Freshwater Drum or Sheepshead

When I was taking my open-water diving certifcation in Lake Champlain I bumped into a freshwater drum near Oakledge Park in Burlington. It was a bit of a shock to see something so big and unexpected in lake Champlain. – Tom

This article by Eric LaMontagne originally appeared on the LCI blog.

Battle the Brute: Freshwater Drum

Freshwater Drum or Sheepshead

It is common knowledge that Lake Champlain is home to many different species of fish. From miniscule minnows to monstrous muskies, the diversity held within the waters of Lake Champlain is impressive.

Of the more substantial fish, the Freshwater drum is a brute. Commonly known as a sheepshead, the current state record stands at 20.46 lbs from Lake Champlain, the only body of water they are found in Vermont.

The Freshwater drum is scientifically unique. It is the only member of the genus Aplodinotus and the only member of the family Sciaenidae that spends its entire lifecycle in freshwater. Mature male sheepsheads have the rare ability to “vocalize”; a set of muscles within their body cavity vibrate against their swim bladder to create a grunting sound thought to be used in mating.

Freshwater drum spend their days in the deep water where they can stay cool. At night, and on very cloudy days, they will move upwards to the shorelines to search for food. Females spawn in early June, choosing warm, shallow water to lay their eggs.

These fish are a favorite of anglers on Lake Champlain because of their size. Being a bottom feeder, the most common way of catching them is to cast a live bait with a heavy sinker; minnows, nightcrawlers, and crickets work well. Small, shiny lures fished slowly can work as well. They are much more active at night.

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