Croaker: They aren’t Just Bait!

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When you get a big croaker, don't think of it as bait - that's tasty table fare right there.

Yeah, for ages many people have thought of croaker mostly as bait. And it’s true that they do make good baits. But if you’ve ever fried up a bunch of croaker fillets, you know the rest of this story – croaker also taste great. Add more of ’em to your cooler, with these five croaker-catching tips.

big croaker

When you get a big croaker, don’t think of it as bait – that’s tasty table fare right there.

  1. When you’re catching small croaker, move. Despite the old saying “never leave fish to find fish,” when you’re catching small croaker one after the next you aren’t likely to suddenly reel up a big one. These fish tend to school by size and year-class. So, when the five and six inch fish are nipping your baits the best way to catch bigger fish is usually to simply move on.
  2. Try night fishing. Croaker are incredibly active after the sun has gone down and sometimes you’ll catch few or no fish during the day, but in the very same spot, load up in the dark.
  3. When fishing in the surf or in a pass, keep your baits close to shore. Croaker will often be found prospecting in the surf zone where mole crabs and little clams or tidbits get ripped free by the waves. Particularly during an incoming tide, over-casting the fish is a common problem.
  4. Keep your baits tight to the bottom. If you’ve handled croaker before (and if not just look at the picture) you know that their body and mouth is designed for bottom feeding. Most of the time actively feeding croaker won’t be more than a foot up in the water column. More often, they’ll be rooting around with their nose right on the ground.
  5. When the fish get finicky, offer them any sort of soft shellfish. Croaker usually aren’t too choosy about what they’ll bite, but every now and again they do seem less inclined to take one bait over another. Virtually all the time, however, they’ll have trouble passing over a crustacean that’s shed its shell.

And remember people, look out for those gill plates – they’re sharp!

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