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Atlantic Croaker

Micropogonias undulatus

The Atlantic croaker has a deep notch in its dorsal fin and a slightly pointed tail fin. (NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center)
The Atlantic croaker has a deep notch in its dorsal fin and a slightly pointed tail fin. (NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center)

The Atlantic croaker is a silvery-pink fish that makes a loud “croaking” sound. It visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • Silvery body with a pinkish glow
  • Silvery or brassy white belly
  • Brassy brown spots that form faint, irregular stripes on the back and dorsal fin
  • Deep notch in the dorsal fin
  • 3-5 pairs of small chin barbels
  • Slightly pointed tail fin
  • Grows to about 18-20 inches, but can be as long as 24 inches

Habitat:

  • Bottom-dweller
  • Prefers sandy or muddy areas in shallow or deep water

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay from March-October
  • Found throughout the Bay as far north as the Susquehanna Flats
  • Moves up the Bay in spring and back toward the ocean in autumn
  • Leaves the Bay in autumn and winter for warmer southern waters

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Preys upon bristle worms, mollusks, crustaceans and small fish

Predators:

  • Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass

Voice:

  • Makes a loud croaking sound

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns over the continental shelf in July-February, with a peak in August-October
  • Beginning in August, tiny young enter the Bay and travel to low-salinity and freshwater creeks. They move to deeper parts of tidal rivers for the winter.
  • Juveniles leave the Bay with the adults the following autumn
  • Matures at 2-3 years old
  • Can live for 7-8 years

Other Facts:

  • Also called hardheads
  • Small croakers are called pin heads
  • Popular with recreational anglers
  • Croaker abundance varies widely from year to year. Some years there are many croakers in the Bay, while others years there are very few.
  • A member of the drum family, which includes spot, weakfish, red drum, black drum and spotted seatrout. All drums are able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles. Atlantic croakers are the loudest of the drums.
  • The Chesapeake Bay record Atlantic croaker, caught in August 2007 off New Point Comfort Lighthouse in Virginia, weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and measured 27 inches long.

Sources and Additional Information:




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