Fishing for Atlantic Croaker
This page has information about Atlantic croaker fishing including tips, techniques, rigs, baits, lures, recipes, photos and more.
Atlantic Croaker or "hardhead" are popular saltwater fish of the mid-Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the USA.
Croakers are caught on a variety of baits and lures. In some areas, croakers gather in schools and can be caught in great numbers.
These popular saltwater fish are closely related to red drum, black drum, weakfish, spotted seatrout and spot.
Atlantic croakers get their names because of the "croaking" noise the make when removed from the water.
Croaker are a popular fish due to their hardy nature, accessibility and prolific numbers. They are among the first fish to be caught in the spring and are caught over a wide range of habitats. Croaker can be caught from piers, jetties, inlets, in bays and from the surf.
Croaker baits include shrimp, crabs, squid, cut fish, bloodworms, clams and other saltwater baits. Anglers also have excellent success using artificial bait products which have fish attract scents embedded in them.
In addition to cut baits, croakers can be caught on a variety of jigs and other saltwater lures. Saltwater anglers also catch croakers in grass beds and other shallow areas using fly fishing gear. Popular flies include small baitfish patterns as well as flies that imitate shrimp or small crabs.
Saltwater Fish and Fishing Links
- Baits and Rigs for Catching Croaker
These popular bottom fish are sometimes found in large schools and can be caught with basic equipment.
- Study Links Climate Change and Abundance of Atlantic Croaker
Studies show a strong link between croaker abundance and winter temperatures. An $8 million annual commercial fishery exists for Atlantic croaker.
Virginia Croaker Fishing
Summer and early fall is prime time for catching big croakers in Virginia. As summer heats up, croaker school up and are caught in ever increasing numbers from boats, jetties and Virginia's piers.
This fishing is easy and new comers will find croakers an exciting fish to go after. Anglers need only a sensitive rod and reel in good condition, bottom rigs and baits such as bloodworms, squid strips, pieces of shrimp, cut peeler crab or any of the bait products such as fish bites.
Fishing on the piers of Hampton Roads is an excellent technique for targeting big Virginia croakers. By late July and early August, piers such as the Virginia Beach pier and the Seagull pier sometimes experience unbelievable catches of croakers and spot. Mixed in with the spot-croaker runs are Spanish mackeral, bluefish, pompano, pigfish and other species.
Croaker are also caught in the Chesapeake Bay around bars, areas of shell bottom or other structure. Croaker fishing often gets better and better thru September. Many anglers prefer the fall as the summer crowds have left and the temperatures are cooler. During the fall runs, croaker are joined by bluefish, sea trout, rockfish and others.
As the days shorten, croaker begin migrating out into the ocean. During this period, Atlantic croaker sometimes gather in enormous numbers off the Virginia Coast. Once located, they are easily caught with squid strips or practically any available bait. Migrating croaker sometimes remain on the near shore ocean shoals for weeks, being caught by anglers until mid or late November.
Croakers with Herb Mayonnaise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of Tabasco sauce
1 -1 1/5 pounds Virginia croaker fillets
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, chives, parsley, lemon juice, zest, salt and Tabasco sauce. Transfer half of the mixture into a separate bowl, cover, refrigerate and set aside.
Heat a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Brush croaker fillets with remaining herb mayonnaise. Place each piece (coated side down) into the preheated pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden. Turn and brown on remaining side for another 1-2 minutes.
Transfer cooked fillets onto serving plate and top each portion with approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons of reserved herb mayonnaise. Serves 4.
Southern Fried Croaker Fillets
1 lb croaker fillets
1/4 cup milk
1 cup seafood breader mix or catfish breader mix
oil for frying (olive, peanut, vegetable or sunflower oil)
1. Pat fish dry with paper towel.
2.Combine eggs and milk. Place breader mix in freezer bag.
3.Dip fish in milk egg mixture and drop in breader, shake well.
4. Lay fillets in hot pan. Cook till golden brown on each side.
Croaker Tackle - Rods, Reels, Rigs, Lures
Spinning rod and reel combinations are the most popular outfits for catching croaker. They are affordable, simple to use, and suitable for a wide variety of fishing conditions.
Several factors are important when choosing an outfit. Line size and capacity, drags, spools, bearing construction, gear ratio, overall weight and other specifications are all factors when choosing a spinning reel, with length, action and durability affect rod choices.
Choosing line for an outfit is important. Modern fishing lines basically fall into two classes; traditional monofilament line and space age braided lines. Each line type has its list of advantages and disadvantages that should be considered.
For croaker fishing, most anglers still use monofilament due to its affordability and ease of use. Braided lines offer special features although they are much more difficult to work with.
After line class, features, and price range are selected, a reel can be selected and matched to a suitable rod. Rods and reels can be purchased separately, or as combination packages. Outfits are usually spooled with line and are ready to fish, unlike separate components. The rod, reel, line and tackle should be evenly matched for best performance.
Anglers use a variety of rigs when fishing. A standard top and bottom rig works well with cut bait. Other rigs may be specialized depending on where croakers are found. For example, specialized rigs are necessary when surf fishing.