Atlantic Croaker

Atlantic croaker are about 12 inches (30 cm) long and weigh 1/2 to 2 pounds (226 g to 0.9 kg) on average. Its distinguishing characteristics include three to five pairs of small barbels or "whiskers" on their chins to help them feel for food on the sea floor; a lateral line that extends to the tip of its caudal (tail) fin; inferior mouth (located to the bottom of the head facing the ground), and brown vertical stripes on its sides. Adults are silver with a pinkish cast, while young are silvery and iridescent. Older fish are brassy in color with vertical brown streaks formed by spots that are on their scales.

The Atlantic croaker is a very important commercial fish. Millions of pounds are caught and sold every year in the United States and exported to other countries. The annual catch of croaker has declined in the past few years, probably due to over fishing. The best times for fishing for Atlantic croaker are from summer into the fall. They are easily caught on bait (dead shrimp) when fishing on the bottom. Small Atlantic croaker are used as a bait fish to catch other fish, especially spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosis) and crabs.

Atlantic croaker "croak" by vibrating their swim bladders with special muscles as part of their spawning ritual. A swim bladder is a pocket full of air inside the fish that helps keep it afloat and facing upright. This behavior attracts females. Along the Gulf Coast, they reach sexual maturity at about one year old. This varies in other areas. Spawning season is in the fall, with a peak between August and October. During spawning season, females will release between 100,000 and 2 million eggs, each about 0.35 mm in diameter. After hatching, the larvae (immature stage) drift toward land. They are abundant on soft bottoms, such as mud, where there are large amounts of detritus for them to feed on. The Atlantic croaker's diet includes shrimp, crabs, and detritus (dead and decomposing plant and animal matter).

Atlantic croaker can live up to eight years. Their predators include striped bass, shark, spotted seatrout, other croakers, and humans. Croaker that live in the northern part of their range mature later and live longer than those in the southern part of their range. Because of predation, more than 95% of the Atlantic croaker population dies every year. Atlantic croaker should not be eaten raw because they may pass trematodes (parasites) to humans. The croaker is closely related to spotted seatrout and red drum.

Atlantic croaker prefer estuaries and bays through the spring and summer, then travel offshore in the fall to breed.

The Atlantic croaker is found on the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Species Information

Scientific Name:Micropogonias undulatus
Environment:Inshore, Surf
Ideal Temp:48-90°F (9–32°C)
Technique:Bottom Fishing
Lure Type:Bottom Rig
World Record:3.94 kg (8 lb 11 oz) Chesapeake Bay, Virgina, USA 17-Aug-2007 Norman T. Jenkins
Other Names:Hard Heads, King Billies, Grumblers, croaker

Latest Atlantic Croaker Fishing Reports and Spots

Wednesday December 2 2020 - 12/3/2020 9:06:10 AM

Red Drum Tackle Shop’s own Kara V. Denise Travis and Mike were out at Ramp 38 today and had a successful day. Between the four of them they cau (View)

Duck Surf Fishing 9/25/2020 - 9/27/2020 10:06:42 PM

The surf fishing in Duck and entire outer banks has been great past couple days. Lots of red drum spot croaker kingfish and few trout. Picture (View)

Sept 9&10- Feed the Crew Again - 9/12/2020 5:36:09 PM

 Brandon and I have once again took on the challenge of feeding the Ferry Crew. Two took bottom rigs and a sack of shrimp and off we went..... (View)

Red Drum Being Caught In Currituck Sound 9/6/20. - 9/9/2020 4:41:07 AM

Carson Mandis caught this nice size puppy drum in Currituck Sound. We are also getting puppy drum pompano spot croaker and kingfish on the beac (View)

Thursday 9/3/20 - 9/4/2020 2:09:40 PM

In Summary: Send all questions and pictures to Surf Fishing Report: It was a good day for the surf anglers. Lots of different (View)

Friday 9/4/20 - 9/4/2020 2:09:13 PM

In Summary: Send all questions and pictures to Surf Fishing Report: It was an extremely hot day but the fishing was better wi (View)

Wednesday 9/2/20 - 9/3/2020 4:01:58 AM

In Summary: Send all questions and pictures to Surf Fishing Report: There was a good Spanish and Bluefish bite on metal at th (View)

Aug 30- Feed the Ferry Crew - 9/3/2020 3:16:07 AM

 While playing around this morning with a cast net I caught a jumbo Jumping  Mullet and app 75lbs of Menhaden. Impressive but a useless mess. A (View)

Good Red Drum Bite In The Sounds 8/24/20 - 8/26/2020 3:31:09 AM

We are Having a good Red Drum bite in the sounds. On the Duck and Corolla beaches we are catching plenty of sea mullet spot croaker and some blu (View)

Wednesday 8/19/20 - 8/19/2020 6:46:06 PM

In Summary: Send all questions and pictures to Surf Fishing Report: There were Drum and Bluefish reported at the point some P (View)