Alternate Title

Patterns of Maturity, Seasonal Migration, and Spawning of Atlantic Croaker in the Western Gulf of Mexico


Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) are one of the more common finfishes in the Gulf of Mexico. They are a significant component of Gulf bait fisheries and an important midtrophic component of nearshore food webs. In this study, life-history parameters associated with growth, maturity, and seasonal migration were estimated for Atlantic croaker in Texas and integrated into previously described data throughout the rest of the species range. The major findings of this work were the following: (1) a majority (>76%) of age-1 female Atlantic croaker were sexually mature; (2) egress of adults from inshore habitats took place in late fall (Oct./Nov.) in consecutive years (2002 and 2003); (3) egress of adults was predictably coincident with declining growth after age-1 and the onset of sexual maturity; and (4) ingress of juvenile Atlantic croaker into inshore nursery grounds began in early winter and progressed through early summer, but a majority of recruits appeared in a short span between Feb. and April. Seasonal patterns of migration of both adult and juvenile Atlantic croaker are consistent with those described in other parts of the species’ range and imply offshore spawning in the fall and winter followed by year-round inshore development of postlarvae and juveniles. Given the importance of inshore residency of juvenile Atlantic croaker, abundance estimates from fishery-independent sampling were scaled up to system-wide estimates of juvenile abundance in two prominent Texas estuaries and used to qualitatively assess the potential impacts of the commercial fishery on the inshore segment of the population.