For those unfamiliar with the ocean depths, the Atlantic croaker, also known as the hardhead or silver badger, may be somewhat of a mystery. This small saltwater fish is highly sought-after by recreational anglers due to its savory flavor and abundance in inshore waters along the Atlantic coast. In addition to being found in the Atlantic, smaller populations exist around the Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific coastline from California to Baja Mexico. Although these small fish can be found from shallow marshes to oceanside surf, they will typically remain near the bottom of their natural habitat.
Atlantic croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, are a type of drum. Other drums are found around the world and several different species are sold as food in many markets. The Atlantic croaker, however, is most easily recognized by its large silver scales and striking banjo-like shape. A full grown Atlantic croaker can reach a size of 21 inches in length and weigh up to three pounds. Despite its large size they are usually caught around the 8 - 10 inch range.
The Atlantic croaker feeds primarily on seafood such as small fishes, crustaceans and bivalves. Adult croakers will also feed on fish roe, or eggs from other species, as well as some plant materials. It has even been seen in research studies that the Atlantic croaker would feed on their own eggs during certain times of the year. The fish spawn in the late summer and fall months, typically taking advantage of high salinity water bodies such as the Gulf of Mexico and offshore habitats.
Although the Atlantic croaker has a keen eye when it comes to feeding, they may not be as swift when it comes to avoiding predators. The majority of their predators are larger fishes and some seabirds. It is during these times of predation that the croaker's signature "croaking" sound is made. Their ability to make this sound is made possible through their swim bladder, which allows them to make noise when vibrated. The sound is used as an announcement of presence for possible mates and as a warning to predators.
The Atlantic croaker is an important species for recreational and commercial fishermen alike. It is commonly eaten for its sweet white flesh, which is mild and flaky. The meat is low in fat content and can be cooked in any number of ways. This makes it ideal for baking, broiling, steaming, or poaching. It is also popularly used in fish tacos, stews, and soups.
In addition to being a tasty feast, the Atlantic croaker is sought after by commercial fishermen for its bycatch. Bycatch is the unintended catch of other fish while targeting a particular species. Since the croaker tends to inhabit deeper waters and areas of poor visibility, they can be easily caught along with more commercially valuable species such as striped bass, cod, and flounder. This allows fishermen to diversify their catch and help to sustain the Atlantic croaker population.
The Atlantic croaker may not be the biggest or most sought-after fish in the ocean, but it's certainly one of the tastiest. Not only is it a great way to mix up a seafood dinner, but its presence has also been known to benefit larger and more commercially important species. For this reason, it's important to practice safe and responsible fishing practices when pursuing the Atlantic croaker so that their population can continue to be a source of joy for generations to come.
How a Atlantic Croaker Travels to a Dinner Plate
The Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) is a species of fish found in the coastal waters of the western Atlantic Ocean, ranging from North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. It is an important species for recreational, commercial and subsistence fisheries. The croaker's flesh is mild, white and flaky, making it a popular choice for dining. It can be found in a variety of menus from soups and stews to fried fish. Through its journey from the Atlantic Ocean to a dinner plate, this fish provides many human beings with a nutritious and sustainable source of sustenance.
The life cycle of the Atlantic croaker begins in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean. spawning typically occurs during the late spring when water temperatures reach as high as 80°F (26.7°C). Males move into the shallows of the coastal waters and begin their courtship display. During this time, the males attract a mate with a characteristic drumming noise broadcast through their swim bladders. After successful spawning, eggs are released into the water where they develop and hatch into larvae.
Once hatched, larval croakers undergo a period of rapid growth and development in the coastal waters. Even during this stage, their diet primarily consists of small crustaceans and plankton, two of their primary food sources. As the larva grows, it begins to rely more on larger prey items such as mollusks and worms. F
or a period of time they migrate along the shoreline, while also hunting for food in shallow waters. Eventually, they migrate to deeper waters of nearly 200 feet (60 meters) where they remain until adulthood. Only at this point, they begin to move into the open ocean waters, where they feed on larger fish and squid.
Once the croakers reach maturity, they then travel to near-shore waters to spawn. The mature fish typically remain in this shallow water environment through the end of their three to four year lifespan.
The journey of Atlantic croaker from the ocean to a dinner plate begins with the commercial fishery. The majority of the fish is caught by several different fishing methods, including trawling, longline, and gillnets. This process involves the use of large nets that are dragged behind a vessel, allowing for the capture of large amounts of fish.
Once caught, the croakers are then quickly removed from the water and placed in fish holds in which they are transported to local ports. At the port, the fishermen unload the fish and place them in a processing plant. Once processed, the croaker is packaged and then sent to distribution centers for supply to retailers nationwide. This journey can take anywhere between three to five days.
Retailers also may transport the croaker individually or in bulk, depending on their business needs. Once delivered to the store, the fish is first put in a storage unit, and then put on the store’s display shelf. This process requires constant temperature control and air-flow to keep the fish fresh.
Once the fish leaves the display shelf and is purchased, it is transported in one of the many ways to get the product to the customer’s door. This often includes shipping or curbside pick-up, or it may involve a restaurant where the customer gets to learn about preparation methods, nutritional facts, and portion sizes.
Before the croaker can be served and enjoyed, it must be prepared and cooked. Unlike some other species of fish, the Atlantic croaker needs to be cooked until firm. This can be done by either baking, poaching, sautéing, broiling, pan frying, or grilling. When cooked, the Atlantic croaker has a mild and flaky texture, making it unique among other fishes.
On a dinner plate, the croaker can be served alongside salads, vegetables, and other savory sides. This could include mashed potatoes, rice, grilled vegetables, and sauces to add flavor. All of these ingredients create the perfect meal for any occasion.
The Atlantic croaker has traveled a long journey from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to a dinner plate. Through the efforts of fishers, distributors, retail and restaurant entrepreneurs, and culinary professionals, the croaker is able to be enjoyed sustainably by millions of people. This species serves as a great source of healthy nutrition and a delicious meal at the same time.
|Vitamin A||0.023 mg|
|Vitamin B1||0.09 mg|
|Vitamin B2||0.13 mg|
|Vitamin B3||0.0043 grams|
|Vitamin B5||0.74 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.26 mg|
|Vitamin B9||0.034 mg|
|Vitamin B12||0.0021 mg|
Daily Value 1.3 g
Daily Value 0.018 g
Daily Value 0.4 g
Daily Value 1.25 g
Daily Value 4.7 g
Daily Value 2.3 g
Daily Value 0.011 g
Daily Value 0.9 mg
Daily Value 0.0023 g
Daily Value 0.055 mg
|Aspartic Acid||1.791 grams|
|Glutamic Acid||2.981 grams|
|Total Sugars||0.131141 grams||
|Myristic acid (14:0)||0.09 grams||
|Palmitic acid (16:0)||2.19 grams||
|Stearic acid (18:0)||1.19 grams||
|Total Saturated fatty acids:||3.47 g|
|Oleic acid (18:1)||4.79 grams||
|Palmitoleic acid (16:1)||0.44 grams||
|Gadoleic acid (20:1)||0.08 grams||
|Total Monounsaturated fatty acids:||5.31 g|
|Omega-3 Timnodonic acid (20:5)||0.11 grams||
|Omega-3 Clupanodonic acid (22:5)||0.08 grams||
|Linolenic acid (18:3)||0.16 grams||
|Linoleic acid (18:2)||2.38 grams||
|Total Polyunsaturated fatty acids:||2.73 g|
|Total Sterols:||0.08 g|