coast from the Gulf of Maine to Florida and as far south as Argentina. Atlantic coast black drum migrate inshore to the north in the spring, and to the south in the fall. Fish can reach over 46", 120 pounds and 60 years of age. They grow rapidly until the age of 15, at which time growth slows.
Spawning occurs during the winter and early spring, occurring earlier in the southern areas (November - April) and later in the northern areas (April - June). An average-sized female (13.4 pounds) may spawn 32 million eggs each year. Recruitment appears to be sporadic, with infrequent large events.
Black drum are primarily bottom feeders. Young black drum feed on small fish and invertebrates, such as copepods, annelids, and amphipods. The eggs and larvae of this species were shown to be subject to high predation. As juveniles, they are prey to a wide range of estuarine fish species, such as spotted seatrout and crevalle jack.
The black drum fishery is predominantly recreational, with anglers landing about three times more fish (by weight) than the commercial fishery. From 2000-2008, recreational harvest trended upward with harvest peaking at 5.4 million pounds in 2008. Harvest has been on the decline since then with an estimated 1.5 million pounds harvested in 2013. Florida and North Carolina fisheries comprise the majority of recreational black drum harvest.
Historically, commercial landings averaged approximately 368,000 pounds in the 1950s and 1960s and then declined to an average of approximately 211,000 pounds in the 1970s and 1980s. The commercial fishery landed approximately 284,000 pounds in 2013. Since 2000, the majority of commercial landings occur in North Carolina and Virginia, while a smaller portion is landed in New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Florida. In recent years, gillnets and pound nets have been the primary gear used.
The first coastwide benchmark stock assessment for black drum was performed in 2014 and approved for management use in 2015. Based onassessment results, black drum is not overfished and not experiencing overfishing. The median biomass is estimated to be declining slowly, though it is still estimated to be well above that necessary to produce maximum sustainable yield.
Black drum are a data-poor species. Their rarity and complex migratory patterns lead to highly variable levels of encounter in state surveys and fisheries. Further, limited size composition data has been collected, making the use of age-structured models unreliable. For these reasons, data-poor, catch-based modeling methods were used for the assessment. These models estimate reference points based on historical catch data and life history information.
In 2013, the Commission adopted the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Black Drum, which requires all states to implement a maximum possession limit and minimum size limit (of no less than 12 inches) in addition to maintaining their previous regulations. States are required to further increase the minimum size limit (to no less than 14 inches) by January 1, 2016. Further, the FMP establishes a management framework to address future concerns or changes in the fishery or population.
The FMP also includes a management framework to adaptively respond to future concerns or changes in the fishery or population. Concern for the increase in harvest by both recreational and commercial fishermen in recent years was alleviated by the findings of the 2015 stock assessment. Given the assessment findings, the Board choose to not make any additional changes to the management program at this time.