| Yellowfin Croaker
Alternate Names: Golden croaker.
Identification: Has a large, fleshy barbel at the tip of the lower jaw. Their coloring is a blue to grayish-tan on the back, silver overlaid with dark wavey lines on the sides, and bright yellow or golden fins.
Size: Up to 18 inches and nearly 4 pounds, although most caught off piers are under 14 inches.
Range: From the Gulf of California to Point Conception (although reported from San Francisco in the1800s). Most commonly caught from Ventura south.
Habitat: Common in shallow-water sandy areas, both oceanfront and in bays.
Piers: Caught mainly during the summer months, especially July and August. Best bets: Crystal Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Huntington Beach Pier, Seal Beach Pier, Belmont Shores Pier, Manhatten Beach Pier and Malibu Pier.
Bait and Tackle: Light to medium tackle; high/low surf leaders with number 6 or 4 hooks. Fish with fresh mussels or ghost shrimp. Other good baits are clams, sand crabs, bloodworms and innkeeper worms. Fish from the surf area to midway out on the pier.
Food Value: In the past this was considered a very good eating, mild-flavored fish. Today there are warnings in many areas against eating croakers. They are a bottom feeder and in polluted areas tend to accumulate toxins in their body (because of the food they eat). If you do eat them, it is best to bake or broil them in such a manner that the fats in the flesh will drop away from the meat. (I must admit it is hard to write this since pan-fried croaker was a delicacy most of my life -- but be warned).
Comments: Yellowfin croaker are attractive fish that reaches a decent size and put up a scrappy battle. By far, the best time to catch yellowfin croaker is around sundown or during the night.