The Atlantic croaker, aka hardheads or pinheads (for the smaller ones), (Micropogonias undulates) is a species of ray-finned fish belonging to the Sciaenidae drum family.
They produce a croaking sound by vibrating their muscles against the swim bladder, resonating like a ball, hence, the name. They can grow up to 18 inches and even be as long as 24 inches and weigh about 4-5 pounds and can live up to 8 years.
They are found in coastal waters in the Western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico.
Atlantic croakers have a pinkish-silvery body, a white stomach, and a gleaming head. It has metallic brown marks forming faded and uneven stripes on its back.
Croakers change their body to a prominent golden or yellowish shade during the spawning season. They have 3 to 5 pairs of tiny whiskers or barbells on the chin, a profound notch on the dorsal fin, and a slightly pointed anal fin.
Habitat and Lifestyle
Adult Atlantic croakers typically inhabit estuaries and bays in muddy or sandy bottoms during spring, summer and fall and migrate offshore in winter when the temperature drops; during winter, they can be found offshore above sandy and muddy bottoms where they feed and breed as well.
The juveniles remain in piers and reefs. The young ones typically occupy freshwater estuaries, and as they mature, they move to the ocean to join the adults in the fall season.
Atlantic croakers are bottom feeders. They feed on organisms, including invertebrates, crustaceans, bristle worms, mollusks, polychaetes, and small fish. They are bottom-feeders.
Finding and Catching
This fish can be caught from an inflatable boat or kayak.
Typically, the best place to find Atlantic croakers is in offshore and deep water during the summer and fall seasons. Croakers are schooling fish, so if you see them, you can catch a lot of them.
In spring and summer, you?ll find them in
- Marine structures
- Deep shore waters
- Surf and shore
In winter, you can locate them in marine structures and reefs.
You can catch Atlantic croakers from the shoreline in spring and summer. However, if you want to make a good catch, you may want to take a boat and venture out into the open sea for bottom fishing using a double hook rig with bait.
Some of the effective technique for catching Atlantic croakers includes
- Drift fishing
- Anchor fishing
- Spin casting
- Saltwater jigging
- Still fishing
The peak season is from August to October.
Following are some of the best bait for Atlantic croaker.
- Live shrimp
- Small crabs
- Dead shrimp
- Saltwater live bait
- Sand fleas
- Cut bait