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Types of Catch

We catch a wide variety of fish on the Chesapeake depending on the time of year. See what types of fish we generally find on our Fishing Calendar

Thanks to information provided as a public service through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, we have listed some basic information about the different types of species found in the Chesapeake Bay.

Rockfish  Bluefish White Perch
Hardhead Spot Flounder
Trout SpadeFish  
     

Calendar
April 21 - May
Trophy Rockfish, Big Blues
late May
Night Fishing:Hardhead (croaker), Trout
June
Bluefish, Trout, Rockfish
Night Fishing:Hardhead (croaker), Trout
late June
early July
2 weeks in Cape Charles:
Cobia, Red Drum, Sharks
July
Spot, Blues, Trout, Hardhead (Croaker), Mackerel
Night Fishing:Hardhead (croaker), Trout
August
Spot, Hardhead, Flounder, Mackerel
Night Fishing:Hardhead (croaker), Trout
September
Flounder, Trout, Blues, Rockfish
October

Rockfish, Blues, Trout

November
Big Rockfish
December
White Perch Trout, Big Rockfish
mid December
thru
January 29
Duck Hunting


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Striped Bass*
Morone saxatilis
(A.K.A. Rockfish, Rock, Striper)

Striped bass is a silvery fish that gets its name from the seven or eight dark, continuous stripes along the side of its body. Striped bass tend to move north to nearshore waters of the New England coast during the summer, and south to the North Carolina/Virginia Capes during the winter. The east coast migratory population is composed of three major stocks - Hudson, Chesapeake, and Roanoke.

The striped bass stock within Chesapeake Bay is composed of pre-migratory fish, primarily ages 5 and younger, and coastal migratory striped bass from age 2 to more than age 20. Mature resident and migratory striped bass move into tidal freshwater in the late winter and spring to spawn. After spawning, migratory fish return to the coast. Most spend the summer and early fall months in middle New England near-shore waters. During the late fall and early winter, coastal striped bass migrate south to winter off the North Carolina/Virginia Capes.

Striped bass are one of the most sought after commercial and recreational finfish in Chesapeake Bay.

Striped Bass Fun Facts:

  • The largest striped bass ever recorded was a 125 pound female from North Carolina, 1891.
  • The oldest ever recorded was 31 years of age.
  • The current Maryland Chesapeake Bay record striped bass is 67 lbs., 8 oz.
  • The average Chesapeake Bay 6-year-old female striped bass produces 500,000 while a 15-year-old can produce over three million eggs.
  • Striped bass tagged in the Bay have been recaptured in Canadian waters, over 1,000 miles away.
  • Striped bass were so plentiful at one time, they were used to fertilize fields.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov


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Bluefish*
Pomatomus saltatrix
(A.K.A. - Blue, Snapper, Skipjack)

Bluefish are the only members of the family, Pomatomidae, and are closely related to jacks, pompanos, and roosterfish. Bluefish are greenish blue with a sturdy compressed body, a large head, and sharp, triangular teeth. They are found throughout the world and are a migratory species that range from Nova Scotia to Florida off the Atlantic coast and can be found in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas. Along the east coast, bluefish migrate northward in the spring and summer and southward in the fall and winter. During the summer, bluefish are concentrated from Maine to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina and during the winter, most tend to be offshore and south between Cape Hatteras and Florida.

Bluefish are a pelagic schooling species that primarily travel in groups of like-sized fish. Most bluefish mature by age 2 (approximately 14½ inches), and females can produce from 900,000 to 4,500,000 eggs. Spawning and larval development takes place offshore in the South Atlantic (North Carolina to Florida) in the spring and to a lesser extent in the summer and fall, and in the mid-Atlantic during the summer. In Chesapeake Bay, peak spawning occurs offshore in July. After they spawn, bluefish move inshore with smaller fish generally entering Chesapeake and Delaware Bay and larger ones moving northward. Juvenile bluefish grow quickly and by late fall, there are usually two size groups along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts. Those fish that were spawned in the south during the spring are 6-8 inches, whereas those spawned in the summer are 2-4 inches. Most juvenile bluefish spawned in the south during the summer in the mid-Atlantic and in the fall in the South Atlantic remain in the coastal waters, but some summer-spawned fish do enter the lower Bay for a couple of months before they return to the coast in the fall and join the adults in their move southward.

Bluefish are voracious predators and sight feeders; they will strike at almost any object in the water column. Consequently, they feed on a variety of fish and invertebrates, including butterfish, menhaden, herring, sand lances, silversides, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, weakfish, spotted seatrout, croaker, spot and squid. In Chesapeake Bay and other estuarine habitats, bluefish primarily feed on bay anchovies, white perch, American shad, alewife and blueback herring, and striped bass.

Bluefish are well know to anglers as an incredible fighter with tremendous biting power. They are a highly prized fish and the most sought-after species among recreational fishermen during May through October in Chesapeake Bay.

BLUEFISH Fun Facts

  • The largest bluefish ever recorded was caught in 1903 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, and measured 3 feet, 9 inches and weighed 27 pounds.
  • The oldest fish ever caught was 12 years of age.
  • Peak abundance of bluefish near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay occurs in April-July and again in October-November.
  • Bluefish are so voracious they will even kill prey they do not eat and have occasionally bitten human swimmers who were unfortunate enough to encounter a feeding school.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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Atlantic Croaker
Micropogonias undulatus
(A.K.A. - Croaker, Hardhead)

Atlantic croaker are silvery greenish or grayish fish with brassy spots on their side and 3-5 pairs of small barbels on their chin. They also produce the characteristic drumming sound of their family, Sciaenidae, by vibrating their swim bladder with special muscles. Croaker are found in Atlantic coastal waters from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Croaker are considered uncommon north of New Jersey; however, they are one of the most abundant inshore, bottom-dwelling fish from the Chesapeake Bay south to Florida.

Adult croaker generally spend the spring and summer in estuaries and can be found in Chesapeake Bay from March to October, with peak abundance from May to August. They migrate up the Bay and up-river in the spring, randomly move around during the summer, and then move down river and out of the Bay to spawn in the fall.

Atlantic croaker are opportunistic, bottom-dwelling creatures that feed on marine worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and occasionally fish. They, in turn, are eaten by many other fish, including striped bass, flounder, shark, weakfish, spotted seatrout, and bluefish.

Atlantic croaker is an important recreational species and usually ranks within the top 10 species caught in the Bay. Croaker are taken by recreational anglers from mid-April through September in waters from a few feet deep to depths of 45 feet or more over all bottom types

Atlantic Croaker Fun Facts:

  • The largest Atlantic croaker caught by angling in Chesapeake Bay was taken in 1980 and weighed 6.2 pounds.
  • The record croaker was caught from the northern Gulf of Mexico and measured 26.4 inches in length.
  • The oldest croaker ever recorded was 8 years of age.
  • Due to different temperature conditions, northern populations of croaker spawn earlier in the season, reach maturity later, are larger in size, and live longer than southern populations.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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Spot*
Leiostomus xanthurus
(A.K.A. - Norfolk spot)

Spot are members of the family, Sciaenidae, and are known for the croaking or drumming sound they produce by resonating their large swim bladder. They have 12-15 dusky oblique bars on their upper side and a distinct dusky to black spot on their body just behind the top of the gill opening. Spot occur along the Atlantic coast in estuarine and coastal waters from the Gulf of Maine to Florida; however, they are most abundant from Chesapeake Bay south to South Carolina. They have been collected from the mainstem and all tributaries of Chesapeake Bay and have one of the most extensive distributions of any marine-estuarine fishes in the Bay. Spot are considered to be one of the major regulators of benthic invertebrate communities in the muddy, shallow zones of the Bay. They are also an important food source for other fish species including striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, shark and flounder.

Spot migrate seasonally, entering bays and estuaries in the spring, where they remain until late summer or fall when they move offshore to spawn. They mature between ages 2 and 3 at lengths of seven to eight inches with females producing at least 70,000 - 90,000 eggs. Their maximum life span is about five years, although fish over three years of age are uncommon. Spawning occurs in offshore coastal waters in late fall to early spring. After spawning, adults may remain offshore, whereas larval spot will enter the Bay as early as December and appear in nursery areas in April and May. Young spot grow rapidly over the summer months and by fall, reach an average total length of five inches. Adult and juvenile spot are most abundant in the Bay from April to October. As water temperatures decrease in the fall, most juveniles move to the ocean by December, but some may overwinter in deeper waters of the Bay.

Spot is one of Chesapeake Bay's most important commercial and recreational fish species.Spot are one of the species most frequently caught by recreational fishermen in Maryland. The recreational catch of spot from the Chesapeake region (in pounds) usually exceeds the commercial catch from the same area.

Spot Fun Facts:

  • The Chesapeake Bay angling record in Maryland was caught in Tangier Sound and weighed 2 pounds.
  • The largest spot ever recorded measured 14 inches in length and the oldest was 5 years of age.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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White Perch*
Morone americana

White perch are semi-anadromous members of the family, Percichthyidae, that migrate to tidal fresh and slightly brackish waters each spring to spawn. They are one of the most abundant fish in Chesapeake Bay and will spend their entire lives here. These fish are silvery and frequently have irregular dusky longitudinal lines along its body. Their dorsal fins are separate and their anal fin possesses three strong spines. White perch range from Nova Scotia to South Carolina, but are most abundant from the Hudson River to Chesapeake Bay. White perch are bottom-oriented fish and predaceous carnivores whose diet consists of crabs, shrimp, and small fishes. These fish typically live 9-10 years.

White perch are an important recreational species, especially in the upper Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. They are available to anglers from shore and from boats because they are widely distributed among a variety of habitats, including inshore waters. The recreational fishery is concentrated in the spring and fall, and in recent years, recreational catches have exceeded commercial catches.

White Perch Fun Facts:

  • White perch are closely related to striped bass.
  • The largest white perch caught in Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay weighed 2.6 pounds.
  • The oldest white perch in Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay was fifteen.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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Spotted Seatrout*
Cynoscion nebulosus

If you have fished on the Chesapeake Bay in the summer, you may have caught a spotted seatrout. This fish is dark gray on top fading to silver at the belly. The upper body is marked with dark spots which extend to the fins. The dorsal fin and tail of the spotted seatrout are yellowish green. Spotted seatrout are a member of the drum family. The fish move into the Bay in April and May. In the fall when the water temperatures drop, they leave the Bay for warmer waters off the coast of North Carolina.

The fish spawn from April to September at the mouth of the Bay. Spawning takes place at night and the fish constantly jump and mill around. A croaking sound is made by the males during spawning and can be heard one to two hours before sunset. Spotted seatrout can live up to 10 years and weigh up to 16 pounds.

The spotted seatrout is a voracious predator that feeds on a number of animals during the morning hours. They like to eat shrimp, crabs and fish such as menhaden, Atlantic croaker, spot, anchovies and silversides. Adults swim in small schools with incoming tides and move into shallow areas to feed.

Many fishermen troll or bottom fish for spotted seatrout. Artificial lures, peeler and soft crabs, shrimp and live minnows are good fishing baits.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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Summer Flounder
Paralichthyus dentatus
(A.K.A. - Fluke)

The summer flounder is a member of the family, Paralichthyidae. This left-eyed flatfish has both eyes on the left side of its body when viewed from above with the dorsal, or top fin, up. The eyed side of this fish is scattered with 10 to 14 eye-like spots which blend in with the ocean floor, while its belly or underside is white.

Flounder are bottom-dwelling creatures which use their flattened shape and ability to change coloration and pattern on the eyed side of their bodies to partially burrow in the sediment, lie in ambush and wait for their prey. They are efficient predators with quick movements and well-developed teeth allowing them to capture small fishes, squid, seaworms, shrimp, and other crustaceans.

Summer flounder are found in estuarine and coastal waters from Nova Scotia to Florida. They are most abundant from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Within Chesapeake Bay, summer flounder are largely restricted to waters south of Annapolis, but they can be found occasionally in the upper Bay. These fish inhabit coastal and estuarine waters from spring to fall and move offshore to depths of 100 to 600 feet during the winter. This migration is presumably brought on by decreasing water temperatures and declining photoperiods in the fall.

Summer flounder are a highly prized fish sought by both commercial and recreational fishermen throughout Maryland.

Summer Flounder Fun Facts:

  • The largest summer flounder ever caught measured 4 feet and weighed 30 pounds.
  • The oldest summer flounder ever recorded was aged at 20 years.
    In Maryland's portion of Chesapeake Bay, the record for summer flounder weighed 15 pounds and was taken at Buoy #50.

*This information is provided as a public service of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. www.dnr.maryland.gov

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Atlantic Spadefish

Chaetodipterus faber

Spadefish Fun Facts:

Chaetodipterus faber are generally schooling fish and appear off our shores in schools of just a few to more than 500. They are characterized by silvery deep, flattened bodies with 4 to 6 black vertical bands on each side which sometimes become obscure in larger fish. The first and second dorsal fins are separated, the caudal fin is concave and the anterior rays of second dorsal fin are elongated.

In an attempt to camouflage themselves, darkly colored juvenile spadefish will often drift, leaf-like, in estuarine and coastal marine waters.

Adults may congregate in large schools - consisting of up to 500 individuals.

Atlantic spadefish will congregate around a variety of environmental super-structures - including reef systems, sunken vessels and debris, and oil derricks.



 
 
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