Fish


American Eel - Anguilla rostrata

Identify MeEels on a rocky stream bed

  • Greenish, yellowish-brown or blackish body
  • Whitish belly
  • A continuous fin stretches around its rounded tail from its back to its belly
  • Males grow 2 feet long
  • Females grow 3 to 5 feet

Find Me

  • Fresh and brackish waters; streams, creeks, rivers, lakes, and ponds

I Like to Eat

  • Worms, small fish, mollusks, and crustaceans

Biologist's Note

  • Although many Americans think eels are slimy and gross, in Asia and Europe they are considered a delicacy. Most of the eels caught in the Bay region are exported overseas.

Cool Fact

  • During their migration back up the Bay’s rivers and streams, American eels overcome multiple obstacles to reach their destination. They can slide over rocks, dams, wet grass and other seemingly impassable blockages.

American Shad - Alosa sapidissima

Identify Meamerican shad

  • Thin, metallic body
  • Varies in color from greenish to dark blue
  • Deeply forked tail fin
  • Females are larger than males

Find Me

  • Coastal ocean waters, swaning in freshwater rivers and streams

I Like to Eat

  • Plankton, crustaceans, and small fish

Biologist's Note

  • Shad have a tree named after them: the shadbush blooms in spring, close to the time that shad return to the Bay's rivers to spawn.

Cool Fact

  • The largest American shad ever recorded was 2 feet, 6 inches long. The oldest American shad recorded in Maryland was 11 years old.

Atlantic Menhaden - Brevoortia tyrannus

Identify MeAtlantic Menhaden

  • Blue, bluish-green, or bluish-brown body
  • Length: 14 to 18 inches
  • Sides and find are silvery with a yellowish sheen
  • Deeply forked tail

Find Me

  • Throughout the Chesapeake Bay in large schools just below the water's surface

I Like to Eat

  • Filter feeder that eats plankton

Biologist's Note

  • The Bay is an important nursery area for juvenile menhaden because of its rich supply of plankton.

Cool Fact

  • Native Americans likely used menhaden to fertilize their corn fields. They called the fish “munnawhatteaug,” a word for fertilizer.
  • Although some people use it as bait, most menhaden caught in the Bay are processed for fish oil and livestock feed.

Atlantic Sturgeon - Acipenser oxyrhynchus

Identify MeAtlantic Sturgeon

  • Brown, tan, or bluish-black body
  • Whitish belly
  • No scales; 5 rows of bony plates called scutes
  • Length: up to 5 or 6 feet
  • Weight: males up to 90 pounds; females up to 160 pounds
  • Mouth is soft and toothless

Find Me

  • Bottom of freshwater rivers in the Chesapeake Bay region; spends most of its time in oceans

I Like to Eat

  • Bottom-feeder; mollusks, crustaceans, worms, and insects

Biologist's Note

  • Sturgeons are very sensitive to low oxygen, pollution and other poor water conditions. This, combined with their slow rate of maturity, damming of their spawning rivers and historic commercial fishing pressure, has caused the species to become very rare.

Cool Fact

  • Sturgeons are prehistoric fish that have existed for more than 120 million years. They were around during the Cretaceous period, when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
  • Sturgeons are the largest fish native to the Chesapeake Bay.

Black Drum - Pogonias cromis

Identify MeBlack Drum

  • Dark, silvery-gray body with a brassy sheen
  • Length: 40 to 60 inches
  • Weight: 50 to 100 pounds
  • Grayish belly, black fins and a high, rounded back
  • Deep notch in dorsal fin
  • Juveniles have 4 to 5 black verticle bars on their sides

Find Me

  • Bottom-dwellers around oyster reefs, wrecks, and piles in the Bay's deep channels

I Like to Eat

  • Bottom-feeder; mollusks and crustaceans

Biologist's Note

  • All drums are able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles.

Cool Fact

  • The black drum is one of the largest fish in the Bay. Young black drums that weigh less than 8 pounds are also known as puppy drums.
  • Part of the black drum's scientific name, Pogonias, means “bearded.” This refers to the fish’s chin barbels, which look like a beard. Cromis means “to croak.”

Brook Trout - Salvelinus fontinalis

Identify MeBrook Trout

  • Length: up to 12 inches, but most are no more than 10 inches
  • Body is wide in the middle and tapers at the ends
  • Dark, olive green back
  • Sides are bluish with yellow and red spots
  • Pale, yellowish-orange belly
  • Lower fins are orange-red and a white front edge

Find Me

  • Clear, cold, shaded freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes
  • Cool, clean waters
  • Not tolerant of waters above 75ºF

I Like to Eat

  • Insects, tadpoles, salamanders, small crayfish and small water snakes

Biologist's Note

  • Since brook trout only survive in the cleanest and coldest of waters, they are often considered a good indicator of the health of the waterways where they live.

Cool Fact

  • While all other trout in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have dark spots on a light background, the brook trout has light spots on a dark background. This coloring helps camouflage brook trout from predators.

Bull Shark - Carcharhinus leucas

Identify MeBull Shark

  • Length: range from 7 to 11.5 feet
  • Weight: 200 and 500 pounds
  • Females grow larger than males
  • Top side ranges from pale to dark gray
  • Underside fades to white
  • Short, blunt snout

Find Me

  • Coastal waters of tropical and subtropical seas between 100 and 165 feet deep
  • Both fresh and saltwater: estuaries, bays, harbors, rivers, and lakes

I Like to Eat

  • Fish, sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins, and sea birds

Biologist's Note

  • Bull sharks are named for their blunt snout, aggressive nature and tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking.

Cool Fact

  • Because bull sharks favor shallow coastal waters, they are among the most likely sharks to attack humans.

Cownose Ray - Rhinoptera bonasus

Identify Mecownose ray swimming

  • Brown to olive top
  • Cream bottom
  • Long and pointed wings
  • 3-foot wingspan
  • Long tail
  • Weighs around 50 pounds

Find Me

  • Coastal waters

I Like to Eat

  • Bottom-dwelling shellfish, such as soft-shelled clams and oysters

Biologist's Note

  • Cownose rays can wreak havoc on inderwater grass beds by rooting up plants in search of clams and oysters.

Cool Fact

  • This ray's name is derived from a notch in its head that looks like a cow's muzzle.

Mummichog - Fundulus heteroclitus

Identify MeMummichog

  • Stout-bodied with a flattened head
  • Rounded or squared-off tailfin
  • Pointed teeth and lower lip that juts out
  • Length: 5 to 6 inches
  • Coloration varies with sex and surroundings
  • Females have a brownish green body with 12 to 15 dusky vertical striped
  • Males are darker with a green or olive body with 15 silver vertical stripes

Find Me

  • Muddy, marsh waters, tidal creeks, and grass flats

I Like to Eat

  • Algae, plants, insects, small crustaceans, and mollusks

Biologist's Note

  • A tolerant species, the mummichog is able to withstand changes in temperature and salinity, low oxygen and pollution.

Cool Fact

  • "Mummichog" is a Native American word meaning "going in crowds"; mummichogs often form schools of hundreds of individuals.

Northern Puffer - Sphoeroides maculatus

Identify MeNorthern Puffer

  • Length: 8 to 10 inches
  • Yellow, browm or olive colored body with small prickles
  • Yellow or white body and a tiny, beak-like mouth
  • Dark, vertical bars on its sides and small, black spots on its back, sides, and cheeks

Find Me

  • Bottom-dweller in the Bay's flats and channel margins

I Like to Eat

  • Small mollusks, crustaceans, and other invertebrates

Biologist's Note

  • Puffers puff up by inhaling air or water into a special chamber near the stomach. If caught and thrown back into the water while inflated, a northern puffer will float upside down at the surface for a few moments, then quickly deflate and swim away.

Cool Fact

  • Although some types of puffers are poisonous, the northern puffer is not. In fact, it is a delicious fish, sold in fish markets as "sea squab."

Pumpkinseed - Lepomis gibbosus

Identify MePumpkinseed

  • Length: 4 to 6 inches, but up to 12 inches
  • Saucer-shaped body is mottled blue, orange, yellow, and olive green
  • Orange belly and black ear flaps
  • Forked tail fin

Find Me

  • Shallow, protected freshwater tributaries: lakes, ponds, reservoirs, streams, and creeks
  • Quiet, slow-moving waters

I Like to Eat

  • Snails, worms, insects, mollusks, small fish, and vegetation

Biologist's Note

  • The pumpkinseed can be confused with the bluegill, another sunfish. Pumpkinseeds can be distinguished by the wavy stripes on their cheeks and the bright red or orange border on their earflaps. However, bluegills and pumpkinseeds often interbreed, resulting in some confusing hybrids.

Cool Fact

  • They are a favorite of young anglers because they are playful and very easy to catch. Pumpkinseeds will eagerly bite onto nearly any small natural or artificial bait.

Red Drum - Sciaenops ocellatus

Identify MeRed Drum

  • Length: usually 20 to 30 inches, but can grow up to 5 feet and 90 pounds
  • Silvery body with a reddish or copper tinge
  • Silvery-gray to white belly
  • Squared tail fin
  • One or more large spots at the base of its tail

Find Me

  • Adults found near the shoreline
  • Juveniles are common in the Bay's shallows

I Like to Eat

  • Smaller fish, crabs, shrimp

Biologist's Note

  • Some scientists believe the purpose of the spot(s) near the tail is to mimic an eye. This fools predators into attacking the wrong end of the fish and gives the red drum a chance to escape.

Cool Fact

  • In 1984, a Virginia man caught the 59-inch, 94.2-pound world record red drum off the coast of North Carolina.

Striped Bass - Morone saxatilis

Identify MeStriped Bass

  • Length: 2 to 3 feet
  • Weight: 10 to 30 pounds
  • Varies in color from light or olive green to blue, brown, or black
  • Sides have 7 or 8 dark lines
  • White belly
  • Dark, forked tail
  • Deep notch in their dorsal fin

Find Me

  • Various habitats in the Bay; moving upstream to spawn in freshwater

I Like to Eat

  • Variety of small fish and invertebrates

Biologist's Note

  • The Bay is the largest striped bass nursery area on the Atlantic coast. Seventy to 90 percent of the Atlantic striped bass population uses the Bay to spawn.

Cool Fact

  • The striped bass is Maryland's state fish, and one of the most popular commercial and recreational catches in the Chesapeake Bay.

White Perch - Morone americana

Identify MeWhite Perch

  • Length: 7 to 10 inches
  • Weight: Rarely more than 1 pound
  • Silvery, greenish-gray body with faint lines on teh sides
  • Whitish belly
  • Highly domed, gray or blackish back
  • Mildly forked tail

Find Me

  • Flats and cannels in shallow, fresh and brackish waters
  • Quiet, freshwater streams

I Like to Eat

  • Small fish, insects, dead matter, and fish eggs and larve

Biologist's Note

  • It is believed that each Chesapeake Bay river has its own white perch population, since this fish likely does not venture far from the stream where it was born.

Cool Fact

  • White perch is a close relative of striped bass.

Last updated: April 2, 2018

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Suite 314

Annapolis, MD 21403

Phone:

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