Yellowfin Croaker Fishing: Pier and Surf Fishing

About the Yellowfin Croaker

Not the first fish you’ll hear about, but likely the first fish you’ll catch if you’re just beginning your surf fishing journey. The yellowfin croaker is the most abundant and frequent catch off of the Southern California coastline. To learn more about yellowfin croaker fishing, the species, its size, habitat, its preferred bait and much more, continue reading.

Yellowfin Croaker

Yellowfin Croaker Identification

The yellowfin croaker, marked by its radiant yellow fins, is slightly taller and stouter than the corbina. The general coloration is similar to that of the corbina, but the yellowfin croaker possesses subtle vertical stripes along its side and a faint speckled pattern along its scales.


Yellowfin croaker occur from the Gulf of California, Mexico to Point Conception, California. The bulk of yellowfin croaker fishing takes place from San Diego through Los Angeles County. Check the Department of Fish and Wildlife website for up-to-date information.


These fish prefer flat and sandy environments. You’ll most commonly find them in the surf and off piers, but you’ll also find them in bays and estuaries during the colder months. Look for troughs and scallops or other signs of structure by reading the surf, and you’ll find a good bite.

Legal Limit (#)10 Bag Limit
Legal Size (in)N/A
Record Size (in/lb)21.6-inches (an 18-incher was recorded at 4.5-pounds
Fighting Strength (-/10)Hit: 9/10 | Fight: 5/10
RangeGulf of California, Mexico – Point Conception, California
All information within this chart and this page is unofficial. Refer to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for official numbers and regulations.

Size and Population

While they don’t grow to be as long as corbina, they sure hit hard! Yellowfin croaker are known to strike bait without hesitation making for an incredibly fun catch! They roam similar territories as corbina and spotfin, but in general don’t roam as shallow as corbina.

How big do yellowfin croaker get? They range from about 9-17 inches while some push past the 20” mark. The largest of this species registered at just over 21-inches! That’s saying a whole lot because pound-for-pound, croaker will strike your bait and fight harder than almost any other fish.

These fish are very abundant during the summer months (May – August) and like corbina, tend to swim deeper during the winter months.

best time of year to catch yellowfin croaker graph and chart
Yellowfin Croaker Season Catches

These fish seem to be thriving in Southern California, and more specifically in San Diego’s beaches. According to a study carried out in the summer of 2018, yellowfin croaker were the most frequently caught fish during the Summer months. This study was carried out among various San Diego beaches while only using sand crabs as bait. The next most abundant fish in the surf was the corbina. These results were quite interesting as there seemed to be a decline of surfperch. Conversely, a slight increase in yellowfin and corbina was noted in comparison to past years. Interestingly enough, summer of 2019 resulted in corbina being the most common catch. The status of croaker fishing over the past few years has been terrific and it looks to only be getting better.

Yellowfin Croaker Fishing: How to Catch Them

There are a few characteristics and tendencies of yellowfin croaker that are crucial to note if you want to successfully go about yellowfin croaker fishing. I’ve fished for the species listed in this website for quite some time now and I’ve noticed some tiny details that might be handy to know.

The most notable discrepancy in behavior between yellowfin croaker and corbina is the depth in which they spend their time. To put it plain and simple, croaker will spend time in slightly deeper water than corbina. I know this because I’ve fished with many different people, and every fisherman has a different and unique style. I enjoy fishing as shallow as possible because I enjoy finesse fishing and sight-casting. Most other fishermen like to cast out in mid-range or deeper water. When I fish with anglers who like to cast deeper, I find that my corbina count will be much higher than theirs, yet they catch larger quantities of yellowfin croaker.

Diet/Bite Tendencies

Their diet consists of small crustaceans and mollusks including sand crabs, muscles and clams. They too, consume the occasional bait fish as well.

Yellowfin croaker will essentially go for any bait you throw out there, where corbina and other fish are just slightly more selective. They’ll out-compete the fish around them. They show no hesitation when taking bait which means they’re more bold. Likewise, they are very aggressive as they hit their prey with force and purpose!

They have an appetite for a wider variety of food sources than other fish. Try using squid, and you’ll notice you catch more rays, fewer corbina, yet still an abundance of yellowfin croaker. Of course, if you use sand crab, your numbers will only increase in all species!

Gear and Tackle for Croaker Fishing


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