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Keep Those Drum and Cook Them

Freshwater drum are considered roughfish by some anglers, but these relatives of redfish are fun to catch and delicious

Keep Those Drum and Cook Them

Freshwater drum are considered roughfish by some anglers, but these relatives of redfish are fun to catch and delicious. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

Print Recipe

Most anglers don’t like the freshwater drum, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.

In terms of catchability, fight ability and edibility, this silver maverick rates high among the many fishes found throughout the United States. But more often than not, the drum, also known as the sheepshead or gaspergou, is bad-mouthed, scorned and thrown back by uninformed and unappreciative anglers.

That’s unfortunate. In addition to being a very catchable fighting machine, the freshwater drum is a culinary delight. If you doubt me, fillet the next drum you catch and try some of the recipes that follow.

Drum fillets are firm yet delicately flavored, comparable in taste and texture to redfish or swordfish. Despite misconceptions, they do not contact the small Y-bones often seen in fish like carp and pike.

For the best taste, you should place drum in an ice-filled cooler immediately after you catch them. If you put them in a wire fish basket or on a stringer, they quickly die and the flesh begins to spoil. Ice keeps them fresh and tasty.

Fillet each fish, just as you would a bass, and then trim all dark reddish flesh from the outer side of each fillet. This takes a bit of time, but is well worth it. The thick, bone-free pieces of light-colored meat thus produced are delicious in casseroles, soups, with sauce, or simply broiled and served with butter and lemon. The delectable recipes offered here will make you a believer.

Mock Crabmeat Ingredients:

  • Drum fillets, cut in 1-inch wide strips.
  • Liquid shrimp and crab boil


  1. In a large pot, bring to boil enough water to cover the amount of fish you are serving. Season the water with shrimp and crab boil, following the instructions on the bottle.
  2. Place the strips of fish into a wire basket and drop the basket into the seasoned water. Let the fish cook only long enough so it turns opaque and begins to flake.
  3. Remove the pot from the fire, and let the fish soak for about 15 minutes to pick up the seasonings. Then take the fish basket from the water and allow the pieces to drain.
  4. Serve hot, with melted butter or cocktail sauce, or allow to cool, flake and use in dishes requiring crabmeat.

Quick & Easy Gaspergou Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds drum fillets
  • Lemon-pepper seasoning
  • Dried dill weed
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Season both sides of the fillets with lemon-pepper and dill. Sauté each fillet in melted butter over medium heat, 5 minutes per side, or till the fish flakes easily when fork-tested.
  2. Serve piping hot with butter poured over. Garnish with cilantro leaves if desired. Yields 3 servings.
  3. “FreshwaterDrum”
    A few shakes of lemon-pepper spice, some dill and some butter can transform a freshwater drum fillet into a delicious meal (Keith Sutton photo)

Spicy Baked Drum Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • Olive oil
  • One 8- to 10-ounce drum fillet
  • ½ lemon


  1. Place the first six ingredients in a jar or zip-seal bag, and shake until thoroughly mixed. Rub olive oil on the fish fillet, and then sprinkle both sides of the fillet with the seasoning mixture.
  2. Squeeze half the lemon over the fish. Place in a lightly greased baking dish; bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily. Yields an entrée for two.

Blackened Drum Ingredients:

  • 10 (6- to 10-oz.) drum fillets
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and kept warm in a skillet
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves


  1. In a small bowl, use a fork to thoroughly combine all ingredients except the drum fillets and unsalted butter. Dip each piece of fish in melted butter, and then sprinkle some of the blackening spice mix evenly on each side.
  2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet until it is almost white hot. Place the fish in the hot skillet, cooking one piece at a time. Pour a teaspoon of melted butter atop each piece. (Be careful; the butter may flame up.)
  3. Cook about 2 minutes, turn, and pour another teaspoon of butter on top. Cook 2 minutes more. When the fish is done, it should be flaky, white and still very moist inside.
  4. Serve each piece while piping hot with more hot melted butter on the side for dipping.

Sheepshead Chowder Ingredients:

  • 1 pound smoked sausage
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 4 large potatoes, diced
  • 2 pounds coarsely cut shrimp
  • 1 pound crabmeat
  • 2 pounds coarsely chopped drum fillets
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


  1. Boil the sausage in a small amount of water for 4 minutes, drain off the water and let the sausage cool. Dice the sausage and set aside.
  2. In a big pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions, potatoes, shrimp and crabmeat. Cook until heated through, but no longer.
  3. Add the fish and stir it around until it turns white. As it cooks, sprinkle with salt.
  4. Turn the heat up to medium high and add the milk, water and cream. Stir constantly, heating until the mixture just bubbles. Do not allow to boil.
  5. When chowder is hot, stir in celery salt, cayenne and chopped sausage. Then reduce heat so the chowder just stays hot.
  6. Chop the hard-boiled eggs, add them to the chowder with the parsley and cook on low about 15 minutes. Serves 10 to 15.

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