Atlantic croaker are found in coastal waters and the Western parts of the Atlantic Ocean. In North America they are commonly fished from Massachusetts all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re going fishing for croaker, read these tips and learn everything you need to know about this fish.
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Atlantic croaker have a silver body with a pink tint. They usually have a lighter color belly such as silver or white. Their backs often have brown spots which are somewhat hard to see because they are so light. Croaker have barbels on their chin, usually around three to five on each size. The average croaker will grow to be around 18 inches in size, though large ones can reach sizes upwards of 24 inches.
Where to Catch Croaker
Croaker are commonly found in the surf near the beach. Look for river outlets that have hard sandy bottoms. In spring, summer, and fall you can find them in estuaries, while in winter thay may move to deeper sections in tidal rivers.
They are a schooling species so as soon as you catch one, you are very likely to find more in the same area.
Tips and Techniques
Fish The Bottom
Croaker are a bottom fishing species. So you have to work your lure down to their level. You can use a bottom rig or use artificial lures worked along the bottom and have a lot of success.
Try a Multi-Hook Rig
A three or four hook rig worked along the bottom can work wonders for schooling croaker. You can use strips of squid or other cut bait to really ramp up the feeding activity. Just make sure the kind of rig you are using is legal in your area.
Find The Food
If you’re trying to locate the school of croaker, they will tend to stay near the food. They commonly eat smaller fish and crustaceans, so if you can find where these are in your waters, the croaker won’t be too far behind.
Croaker Gear Recommendations
Rods and Reels
A 6 foot medium action spinning rod and reel is perfect for croaker. They are not a very large fish but are still known to put up a bit of a fight, so make sure your gear can handle it.
Baits and Lures
For artificial lures you can use small spoons, bucktail jigs, or plastic worms to catch croaker. Live bait or cut bait is also widely used. Strips of squid, bloodworms, nightcrawlers, shrimp, and crab also work. Squid is probably the most often used.
The best rigs for catching croaker are multi hook bottom rigs. Most anglers will use a two to four hook rig with strips of squid or other bait to attract bites. There are many ways to setup these rigs, just make sure you use a weight large enough to get your rig to the appropriate level. Often a sinker weighing 2 ounces or less is all you really need.
For croaker, circle hooks and mustad hooks tend to work best. Size 2 to 1/0 are commonly used. If you’re going with a multi hook rig you may want to use several smaller hooks such as size 6 or 8.
How to Clean
Croaker are known to be quite tasty, so many anglers catch croaker with the intent to cook them later. The most popular way to clean a croaker is to fillet it, especially if it is larger. Use a fillet knife to cut along the dorsal fin. Then, cut out the skin above the ribs, flip the fish over, and work away the skin on the other side. Filleting a croaker isn’t hard as soon as you get a little experience.