- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Black drum (Pogonias)
Black drum are characterized by their high-arched backs and numerous barbels that hang from the lower jaw. The barbels serve as feelers for the fish, aiding in its search for food. Adults have dusky to black fins and tails on a silvery body. The younger fish referred to as puppy drum, possess 4 to 6 vertical bars and are sometimes mistaken for other species. The dorsal fins of the black drum have 11 spines, 20 to 22 dorsal rays, and 41 to 45 scales along the lateral line, which runs all the way to the end of the tail. The large, silvery scales are very difficult to remove. The black drum has large cobblestone-like teeth in the throat, allowing it to easily crush oysters and barnacles. Typical of all drum species, the tail is shaped like a broom.
Black drum are fundamentally bottom feeders. The smaller fish feed on marine worms, shrimp, small crabs, and small fish. Larger drum feed on crustaceans and mollusks, with a preference for blue crabs, shedder crabs, shrimp, oysters and squid. Generally, the fish enters estuaries to feed on a rising tide, and then leaves as the tide drops.
Black drum are native to the western Atlantic Ocean and, in North America, they occur from southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico. Major concentrations are found in the Chesapeake Bay area and the tidal waters of Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
Black drum also inhabit South America, ranging from southern Brazil to Argentina.
The black drum is an inshore, bottom-dwelling fish common to bays and lagoons. This species prefers sandy bottoms in salt or brackish waters, especially near breakwaters, clam and oyster beds, pier pilings, high marsh areas and shorelines. Although these fish are suited to a wide temperature range, black drum generally do not survive long in waters colder than 37 F. Likewise, the species can adapt to varying levels of salinity, with the younger fish preferring freshwater areas. During the first three years of life, the black drum appears to migrate very little, generally residing in estuaries. Mature adults may move further offshore, but frequently return to the estuarine system.
- The flesh of the black drum is white, flaky and easily separated from the large bones. It is most often prepared in soups and chowders.
- Spaghetti worms are common in the larger black drum. Although the worms are not harmful to humans, many anglers release the larger fish.
- Black drum roe is a highly prized delicacy.
- The large, silvery scales of the black drum are often used in fish jewelry.