Surf Croaker, Umbrina xanti
The Surf Croaker, Umbrina xanti, whose common Spanish name is berrugata roncadora, is a species in the Croaker or Sciaenidae Family, known collectively as berrugatras and corvinas in Mexico. Globally, there are eighteen species in the genus Umbrina, seven of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and six in the Pacific.
The Surf Croakers have oblong slightly compressed bodies with a horizontal lower body profile. They have a uniform silvery coloration with a yellow tinge and a series of oblique undulating brown or olive brown lines following the scales rows. The inner lining of their gill cavity is jet black. Their fins are yellow. They have high arched backs and their head is broad, conical, and low with a short projecting snout that opens in the front. Their gill covers are finely serrated. Their chin has one thick rigid barbel with a pore at its tip and two pairs of pores at its base. Their anal fin has a short base with two spines and 6 or 7 rays with the second spine being stout and three-fourths the length of the first ray; their caudal fin has a straight or slightly concave margin; their dorsal fin is deeply notched with 10 spines and followed by another spine and 26 to 30 rays; their second dorsal fin has a very long base; and their pectoral fins are short. They have 16 to 21 gill rakers and are covered with rough scales.
The Surf Croakers are found demersal over sandy bottoms along the shore, in the surf zone, and in inshore bays at depths up to 350 feet. They reach a maximum length of 46 cm (18 inches). They are a poorly studied species and little is known about their behavioral patterns.
In Mexican waters the Surf Croakers are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coasts of Baja.
The Surf Croaker is easily confused with the Yellowfin Croaker, Umbrina roncador (oblique lower lines on body; anal fin with seven rays; second anal spine half length of first anal ray).
The Surf Croaker can be caught out of the surf on cut bait (clams, mullet, squid, etc.) with small hooks and bottom rigs. They are viewed as excellent table fare.
Surf Croaker, Umbrina xanti. Fish caught from the beach at Km 21, Cabo Real, Baja California Sur, November 2017. Length: 23 cm (9.1 inches).
Surf Croaker, Umbrina xanti. Fish caught from coastal water off Mazatlán, Sinaloa, October 2017. Length: 29 cm (11 inches). Catch and photo courtesy of Josh Leisen (lifelistfishing.com), Gaylord, MI.