Puppy drums often bring confusion to many anglers, but here we have the answers to clear up what a puppy drum vs a red drum is.
In short, a Puppy Drum is a name given to a juvenile Red Drum. Red Drums can grow to be around 60 pounds so it’s understandable that we are calling the young something different.
What are puppy drums?
Also known as the Red Drum, Red Fish, Red Bass, Spot tail, or Channel Bass, the Puppy drum is an elongated saltwater species well sought after by anglers. The Puppy Drum is a juvenile Red Drum and is slightly different in appearance.
Puppy Drums might be considered the Pups of the species but they still give a great fight and are a pleasure to target. You can find Puppy Drums near the shore, especially in rivers mouths, estuaries, mud flats, sandy areas, or near jetties and docks.
The Puppy Drum will generally stay in shallower water and estuaries until they are four years of age and move into less protected waters. Once they hit maturity their appearance develops and becomes more prominent. We then call them Red Drums.
Is a puppy drum the same as a red drum?
The Puppy Drum is the same species as the Red Drum. It is just identified as it a Puppy Drum due to its age. When young the Puppy Drum looks much different from the Red Drum in color. The species has a long elongated body with a silver and copper color from its head to its tail.
The copper color is mostly on the top side of the fish and it fades to silver towards the fish’s belly. The species also has a black spot with a white circle around it by the base of the tail at the top.
The difference between the Red Drum and Puppy drum is mainly to do with its color. Puppy drums are generally silver with a very little copper tinge to them. As they develop and reach sexual maturity they gain the copper. It’s also much easier to see the spot on the Puppy Drum.
The Red Drum has a much darker copper color over its body. A given as well is that the Red Drum is generally much larger than the Puppy Drum. The spot on the tail also seems to fade and is less prominent than in its juvenile state.
Red Drums can be found in much deeper water whereas Puppy Drums will be found in shallower water which provides more protection than in the ocean.
Best puppy drum rigs
Puppy Drums often scavenge along the river bottom for crustaceans and other easy-to-target species, crushing them with their plate-like teeth. Their diet is made up of most of these animals so it would be best for you to organize your rigs around knowing where they feed.
Some great rigs for targeting the Puppy Drum would be the Flapper, basic High/Low rig, or the Carolina Rig. Dropshot is also a relatively productive method of targeting these fish.
The Flapper or double/triple Flapper is a great method for targeting fish that feed near the bottom. Using a suitable strength mainline ( 15-30lb ) you can tie between 1-3 droppers on with fluorocarbon and at least a 3/0-5/0 J hook or Circle hook. You attach your teardrop or pyramid sinker to the bottom of the main line depending on where you are fishing.
This method is great because you can have more than one bait in the water optimizing your chances of catching. Use this method in deep areas such as off docks or rock drop-offs with sand banks nearby.
The High/ Low rig
This rig is very similar to the Flapper. With this rig, you tie it the same as the Flapper but instead of using three droppers, you would use two. Your aim is to get your bait floating into areas. Close to the bottom and near middle depth.
This gives you the benefit of targeting fish that swim at both depths. The same line, hooks, and sinkers work for this rig. The only difference would be that we suggest a longer leader and maybe the use of floats on your bottom dropper.
The Carolina rig is often used to target the puppy drum off the surf. This rig is incredibly versatile and can be used in many areas as well as you can use both artificial and natural baits on it. The Carolina rig is also very simple to tie.
All you need is a suitably strong mainline. Thread a 1-2oz cylinder or bullet sinker onto the mainline with a bead after it. Tie the mainline to a basic barrel swivel, and make sure the bead is between the knot and sinker.
Tie your leader to the swivel with the hook of your choice, either J Hook or Circle. There you have it. Note, if you want to use artificial baits make sure you thread them onto the hook correctly. Bass hooks with the straight piece before the line loop are great for artificials.
This rig is perfect if you want to fish closer to the bottom. With a slow retrieve, you can give your bait the look of a wounded fish which should attract the Pup’s attention.
Best puppy drum bait
It’s generally best to use fresh, natural baits for the Puppy drum. You can throw a net for live bait or use fresh cuts of bait fish, crabs, and other bottom feeders that the Puppy Drum would generally target.
Soft bait lures are also killers when it comes to puppy drums! If you can use a suitable size lure that mimics either a small baitfish, shrimp, or crab you are sure to come right. When using a soft bait lure with these fish presentation is everything.
With a baitfish lure retrieve your lure slowly whilst lifting and lowering your rod tip sporadically. This gives the fish good movement to attract the Puppy Drum. With shrimp or crab allow the lure to touch the bottom and then reel in a bit. This up-down movement is perfect to attract the fish.
Best puppy drum lures
One lure that is highly rated for puppy drums is the shrimp lures made by companies like DOA, or GULP. Gulp shrimp are very well scented with a brighter white color with salmon color pinchers whereas the famous DOA shrimp is none scented.
The DOA Shrimp is a darker muddier color and has a bigger tail showing more action when it swims. Both of these lures are great for targeting Puppy Drums. Other species such as snook and bream are also known to hit these lures.
Can you catch puppy drum at night?
You can catch puppy drum at night! The puppy drums will destroy plugs and lures during the evening. The best time to target them though is when the sun is going down or rising. To catch Puppy drums at night you want to find where their bait fish are drawn.
At night the target species move closer to areas with light. Small bait fish and shrimp are drawn to areas with light so look for these areas. The Puppy drum will sit just off the drop-offs to ambush the bait so throw your lure deep and retrieve it along the drop-off line.
Use lures that draw attention in the light such as the GULP shrimp or topwater Rapala to catch these fish in the evening!
Are puppy drums good eating?
Puppy Drums are great for eating. They have a lovely fillet with little bones and can easily be cooked in a pan or on the barbeque. When you fillet puppy drums make sure to remove the rib bones and use a decent filleting knife.
You can cut the fillets into bite-size strips or cook them whole. The Puppy drum has a tender but firm fillet with a great taste. Many anglers would say it is the right amount of fishiness. When cooking it you can choose to batter the fish or lightly spice it. Whatever you choose this fish is great for eating altogether.
Puppy Drum vs Red Drum Summary
The puppy drum or Red Fish is a great species to target. They are lighter in color and typically smaller than their more mature Red Fish but still give a great fight and are the perfect fish to target if you are a beginner or expert angler.
You can find them in shallow water, river mouths, and estuaries near sand banks and docks. Bait and lures work for the fish and the bonus is you can fish for them at night! Wishing you all the best when you target this epic fish! Tight Lines!