Key Distinguishing Markings:
- Chin with 3-5 pairs of small barbells and 5 pores.
- Caudal fin double concave.
- Body is elongate and somewhat compressed.
- Dorsal fin deeply notched, with 10 spines in the anterior portion and 1 spine and 26-30 soft rays in the posterior portion.
- Upper dorsal side with numerous brassy spots that from wavy bars (less distinct in large individuals).
- Maximum adult size is 50 centimeters total length (1.6 feet) in the Chesapeake Bay area.
- Atlantic croaker up to age 13 have been sampled from Maryland waters.
- Found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
- This species is uncommon north of New Jersey.
- Adults found on mud, sand and shell bottoms.
- In Maryland, adult croaker move up the Chesapeake Bay and coastal estuaries during spring and back toward the ocean in fall.
- Juveniles are found in estuarine and coastal waters from shallow shoals to moderate depths.
- Found in the Chesapeake Bay during spring and summer, mostly concentrated midway up estuary at about 18 ppt salinity.
- Atlantic croaker are bottom feeders that consume polychaete worms, mollusks, a variety of small crustaceans, and occasionally small fishes.
- First spawning occurs at age 2-3 in continental shelf waters from July through February, with peak spawning from August through October in the Chesapeake Bay area.
- The recreational season for catching Atlantic croaker is open year round.
- Currently, a 9 inch size limit and 25 fish/person/day creel limit is permitted.
- For current recreational and commercial size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.
- Croaker are most commonly caught bottom fishing with bloodworms, squid strips, peeler crab or soft crab.
- Atlantic croaker like the Black drum get their common name from a large and elaborate swim bladder that, by using special muscles, can resonate to produce croaking or drumming sounds.
Family: Sciaenidae (drums and croakers)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Illustration by Diane Rome Peebles
Provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
Division of Marine Fisheries Management