croaker, member of the abundant and varied family Sciaenidae, carnivorous, spiny-finned fishes including the weakfishes, the drums, and the whitings. The croaker has a compressed, elongated body similar to that of the bass. The name describes the croaking or grunting sounds produced by members of most species, chiefly during the breeding season. Croakers are found in sandy shallows of all temperate and warm seas. They range in weight from the 1-lb (0.5-kg) Atlantic croaker to the 150-lb (68-kg) common drum. The Atlantic croaker, common from Cape Cod to Texas, is an important food fish. The spot-fin croaker is found in the Pacific. The drums, the largest and noisiest croakers, include the red drum, or channel bass, of which over 2 million lb (900,000 kg) are taken per year off Florida; the common, or black, drum, found from New England to the Rio Grande; and the freshwater drum, found in central North America. The whitings, or kingfishes, include the Northern, or king, whiting, or sea mink; the Southern kingfish, or king whiting; and the surf whiting and its Pacific counterpart, the corbina. All average 3 lb (1.4 kg) in weight and 2 ft (60 cm) in length. Croakers are bottom feeders; those mentioned above have sensitive chin barbels to aid in locating their prey. The weakfishes, named for their easily torn flesh, lack barbels; they are also called sea trout. The common weakfish, or squeteague, abundant along the Atlantic coast, grows to 12 lb (5.5 kg) in weight and 3 ft (90 cm) in length. The more southerly spotted weakfish is similar. The white sea bass, weighing up to 60 lb (27 kg), is a Pacific croaker found as far north as Puget Sound. The spot, a small croaker, is commercially important in Virginia and the Carolinas, where the annual catch is estimated at 10 million lb (4.5 million kg) or more. Croakers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Sciaenidae.
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