Spotfin Croaker (Roncador stearnsii)

Spotfin Croaker (Roncador stearnsii)

A member of the Sciaenidae (drum and croaker) family, the spotfin croaker is a small species caught by bay, surf, and pier anglers and highly valued as table fare.

Identification

The body of the spotfin croaker is elongate but heavy forward. The upper profile of the head is steep and slightly curved and abruptly rounded at the very blunt snout. The mouth is subterminal, being underneath the head. The color is silvery gray, with a bluish luster above and white below. There are dark wavy lines on the sides and a large black spot at the base of the pectoral fin.

The pectoral fin spot, the subterminal mouth, and the absence of a fleshy barbel distinguish the spotfin croaker from other California croaker. Small specimens may be confused with small white croaker, although dorsal fin counts differ. The spotfin has 11 or fewer (usually 10) dorsal fin spines; the white croaker has 12 to 15. Large male spotfins in breeding colors are known as “golden croaker.”


Size

The average spotfin croaker is small to medium in size, and most weigh roughly a pound. The largest caught on rod and reel in California was 27 inches long and weighed 10.5 pounds.

Life history/Behavior

Spotfin croaker travel considerably but with no definite pattern, moving extensively from bay to bay, usually in small groups but sometimes in groups numbering up to four dozen. Spawning season is from June through September, and spawning evidently takes place offshore, as no ripe fish are caught in the surf, although 1-inch juveniles do appear in the surf in the fall.

Food and feeding habits

Spotfin croaker have large pharyngeal teeth that are well suited to crushing clams, which make up a major portion of their diet; crustaceans and worms are also eaten extensively.

Other Names

spotty, spot, golden croaker.

Distribution

Spotfin croaker range from Mazatlán, Mexico, to Point Conception, California, including the Gulf of California; in California they are most abundant south of Los Angeles.

Habitat

Spotfins are found along beaches and in bays over bottoms that vary from coarse sand to heavy mud and at depths varying from 4 to 50 or more feet. They prefer depressions and holes near shore.
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