Richie Bowen, Recreational Angler
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Posted on February 21, 2013 | Permalink
Any Change of a Good Croaker Season This Year?
Are catfish biting in the Breton Bay waters yet? And what are the chances of having a good croaker season compared to last year? I didn't catch many croaker last year compared to years past but I pulled in tons of striped bass and unusually red drum, is there a reason for the dramatic change in dominant species in my waters?
DNR Response: I would expect a similar year for croaker in 2013 to 2012. The number of juvenile croaker produced in 2009-2011 was below average. 2008 and 2012 were good years for juvenile production, so the majority of the croaker you do catch should be decent size fish (the 2008 year class). Recruitment in the other years was not a total failure so some intermediate size fish will be caught. Generally croaker do not become available to Maryland anglers until age 2, but the 2012 year class was strong enough that I would expect some fish around the legal size limit to be encountered. Croaker are not tolerant of our winter water temperatures and do not come here to spawn. Therefore, they migrate south each winter and come back here to feed and avoid ocean predators. Climatic conditions, water quality and food availability in Chesapeake Bay, and out of state waters play a role in migration patterns. For example, if conditions are favorable in NC and VA we may not see as many croaker, particularly if the population is not extremely high. Of course if we get ideal conditions we could see more than expected. These same factors are generally what cause shifts in fish species in one area from year to year. Red drum appeared to have a very good year class in 2011, coupled with favorable water temperature and salinity levels, which led to our unusually high catches of juvenile fish last year.