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Virginia Institute of Marine Science

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The shore fisheries of Virginia have long produced an important part of the nation's seafood supply. The principal fishing gears, the pound net and the haul seine, take a variety of fishes, of which the most important is the croaker, Micropogon undulatus. Prior to World War II from one-quarter to one-half of the landings of food fishes in Virginia consisted of croakers, and the catch reached a maximum in 1945 when more than 55 million pounds were landed (Fig. 1). Since that time the croaker catch has decreased precipitously, and in 1952, the latest year for which records are available, less than four million pounds were delivered to Virginia ports.

Commercial fishing for croakers within Chesapeake Bay extends from March or April until the middle of October. The best catches usually are made in spring and fall, when the fish are migrating. In winter, all but the young leave the Bay, and offshore they continue to be caught by otter trawls. It is not known whether extensive migrations occur during the winter months, but some southward movement seems likely. Of 188 adults tagged in the ocean off Virginia in 19492 only two were recovered, both south of Cape Hatteras.

Little is known of the life history of the croaker. Spawning, it is believed, occurs in fall and winter, probably near the entrance of the Bay. Pearson ( 1941) took larval and postlarval croakers from 1.5 to 15 millimeters long in plankton nets near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in September 1929 and from July to October 1930 inclusive.

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Copyright by the Ecological Society of America