From: Capt. Jim Hammond
Date: September 17, 2002
Time: 0:02:30

Croakers

Croakers

ATLANTIC CROAKER

(Micropogonias undulatus)

It's Time to get ready for Virginia Croakers

The nice croakers are just now showing up and will get bigger and thicker as this month ends.

Here are a few tips and techniques on when, where and how to fill the cooler and have great fun with some hard pulling on 3/4 to 2 1/2 pound croakers.

We will start with the bait:

I like to use three types of bait, shrimp, cut bait (croaker, mullet or squid) and Fishbites. When I use shrimp, I like to remove the shell and cut a medium size shrimp into four or five pieces that are about 1/2 inch in length. Adjust the number of pieces that you get depending on the size of the shrimp.

When I use cut croaker, mullet or squid I like the size of the bait to be a little larger, maybe, about 1 inch in length.

And with Fishbites, I like the size to be about 1/2 inch square. To make the Fishbites this size you will need a pair of scissors to cut this, as it is very tough. It is similar to cutting a thick piece of rubber. Fishbites comes in several sizes and several colors. Last year the croakers that I caught seemed to like the pink and chartreuse best. This bait is a bait that can be kept in your tackle box and needs no refrigeration, so it is always ready when you are. This is an synthetic bait that is designed to produce a smell and taste that is a fish attractant and feeding stimulant. You can purchase Fishbites at Thrifty Bait and Tackle on Cassatt Ave 786-9080 and Clapboard Creek Fish Camp on Heckscher Dr 757-1423.

The rod and reel:

I like to use a Shakespeare 7 foot long Ugly Stik Lite bait cast rod with Shakespeare SKP 4000A bait cast reel or a Shakespeare Tidewater SS 4835 or 4840 spinning reel on an Ugly Stik 6 1/2 foot long medium or medium heavy action rod. Fill the spool with 20 or 30 pound test Power Pro.

The terminal tackle:

You will need lead sinkers that range in size from one ounce to what ever it takes to hold bottom. Here is where Power Pro comes into play as one of the benefits of using it on the spool. The amount of lead is determined by the current as it pushes against the line that you have in the water. The larger diameter the line on your spool and the stronger the current, the more lead you are going to need to hold bottom. Think about this. If you have one pole out with 20 pound test mono on it and you also have another pole out with 6 pound test mono on it and the current is running fairly strong, which of these two poles is going to need the most lead to hold bottom. The one with 20 pound test, because the 20 pound test mono is larger than the 6 pound test, therefore there is more surface area for the running water to pass over. Here is another example. You are driving down the road, you stick your hand out of the window and open your hand. the wind pulls your hand back from the force of the wind against your open hand. You now do the same thing and only stick out one finger. There is less force on one finger as opposed to your entire hand. So, if you have 20 pound test Power Pro (six pound diameter) on the spool you have less drag and therefore need less lead to hold bottom. These fish are bottom feeding fish and if your bait is even up a few feet from the bottom you are wasting your efforts. Without a doubt, the best hook for this type of fishing is the Daichii Circle Wide in 1/0 size. When the fish bites the bait, he usually runs with it. The Daichii Blood Red Circle Wide hooks the fish almost every time from the force of the fish pulling against the hook. And one he is on the hook he can't get off.

Tie on a small barrel swivel to the Power Pro, using a Palomar knot.

1. Double about 5 inches of line, and pass through the eye.

2. Tie a simple Overhand Knot in the doubled line, letting the hook hang loose. Avoid twisting the lines.

3. Pull the end of loop down, passing it completely over the hook.

4. Pull both ends of the line to draw up the knot.

From the barrel swivel tie on a 3 foot long piece of 20 pound monofilament leader. From the bottom of the leader tie a loop knot. This knot you will use to slip through the eye of the bank sinker. Come up about six inches and tie another loop knot, that has a loop that sticks out about four to six inches from the rest of the leader. Do the same about six to eight inches up the leader. You should now have a loop knot at the bottom of the leader and two more loop knots six to eight inches apart and six inches up from the sinker. The loop knots should be tied with the tag end of the line passing twice through the loop and pulled tight. Slip on the lead sinker and a Daichii hook through each loop, put on your bait and your are ready or are you.

Where to look for these fish:

These fish will be attracted to rocky bottom in fairly swift moving current. Alright, rocky bottom, my favorite. I always enjoy fishing around rocky bottom because I am always able to go to the tackle store after a days fishing and replace all of the sinkers and hooks that I gave up to the rocks that day. Yes, you are going to go through some tackle. Any time that you drop a sinker and hook in the pile of rocks, you give up some of your tackle that you have worked all week to purchase. You shouldn't feel bad about losing these hooks and sinkers because you are far from being alone when it comes to giving up tackle to the bottom.

In the Jacksonville area these fish can be found around most of the jetty rocks in the river, under the Dames Point Bridge and around Blount Island.

When to catch them:

They are starting to show up now and will be here through October or November. I prefer the outgoing tide but they will bite pretty good on the incoming.

Precautions:

These fish have VERY SHARP gill plates and if you are not careful, your hands will be all cut up by the end of a days fishing for croakers. I like to take one of my wife's nice towels to place in my hand so when I grab the fish I am safe from the gill plates. Just don't let your wife know what happened to he towel or both you and I will be in trouble.

How to have the best fun with these croakers:

Take your kids. This is by far one of the best times of the year to take your kids fishing. The action is fast and furious, these fish eat good and your kids will not be bored.

Things on the check list:

Take plenty of hooks and sinkers as you will go through plenty of them. Take a lot of bait as you will go through more of this than most other types of fishing. Take a towel. Don't tell your wife that I said to take one of her nice ones. Don't keep more than you are going to eat. When the action is fast and furious, you will lose track of how many fish go in the box. When you get home and see a cooler full of fish, you might have wished that you threw some back.

Local Action Report:

The reds in the river and creeks are finally starting to eat. The reds in the river can be found on the deep drops and on the channel edges. Try live poggies, mullet, shrimp, crab or cut ladyfish.

The flounder are biting pretty god in the river and you might try a small mullet or mud minnow, worked slowly on a Jaw Jacker Jig around docks and rock piles.

The tout are also biting pretty good and can be caught on MirrOlures, live shrimp or give the Exude Shrimp on a Jaw Jacker Jig a try.

When the offshore boats can get out, the catches have been pretty good on bottom fish.

For information on booking a charter with me, you can call me at (904) 757-7550 in Jacksonville or email me at

jim@hammondfishing.com fishing charters or guides in the jacksonville florida area

Check out my website, www.hammondfishing.com/, for links to some of the tackle that I have written about or to find out when and where my fishing show plays in your area.

Good Fishing

Capt. Jim Hammond