The Atlantic croaker, Micropogonias undulatus, is a member of the drum family. Sometimes called drum, golden croaker, or hardhead, it inhabits Atlantic coastal waters from Massachusetts to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico around Texas.
Large concentrations can be found in the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River delta. From March to October, croaker will be found over sandy or grassy shallows and move into deeper water in the winter.
The names croaker and drum are descriptive of the noise the fish makes by vibrating strong muscles against its swim bladder, which acts as a resonating chamber, much like a drum.
During spawning season (August to December), croakers turn a distinct golden color, hence the name golden croaker. At maturity (three to four years), croakers reach between 1-1/2 feet long and 4-5 pounds, with the average size being 1/2-2 pounds.
Since the average croaker is relatively small, this fish is usually sold drawn (viscera removed, head on) or dressed (head and viscera removed). Larger fish will be filleted. The croaker offers a tender meat with a mild, sweet flavor. The fish can be baked, broiled, or fried to bring out its flavor.