It seems that the fall invasion of Croakers seems to be a really good one up in the river.
Boats are lined up daily on some of the gathering spots where the Croakers seem to like to hang out.
And the best part is they are bigger than what we've seem to have in past years.
Another thing is that the Croak's seem to be all over. Usually all you have to do is anchor up along a spot with good current in relatively deep water that has some good hard bottom (IE: shell, rocks, docks, ledges and edges) and you'll find the fish. But this year I've fished some of my Trout spots up in shallow water (3-10 feet) and have caught some real whoppers. Well, whoppers for NE Florida standards. Meaning a 14-16" Croaker.
Talk about a trip to take the Kids on. These nice pan sized fish, can be instantaneous gratification for the less patient younger anglers........and adults for that matter. And the cool thing about the whole deal is you can also catch pup Black Drum in the 14" to 4-5 pound range.
Experimenting at various locales, and anchoring skills is about the only prerequisite for Croaker hunting. Because tackle, bait and techniques are pretty straight forward. Find them, anchor on them, and bait up and drop down to them, and set the hook. I find the bigger Croakers will kinda "sand bag" ya......hanging on the hook for a second or two. Which means really easy fishing. The same way a good size Seabass does offshore.
Small Croakers make great Redfish bait too. And many times I'll anchor up and have my folks catchin Croakers up on the bow, while I drop a few lil' Croaks off the stern on heavier tackle, pinned to large cricle hooks (5/0-8/0) and all we have to do is watch for the tell tale bounce, bounce, and then the rod double over.......Brutus T. Redbass, ON!
Big Red's seem to hang near the schools of Croak's, so don't go out unprepared to do battle with a bull Red, either. I usually do Croak fishing when I have people looking for a fish fry afterwards this time of year. Croak's can be cleaned either by filleting or just headed, skinned, gutted, and finned and fried whole in a deep fryer. Coolers full of these "cousins to the Redfish" have no size or bag limits in Florida, so they make for a great way to feed the neighborhood family, or folks at a company or club outing.
I just don't like being the one that gets stuck cleaning 80 pounds of Croak's. So if that's the intent, we'll talk prior, and you may have to bring a larger cooler than normal for transporting your Croakers home.
Right when you think you've caught the Croaker of all time, just remember that up near the Chesapeake Bay area, Croaker's are KING. And you probably won't have caught a world Record.
The largest I have ever caught was at the Navy Base Basin. Back when you could poke your stern in there with out having .50 caliber machine guns pointed at ya. And I caught back to back two, 3 pounders......and that was it. Just two. I threw them in the box, not thinking much of it. Only after I started cleaning all my fish afterwards did I say to myself "I better weigh these babies...cuz they're monsters!"
Just so ya know what a really big Croak'a looks like, here's a photo of a real Monster Croaker that could easily be mistaken for a nice Redbass.
This Croaker had
I certainly wish I could convince all the people who had their kids out with me on every other trip I did this summer in the blazing heat, and busy waterways, that NOW is the time to get your kids out fishing.
Instead of when it's 99 degrees at 10am and over the 4th of July week!
Which is WHY I do almost 1200 words a day here on this blog, attempting to inform and educate my clientele. Kids are only allowed to go fishing in the summer???
I have a few days coming up that will have a good full moon falling tide most of the day. And I plan on giving some Croakers a try, intentionally......if I can break away from the addiction of float-rig fishing. Although they sure are fun on the Float-rig too. We've been picking up some big Croaks while float-rigging dock piling in not so deep of water. And on a light rod these fish are fun to catch. A lot better than those locusts, the Mangrove snappers!
Why don't we trade a few Croakers with S. Florida and they can take back all their tiny bait stealing Mango's? We have no Mangrove Trees for these fish to hide under, so I think the fish themselves would be alot happier if they could hang around and bother anglers that fish their name sake.
Bait and Tackle: Pieces of dead shrimp, ya just can't get no easier than that, when it comes to catching Croakers. And I'm sure you can even get away with some of the fake junk too, like Fish-Bites. I use what I call the standard St. Johns bottom rig when fishing for Croakers, Drum, Reds, Whiting and Pompano. I just use a hook that fits the task. I like the Nylon sinker slides, that have a dou-lock snap to put on a bank sinker. The sinker slides are black tubes that go on your line, and then you can change sinkers per the current, then to a swivel and leader. My favorite hooks are VMC or Owner small 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks. I hopefully want to be able to release any smaller fish with out gut hooking them, so many times I use the circles versus a straight hook.
Leader length is about 14 inches. And have various size weights with you too. From 2 ounce to 6 ounce bank sinkers.....if I have to use more than 6 ounces to reach and STAY PUT on the bottom for Croakers, the currents too fast for me. And I'll look for a different area.
If you are reading this and want to have a big ole southern style fish fry, have a son or daughter that loves catching fish, or just want to spend the day bottom fishing a lot of action. This is YOUR time of year. Don't wait till January. And don't expect the same kind of trip in July.
Call NOW, and lets go have some fun in the cooler temps, no stress, relaxing type fishing.
I even have two fat cushioned deck chairs for two people to relax in as they set the hook on these fun fish, that we have plenty of right now.