Creature Feature: White Croaker

white croakerWhite croakers may be found statewide off sandy beaches near and within the surf zone, however they are most abundant from San Francisco Bay southward. White croakers swim in loose schools at or near the bottom, in the surf zone, or in shallow bays and lagoons. Most of the time white croakers are found at depths of 10 to 100 ft. They may on occasion be fairly abundant at depths as great as 781 ft.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Incandescent brownish to yellowish on the back, becoming silvery below
  • Fins are yellow to white
  • Snout projects beyond mouth. Lower jaw does not extend beyond upper jaw, as found in juvenile white seabass caught from piers and often mistaken for white croaker. Juvenile white seabass also have several dark vertical bars on their sides, which white croaker do not.
  • No barbel
  • 12 to 15 spines in the first dorsal fin
  • Usually black spot at base of pectoral fin

Life History & Other Notes

White croakers eat mostly worms and small crustaceans (crabs and shrimp). Given the opportunity they will also eat a variety of fishes, squid, octopus, clams, and other items, living and dead.

Spawning may take place year-round, but most fish mature and spawn in the late winter to early spring months. Almost all females are believed to spawn several times per season.

Although there is an unverified account of landing a four-pound white croaker, landing a fish that weighs in excess of two pounds is extremely rare. This fish can be caught on almost any kind of animal bait that is fished from piers or jetties over sandy or sand-mud bottoms. In fact, they are so easily hooked that anglers sometimes consider them a nuisance. A tough, difficult-to-steal bait such as squid is recommended.

Review the consumption advisories that includes white croaker.

White Croaker Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Genyonemus lineatus

Other Common Names: kingfish, Tommy croaker, brown bait

Range & Habitat: Most abundant from San Francisco southward over sandy or muddy bottoms

Length & Weight: To 16+ in. and ~2 lb.

Life Span: to 12 years

Diet & Suggested Bait: Primarily eats worms, small crab, and shrimp. Will also eat fishes, squid, octopus, and clams. Use any of these items for bait.

 post based on information in the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book with additional information provided by Chuck Valle, CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist and Armand Barilotti, CDFW Environmental Scientist