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Atlantic croaker is a member of the drum family and closely related to red and black drum, sea trout and weakfish. While all the drums are able to make a drumming/croaking sound, Atlantic croakers are among the loudest of the drums. They range from Massachusetts south along the Atlantic seaboard and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. These bottom-dwelling croakers prefer shallow estuaries and bays with sandy or muddy bottoms. They stay there through the spring and summer, and then breed offshore in the fall.
The Atlantic croaker is a silvery fish that often has a pinkish hue when inshore or golden hue during spawn. The sides may have dark oblique wavy lines. They have inferior mouth with 3 to 5 pairs of chin whiskers. The dorsal fin is deeply notched tail slightly pointed. Most specimens are around 12 inches or so, although larger fish reach18-20 inches with a trophy being 24 inches or more.
Prolific fish, croakers have long spawning season that runs from fall to early spring. They spawn in near-shore ocean waters. After hatching, and around ¼ inch in size they make their way to the estuarine habitats, where the shallow marshes are utilized as their nursery area. As they mature they move from the shallows deeper estuary areas. They become sexually mature between age one and two. Atlantic croakers may live upwards of eight years.
Atlantic croakers are bottom feeders where they prey on worms, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.
Atlantic Croaker in Florida
- Atlantic Croaker have an inferior mouth with 3 to 5 pairs of small barbels on the chin
- They have a silver-gray or bronze body with dark oblique wavy bars or lines and are iridescent, especially on their head
- The preopercle is strongly serrated
These fish are generally found north of Tampa Bay on the west coast and north of Cape Canaveral on the east coast. Young fish found in estuaries and older fish (2 to 3 years) inhabit deep offshore waters during the winter months and move into bays and estuaries during the spring, summer and fall.
During spawning, Atlantick croakers become bronze or yellow in color. Spawning apparently occurs offshore in fall.
4 lbs 15 oz, caught near St. LucieAppearance: