Maryland Fish Facts

Atlantic Croaker
Atlantic Croaker


Atlantic Croaker
Micropogonias undulatus
(A.K.A. Hardhead)
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).​

Distribution:
  • Found in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.
  • This species is uncommon north of New Jersey.​

Size:
  • 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.​

Habitat:
  • 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.​

Spawning:
  • 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.​

Fishing Tips:
  • 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.​

Fun Fact:
  • 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)

​For more information on Atlantic croaker and their management, please check the ASMFC website www.ASMFC.org (look for Atlantic croaker in the Managed Species section) or contact Harry Rickabaugh.