How to Catch a Yellowfin Croaker

How to Catch a Yellowfin Croaker

A yellowfin croaker has a body that is elliptical-elongate with a somewhat arched back. Their head is blunt and conical. The yellowfin croaker is a gray to iridescent blue with brassy reflections on their backs that diffuse to silvery white below. There are many dark diagonal wavy lines on their back and sides. The fin is a yellowish color with dark dorsal fins. To differentiate the yellowfin croaker from other croakers in California, the yellowfin has two heavy spines at the front of their anal fin and a single fleshy projection on their lower jaw.

They mainly eat small fishes but they will also eat worms, mollusks, and crustaceans. A yellowfin croaker can reach lengths of almost 22 inches but average 9 to 17 inches. They can live to be 15 years of age. A yellowfin croaker can weigh as much as four to five pounds.

Some of the other names for this fish include:

  • Yellowfin drum
  • Yellowtailed croaker
  • Catalina croaker
  • Golden croaker

Where to Find a Yellowfin Croaker

You can find a yellowfin croaker from Point Conception, California to the Gulf of California, Mexico. They are a type of fish that is frequently found in channels, bays, harbors, and nearby waters that are over sandy bottoms. During the summer months, they are more abundant along the beaches. During the winter, they may move to deeper water. The yellowfin croaker will go to depths of about 60 feet but they are most common in shallow water. If you are fishing off a pier, you should find them just past or in the breaking waves.

How to Catch a Yellowfin Croaker

When you fish for yellowfin croaker, there are no set size limits. Most yellowfin croakers are caught between central Baja and Ventura County, California. They are a schooling fish and more abundant between July and September. This is a great fish to catch if you are a light tackle fisherman that you can catch along the shore.

The yellowfin croaker is known to strike at the bait without hesitation and if they are hooked, they will put up a heck of a fight to try to get away. This makes them a fun catch and could be considered by some to be a sports fish.

If you are fishing off a pier you can catch them year-round during the summer months, especially July and August. Because they are mainly an inshore species, it is not necessary to charter a boat or use one to fish for yellowfin croaker. On a good day fishing, expect to catch yellowfin croakers by the dozens.

Best Bait for Yellowfin Croaker

The bait that is mostly used includes worms, mussels, soft-shelled crabs, and clams. Make sure the bait is completely defrosted prior to fishing. The yellowfin croaker is attracted to the scents of these baits. The fresher the bait, the better.

Best Lures & Tackle for Yellowfin Croaker

The best way to catch a yellowfin croaker is to use a surf rod that is six to nine feet with a spinning reel and any type of line. You can use a light to medium tackle with number four or six octopus or mosquito hooks. Sometimes they will hit artificial lures if they are shiny but prefer to attack live bait. The line you use should be 8-15 pound test monofilament or 10-pound fluorocarbon line. Some like to use a ¾ ounce egg weight in order to get the bait down to where they are located. Most of the gear required is less expensive compared to most other fishing tackle.

How to Cook Yellowfin Croaker

You can fry or bake yellowfin croaker. It is a great fish for fish tacos. Here is one recipe that you can use to fry up your fresh caught yellowfin croaker.

  • Enough yellowfin croaker to feed ever how many people you are feeding
  • ½ teaspoon of each – pepper and salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic that is crushed
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 6 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • Some paprika to taste.

Mix all these ingredients together and coat your fish with it and then fry them. Serve it with slaw or fries or both.

If you cannot fish for yellowfin croaker and want to see what it tastes like, you can many times find it frozen in an oriental grocery store. The flesh is delicate, tender, and highly praised by Asian culture. You will often find this fish in Korean and Chinese cooking. When you are using Chinese cooking as a way to fix yellowfin croaker, use braised garlic cloves with pan-friend croaker. The aroma of the cloves of garlic will get into the sauce subtle but will not overpower it.

Here is another recipe for fried yellowfin croaker.

The recipe for the breading includes:

  • 1 cup of flour
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 tablespoon coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all of these ingredients in a bow until they are thoroughly combined. Use canola oil to coat the bottom of the frying pan and put it on medium heat. Wait until the oil is 350 degrees. It should start to give off a light smoke.  Dredge the fish into the flour mixture, making sure that it is completely coated. There should be enough moisture to make the flour mixture to stick to the fish.

Put the fish in the oil and let it cook until the flour turns brown, which would be about three to five minutes. Now it is time to flip it over and cook it for another three to five minutes. The internal temperature must be 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yellowfin Croaker Reproduction

A yellowfin croaker spawns during the summer months along the sandy beaches. They do not reach maturity until they are over nine inches long. They reproduce quickly and are an abundant fish in the waters that they swim.

Fun Facts about a Yellowfin Croaker

  • In 2018, a study was done and it was shown that the yellowfin croaker was the fish that was most caught during the summer months, using only sand crabs as bait.
  • It gets name umbrina roncador comes from the Greek work unmbra, which refers to the shady, darkened sides of the yellowfin croaker. Roncador is Spanish for snore.
  • Since 1915, it has been illegal to sell or buy yellowfin Croaker in California so the only way to get them is to catch them.
  • The largest yellowfin croaker was over 21 inches.
  • You cannot use a net to catch a yellowfin croaker as it has been illegal to do that since 1909 in California.  
  • The coloring of the yellowfin croaker almost renders them invisible against a sandy background.


Yellowfin croaker is a good, mild-flavored fish but you need to realize that they are a bottom feeder. This means that in polluted areas, they can accumulate toxins in their body from the bottom creatures they eat. If you want to eat them, make sure that you broil or bake them so that the fats in the flesh will drop away from the meat.

To learn more about catching yellowfin croaker in California, check out Surf Fishing in So Cal.

If you are interested in learning more, read How to Catch a Leopard Shark.

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