Many anglers in the Chesapeake Bay region turn their noses up at the lowly Atlantic Croaker. They aren’t as sleek as Speckled Trout, lack the size of Red Drum, and don’t have the prestige of Striped Bass. Croaker are numerous to a point of being a nusiance to those who pursue other species. The Virginia Marine Resouces Commission hasn’t even put a creel nor size limit on these fish. This member of the drum family gets as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield.
What a shame. Back in the 1970’s, eight inch croaker were considered keepers. And back then they weren’t as common as they are now. Other species may be more glamours. But, fresh croaker is one of the best things that ever met seafood breader and hot oil. For those of you who devalue or have forgotten this fish, I invite you to get re-aquainted with it in a different way.
Firstly, put away that broom handle thick rod with the battery cable fishing line! Kayak fishing for croaker allows you to use much lighter tackle. Using five and six foot medium action rod and reel combos with 8 to 12 lb test line will make your fights with these bottom brawlers a lot more interesting. Indeed, a two or three pounder will pull a drifting kayak angler.
Don’t waste time trying to drown bloodworms and squid in 20 feet of water on bottom rigs. Croaker often feed in water less than eight feet. I have found my largest specimens in four! Think of what they eat; little shellfish, worms, and baitfish. You are more likely to find such food near marsh shorelines than in the middle of a main creek or river channel. This is another great advantage of kayak fishing, the ability to go to places where motor boaters dare not venture.
Lighter tackle and shallow water permits you to try artificial lures. Jigs and spinner baits sweetened with such scented products as Berkley Gulp or Fish-bites are very effective on croaker. Try to match color combinations and lure types with what the fish are feeding on. I have even heard of on ‘yaker catching them on flies. As with any other fish, croaker hit moving targets with more aggression than a stationary piece of bait
Always consider, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. From April to July, I see Carolinians visiting the York River chasing after this fish which some of you curse at. Do they know something that you don’t? There is only one way to find out.