Drummer: Black
Sci: Girella elevata

Common Names: The official name for this fish is "eastern rock blackfish", but few anglers use that title, and it tends to cause confusion with the closely related luderick or blackfish (G. tricuspidata). East coast anglers also commonly call the black drummer a "pig".

Description: The black drummer is a robust, deep-bodied marine fish with a relatively small mouth and head. Its colour can vary from black, blue-black or purple-black to dark grey, slate-grey or even a sooty off-white. The drummer's belly is only slightly paler than the rest of its body. Smaller specimens sometimes display indistinct bars and patches, particularly at night.

Size: Most black drummer taken by anglers run from 0.4 to 3 kg, but they can sometimes exceed 5 kg , with exceptional specimens of 9 kg having been reported.

Distribution: Black drummer frequent temperate ocean shorelines from about Noosa Heads in southern Queensland to Wilsons Promontory in Victoria. They have also been taken along the north eastern Tasmanian coast. A closely related fish is found in Western Australia. Juveniles and sub-adults sometimes enter estuaries, but drummer are generally found in the ocean or around bays and harbour mouths.

Fishing Techniques: Baits of cunjevoi flesh, cut crab, bread, abalone gut, peeled prawn-tail and squid or cuttlefish are most successful, particularly when used with a berley of soaked bread or bran and chopped green weed or "cabbage". The drummer will often take weed baits used by luderick (blackfish) anglers, but the light tackle used for these fish is often not strong enough to land larger drummer. Most drummers are taken from the shore, but there are some small-boat specialists who enjoy considerable success by anchoring close to rock ledges, inshore bomboras, reefs or islands. Since the drummer is a very strong fighter and will dive for the seabed or make a run for a cave, double-strength hooks and lines from 6 to 15 kg breaking-strain are mandatory.

Eating Qualities: Black drummer are very tasty, particularly if cleaned, skinned and filleted soon after being caught. Smaller fish from 0.8 to 3 kg are generally better for the table than very large specimens.

By Steve Starling