Courtesy of Don Flescher
The Atlantic croaker ranges from Massachusetts to northern Mexico, however it is less common north of New Jersey and south of central Florida. Adults spend the spring and summer months in estuaries over mud or sand bottoms in areas of low to moderate salinities. During the fall, adults migrate offshore to spawn over a broad area of the continental shelf where they overwinter until returning to estuarine habitat in the spring. Juvenile croaker inhabit low salinity to freshwater areas of estuaries during their first year, overwintering in deeper channeled areas. They mature at the end of their first or second year and join the adults in the seasonal offshore migration during the fall. The maximum reported age of this species is 8 years. Whether in estuarine or offshore waters, croakers are bottom dwelling fish that feed on a variety of worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fishes.Typical of fish in its family (Sciaenidae), the sonic muscle – swim bladder is the sound producing mechanism of the Atlantic croaker. In contrast to other Sciaenids, where only the males posses this mechanism (i.e. weakfish and spot), both the male and female Atlantic croaker have sonic muscles. While sound production is used by mature males to court females for spawning, it is also used by females and immature individuals as a fright response. You will likely observe this if you ever find one of these fish hanging from the end of your fishing rod.