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.
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
Prefers sandy or muddy areas in shallow or deep water
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
Preys upon bristle worms, mollusks, crustaceans and small fish
Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass
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
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.