The next time you’re out fishing in the coastal waters of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, you will like to come across croaker and spot fish. These two types of very common in these areas and often confuse anglers as to what they are when caught. Most anglers are in search of redfish, flounder, and seatrout. It may be essential to identify croaker and spot because they can be just as tasty as the more targeted species or preferred bait for larger predators. What is the difference between a croaker vs spot?

Spot Fish 

Spot fish are incredibly abundant and can be caught in a variety of ways. Not only are they caught frequently by anglers, but they are also commercially fished. 

How To Catch Spot Fish 

To catch spot light action rods and reels are best. 

They are aggressive feeders who dine low in the water column or on the bottom. 

Small hooks are ideal. 

Use blood worms, shrimp, or squid. 

Spot is found from deep water to the shoreline of beaches and around submerged structure.

Generally speaking, spot are small in size, measuring up to twelve inches in length, but are caught around eight inches for the most part. The sides of the fish have stripes running vertically along both sides of the body. A black spot, thus the reason for the name, is found just behind the gills on each side. The fins are typically yellow in color. Some refer to them as croaker spot. 

These fish may be small, but they are tasty. The fillets are mild in taste, white, and flakey. Because of the size, they are often cooked whole rather than filleting them up. 

Cooking Spot Fish Whole 

When cooking the fish whole score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife from top to bottom three to four times.

  • Heat the grill to 350 degrees
  • Use a basting brush and coat each side of the fish in oil
  • Add your favorite seasonings

Place the fish on the grill and cook them for three to four minutes on each side or until flakey.

Beyond the excellent table fare, use them for live or cut bait. When catching small spot, place them a live well. Rig these baits up with a large hook to chase redfish, seatrout, flounder, shark, weakfish, tarpon, and more. If they die, cut them up into chunks to fish on the bottom. 

Atlantic Croaker

Much like the spot, croaker is also very commonly found. They are bottom dwellers who tend to congregate in large schools.

How do you catch croaker?

Most of the time, they congregate on muddy or sandy bottoms, but this doesn’t mean they won’t travel to rigid structures.

Because the mouths face in a downward direction, they eat from the bottom of the seafloor.

Light to medium rod and reel combos are sufficient.

Small hooks baited with live shrimp, small crabs, or squid is excellent. 

When comparing the size of croaker vs spot, you will notice that the croaker is considerably larger. The average-sized fish will measure twelve to fourteen inches and weigh up to two pounds. One common way to identify them is by locating the barbells located under the chin. Three to five barbells can be counted. The body will have brown vertical stripes and a line running from the head back to the tail. Older fish are more pink looking while juveniles are often silver. They are sometimes confused with whiting fish. However, whiting fish does have distinct differences. 

A croaker can yield a fair amount of meat per fillet. As a result, it is not necessary to cook croakers whole. The fillets are sweet in flavor and white in coloration. 

Pan-fried Croaker fillets

  • Heat a frying pan with two inches of oil to medium heat
  • Place four cleaned fillets in a bowl of flour that has been seasoned with pepper and garlic powder
  • Move the fillets into a second bowl filled with once cup of buttermilk and coat them
  • In a third bowl that contains a cup of cornmeal, coat each side of the fillets
  • Drop them in the heated frying pan, flipping after two minutes
  • Test with a fork to be sure the meat easily flakes apart
  • Serve them with tartar sauce

Much like spot, croaker is presented well as live bait. It may be challenging to find them small enough to rig up. If you do, place them in a live well until you are ready to rig them up. Large seatrout and other larger fish have a hard time passing these up. 

Atlantic Croaker vs. Spot Fish 

Sometimes we have a slow day on the water and miss out on the fish we were targeting. When evaluating croaker vs. spot let’s be happy that we at least catch one! Just because you didn’t catch the more sought-after gamefish, don’t miss out on enjoying the action of both croaker and spot and what they bring to the dinner table. The croaker is higher on the list for most anglers when compared to spot. Either way, each will provide the tug on your line that you’re in search of.