Drummer, Black and Silver

(Girella elevata) – Black.

(Kyphosus sydneyanus) – Silver.

Commonly referred to as Pigs in the east and buffy’s in the west!

The black drummer is a powerful species commonly encountered from treacherous Eastern Australian rock ledges. They have a reputation for not only being a powerful and dirty battler using everything to their advantage including the environment but also as a fine table fish when eaten fresh. Black drummer are also referred to as pigs or rock black fish a name that has led to the confusion between black drummer and the popular luderick ( Girella tricuspidata ), also named black fish. Both species are caught in similar areas using similar fishing methods although unsuspecting luderick anglers using lighter gear are more often than not annoyingly blown away by the larger and more powerful black drummer.

Silver drummer are an elusive species that are often encountered in bread berley trails around rocky head lands and off shore islands and reefs. Silvers are a fairly uncommon angling experience throughout the eastern states of Australia and although are considered to be an excellent sporting species they do have the unfortunate reputation of being a very poor table fish. Silver drummer are plentiful throughout W.A where they are referred to as Buffalo bream or buffy’s for short due to their large sizes.


Black drummer can be encountered from southern Queensland down to eastern Tasmania and prefer rough, turbulent waters  with
plenty of reef and food sources such as crabs, cunjevoi and urchin present. Silver drummer can be found from Coral Bay in Western Australia right across the bottom end of the country including Tasmania. Silvers are also occasionally encountered in N.S.W. and are especially prolific on Lord Howe Island.


Black drummer can grow to over 65cm in length and weigh as much as 9kgs although most larger fish commonly encountered throughout Australia average around 2 – 3.5kg. Silver drummer can grow to around 75cm in length and weigh as much as 15kg.


Drummer inhabit coastal inshore waters such as beaches, rocky head lands, off shore islands and shallow reef systems with ample food sources available.


Black drummer can be easily recognised by their muscular, short bodies which are light brown in colouration in juveniles and a darker blue, black in adult specimens. They have a small mouth full of unusual weed shredding teeth and a large powerful tail. Silver drummer are similar in appearance although are considerably lighter in colouration and much larger in size. Silvers also have 11 dorsal fin spines as opposed to the 13 found on a black drummer.

Taste rating

  • Seventy Taste Rating

Black drummer are a great tasting fish when looked after and eaten fresh.

Sport rating

  • Ninety Sport Rating

Drummer are an incredibly powerful species that are capable of using everything including their environment to their full advantage. Hold on!

Tackle requirements

Medium to heavy rock fishing outfits such as alvey reels and powerful, long fibreglass rods are typically used to subdue these rampaging opponents. Alvey reels loaded with strong, abrasive resistant nylon lines are not only preferred for their powerful one to one retrieves but also for their rugged durability in one of the most unforgiving fishing environments imaginable. Due to the small mouth and fussy eating habits of this species leaders should be both strong enough to withstand the brutal torture they will be subjected to yet also light enough not to spook the drummer from feeding confidently.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Fresh baits such as large, green prawns, cunjevoi and cut crab are all exceptional baits for targeting black drummer with bread crusts also proving to be effective on both species of drummer. Baits need to be presented as naturally as possible and small, strong hooks are needed to maintain strong, constant pressure throughout torrid battles. Small ball sinkers run directly down to the hook with a small, strong swivel placed above will suffice for most black drummer situations depending on location. Two swivels are always needed when using Alvey reels to avoid line twist!

Handy hints and tips

When fishing for drummer try to allow your baits to waft around in the turbulent, white water as naturally as possible. Too much lead will send your offering plummeting to the snaggy sea floor before a fish can even set its eyes upon it!

Preferred fishing times and tides

Drummer like most shore based species prefer a rising tide that coincides with low light periods such as dawn and dusk. Rough sea conditions are ideally suited to targeting drummer but always remember to never risk rescuers lives! Rock fishing is the most deadly sport in the world and for good reason. Beware and be sure to take all precautions necessary before stepping onto wet, slippery rock platforms!


[What The Fish]