Like the pro he is, Capt. Jody Auenson fishes with all types of baits and lures: soft plastics, plugs, live shrimp and cocahoe minnows.

But he really loves live croakers.

“They catch big trout,” Auenson said with a broad grin. “You never have to measure croaker-fish.”

Croakers are good, but they aren’t a year-round bait. They become available in early May and last until mid-September, Auenson said.

“They get big by the end of the summer, but I like big croakers,” he explained. “The bigger the bait the bigger the fish.

“None of my customers want a big croaker; I tell them I’ll take it.”

Fishing with live croakers is entirely different than when using live shrimp or plastic lures, where an immediate strike is important.

Auenson spends a great deal of time teaching his customers how to fish with croakers.

“I tell them to keep their rod tip straight up,” he said. “When you feel the thump, lower the rod to where it is level, and only then set the hook.

“Set it firmly, but not with a crazy yank.”

One disadvantage to fishing with live croakers is their cost, the guide said as a trout flipped off of Auenson’s hook into the boat while leaving the croaker on the hook. 

“Heh, heh, heh,” he chuckled evilly as he cast back. “A two-fish croaker! At 35 cents a croaker, that’s good.

“I’ve been fishing croaker all my life. Before 20 years ago, I had to catch my own. I had my own boat when I was 8 years old: an 8-horse Briggs on a little wooden skiff. It was straight drive. When I cranked it, it went.”