Are Black Drum Good To Eat? Do They Really Have Worms?

Black drum or ‘big uglies‘ are they are sometimes called, are one of the most popular inshore catches in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

These inshore behemoths can grow up to 60+ pounds and feed an entire family for several days with one catch…

But, are black drum good to eat? And is it true they are all filled with worms?

There are lots of rumors and fishing chatter about these fish…so i’m here to set the record straight!

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Is Black Drum Good To Eat?

Black drum are much better to eat than their reputation would have you think. Larger individuals can be tough and have worms, but smaller black drum (12 pounds or less) are firm and mild, and often compared to redfish, red snapper or sheepshead.

As a rule of thumb, it’s good to eat any black drum that is under 10-12 pounds. You can eat the larger ones as well, but it’s not a popular choice due to their toughness and high chance of worms.

They are known to be tougher and have a strong fishy smell, especially drum caught in brackish environments.

Infographic: Are Black Drum Good To Eat?

NOTE: Always consult the fishing regulations in your area before keeping black drum, or any fish. Many states or regions have closed seasons, and slot size limits. Do you part as a responsible angler!

What Does Black Drum Taste Like?

Black drum is known to have a mild-medium flavor with a salty profile. The meat texture is firm, with a pink tint that holds up well for grilling and sautéing.  

The meat is usually large and firm with nice, moist striated flakes. In Louisiana, where black drum are caught in the coastal marshes they are popular in fish gumbo.

In Florida, small black drum are often blackened or fried just like their closely related cousin, the redfish.

It is also popular among people who aren’t big fish eaters because unlike a lot of fish, the black drum does not have an oily flavor (like mackerel, tuna, or bluefish) which makes it more palatable for some people.

Is Black Drum Safe To Eat?

Black drum is safe to eat, but most people only eat smaller fish that weigh under 10-12 pounds. The reason for this is that the larger fish are often full of spaghetti worms. Despite black drums having worms, they are still edible and the smaller ones are tasty.

Don’t panic! The worms are harmless to humans and they will be killed when the fish is cooked. They can also be removed during the cleaning process.

Spaghetti worms are essentially earthworms of the sea. On average they grow to be 1-3 inches in length and most large black drums have 5-15 worms in them. They are usually located near the tail of the fish.

Aside from having spaghetti worms, the black drum is safe for human consumption and does not have any risks associated with it.

Is Black Drum Good For You?

Despite the worm concern, the black drum is a very healthy fish to eat. While it is high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, it is a low-fat, high-protein fish.

Are Black Drum Good To Eat? Do They Really Have Worms?

Black drum is also high in Vitamins A, B12, and D. In fact, it has enough Vitamin D to meet 30% of your recommended daily intake. 

Black drum are also rich in potassium, calcium, and iron

How To Prepare Black Drum

The only special preparation that black drum requires is the removal of spaghetti worms while being cleaned. To find the worms, hold the filets up to the sun or another light source and look for their movement. They are large enough to be seen fairly easily. 

Once you have located the worms, simply place one of the ends of the worm between your thumb and the blade of a knife and gently pull them out. 

After all the worms are removed, continue to clean and filet the black drum as you would any other fish.

Another reason that many people throw back the larger fish is that the scales and bones of larger black drums get very big and they can become very difficult to clean and prepare. The smaller ones are much easier to work with.

Black drum are a big, large scaled, broad fish with large heads and gills and thick skin. Cleaning them can be cumbersome, a sharp knife and pair of gloves is necessary.

I prefer to clean them outside, with access to hose for rinsing and cleaning!

Black drum is fine to have on ice as it doesn’t turn mushy like some other types of fish do. It does spoil fairly quickly though, so if you aren’t going to consume it within 2 days of catching it, then be sure to freeze it.

How To Cook Black Drum

The two most popular ways to cook a black drum are to pan-fry it with a light seasoning or to have it blackened.

Given its mild flavor, it’s easy to overwhelm the flavor and sweetness of the fish with strong seasonings or spices, so if you like the flavor of it, then keep seasonings light and spices mild.

If you or the person you’re cooking for don’t like a strong fish flavor, then cook black drum with strong seasonings and pair with bold flavors. 

Other common ways to prepare black drum include baking or boiling it. 

Black drum is a very versatile fish, so if you like to cook you’re going to have a good time experimenting with recipes and fish dishes.

Black drum are sometimes confused with sheepshead or freshwater drum due to their similar appearance. However, Black drum (Pogonias cromis) are a distinctly unique species of saltwater fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Eat Black Drum Raw?

Black drum is not a good fish to eat raw. It grows more slowly than other fish which can cause the larger fish to not taste good and be very tough. They also have worms that you would not want to consume raw.

Does Black Drum Have Worms?

Black drum are known to contain spaghetti worms. They are more prevalent in the larger fish which is why most people only eat the smaller ones. 

The worms can be removed during the cleaning process. If the worms are left in, they will die when the fish is cooked and won’t be a problem.

How Many Black Drum Can You Keep?

Recreational bag limits on black drum vary by state, and in some cases even by region. For example, here in Florida where I fish, licensed anglers can keep 5 black drum per day, with a slot size of 14″-24″ (with 1 allowed to be oversize).

Always consult with the fishing regulations in your area before keeping any fish!

Final Thoughts

Black drum have been known to get a bad reputation as “trash fish” among many fishermen, but this is usually because the larger fish have spaghetti worms and don’t taste as good as the smaller ones.

But they sure are fun to catch!

Large black drum (too big to eat).

For eating, stick with smaller fish, remove the worms while cleaning, and enjoy the tastiness of the very underrated black drum.

Thanks for reading!

You May Also Like: Are Sheepshead Good to Eat? (Hint: Heck Yes They Are!)

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