Fisherman standing at the seashore hooks a fish

How To Catch Spotfin Croaker: A Trophy Fish in the Surf

There's something about the challenge of catching a fast and wily fish that makes it so much fun. When you're out there in the surf, trying to reel in a spotfin croaker, you know you're up against a real opponent. And that's what makes it such a rewarding experience when you finally manage to bring him in. But what does it take? How much effort does it take to catch one? Well, we've got all the tips and tricks you need to succeed. So, keep reading to learn more.

What Is a Spotfin Croaker and Where Can You Find Them?

The spotfin croaker is a ray-finned fish found off the coast of California. Their scientific name is Roncador stearnsii. Spotfin croakers get their name from the dark spots that dot their pectoral fins. They're usually bluish-silver with white bellies. And they can grow to be pretty big! Adults can reach up to two feet long and weigh up to eight pounds. 

You can commonly find these fish in bays and estuaries, but one can also find them in the open ocean. They tend to stick close to the bottom, where they can find food. During the day, you'll find them hiding in eelgrass or kelp beds. But at night, they move into shallower water to feed. 

Spotfin croakers are opportunistic feeders, so they'll eat about anything they can find. Their diet consists of small fish, crabs, shrimp, and worms. They use their sensitive barbels (or feelers) to locate food in the sand or mud. 

How To Catch Spotfin Croaker 

Catching a spotfin croaker is no easy feat. These fish are fast and slippery, so you'll need to be prepared. Here are a few tips to help you out. 

Use Live Bait

One of the most popular methods for catching spotfins is to use live bait. This can be anything from minnows to worms and even crayfish. The key is finding something they are actively feeding on in your area. If you're unsure what to use, your best bet is to ask at your local bait shop or fishing tackle store. They'll usually have a good idea of what's working well in the area and can set you up with everything you need.

Rig Your Bait Properly

Once you've got your bait, it's essential to rig it correctly. If you're using live bait, you'll want to hook it through the nose or lip. This will help keep it alive longer and make it more attractive to the fish. If using an artificial lure, ensure it's properly secured to your line. You don't want it coming off in the middle of your cast!

Choose the Right Gear

If you're fishing for spotfin croaker, you'll need to use the right gear. These fish are fast and robust, so you'll need a good quality rod and reel to handle the fight. You'll also want to use a heavier line than you would for other types of fish. A good rule of thumb is to use a bar that's at least a 20-pound test. This will help you avoid breaking your line and losing your fish.

spotfin croaker

Set the Hook Quickly

Once you feel a bite, setting the hook quickly is essential. These fish are quick and can throw the hook easily if you're not careful. The best way to set the hook is with a swift, firm rod jerk. You don't want to yank too hard, or you'll risk breaking your line. 

Be Prepared for a Fight

When you hook a spotfin croaker, be prepared for a fight. These fish are strong and will put up a good fight before they give in. The key is to keep a tight line and use steady pressure to reel them in. If you let up even for a second, they'll take off, and you'll have to start again. 

Tips for Keeping Your Line Tight

You can do a few things to keep your line tight and avoid losing your fish. 

  • Ensure your reel is adequately spooled and there's no line tangled around the handle. 
  • Use your thumb to apply pressure to the line as you're reeling. This will help keep the line tight and give you more control over the fish. 
  • Finally, try using a heavier line than you would for other types of fish. This will help prevent breakage and give you a better chance of landing that big one.


Spotfin croaker is a popular game fish found in bays and estuaries all along the coast. These fish are fast and robust, providing a good challenge for anglers. If you're hoping to hook one of these feisty fish, use live bait and rig it properly. You'll also need a good quality rod, reel, and heavy line. But, with some patience and practice, you'll be landing a spot in croaker in no time.

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