Key Distinguishing Markings:
- Spot have 12-15 dusky oblique bars on their upper side.
- They have a distinct dusky to black spot just behind the top of the gill opening on their body.
- Tail fin distinctly forked.
- Body rather deep and compressed.
- Mouth small and inferior.
- Maximum length of spot is 14 inches.
- Spot mature at ages one and two and lengths of seven to eight inches.
- Their maximum life span is about five years, although fish over three years of age are uncommon.
- 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 main stem and all tributaries of Chesapeake Bay.
- Spot have one of the most extensive distributions of the marine and estuarine fishes found in the Bay.
- Adult spot migrate seasonally, entering bays and estuaries in the spring, where they remain until late summer or fall when they move offshore to spawn.
- Spot often congregate over oyster beds.
- Adult spot are primarily found in 5 parts per thousand or higher salinity, while juveniles are found in estuaries all the way to freshwater.
- Primary nursery areas for juvenile spot occur in low salinity areas of bays and tidal creeks, but they can also be found associated with eelgrass communities.
- 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 are opportunistic bottom feeders primarily eating worms small crustations and mollusks.
- Spawning occurs in offshore coastal waters from fall to late winter.
- Females produce at least 70,000 - 90,000 eggs per year.
- 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.
- Spot is an important commercial and recreational fish species in the Chesapeake Bay.
- 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.
- Currently there is no size or creel limit for spot. For the most recent recreational size and creel limits, see Maryland's updated regulation page.
- Spot are usually caught by bottom fishing anglers using bloodworms.
- Spot are known for the croaking or drumming sound they produce by resonating their large swim bladder.
- 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.
- Spot are an important food source for other fish species including striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, shark and flounder.
Family: Sciaenidae (drums and croakers)
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
by Diane Rome Peebles
Provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
Division of Marine Fisheries Management