April/May 2009

In addition to well-known spring arrivals like Spot, Atlantic Croaker, and Summer Flounder, scientists aboard the R/V Fish Hawk encountered several species that may not be well recognized.

Silver Hake

Silver Hake, sometimes known as Whiting, is one lesser-known species. Related to the cods, Silver Hake are commercially sought in the northwest Atlantic Ocean but are relatively uncommon in Chesapeake Bay. Silver Hake differ from the more commonly seen Spotted Hake by lacking spots and filamentous pelvic fins.

Chub Mackerel

Another unusual catch from Chesapeake Bay is the Chub Mackerel. Chub Mackerel are very similar in appearance to Atlantic Mackerel but have fewer dorsal fin rays and possess round blotches on their body. They can both be distinguished from Spanish Mackerel by only having 5 finlets to the Spanish Mackerel’s 7 to 9. Additionally, the two dorsal fins are widely separated on Chub Mackerel and nearly touching one another on Spanish Mackerel. Chub Mackerel are rare visitors to Chesapeake Bay. This fish is the first Chub Mackerel ever recorded by the VIMS Trawl Survey, only the third verified VIMS record of a Chub Mackerel within the Bay, and the first record since 1965.

Atlantic Stingray

Although a regular visitor to the Bay, Atlantic Stingray is another lesser-known fish species. Atlantic Stingrays visit the lower Bay and the three main Virginia tributaries annually, often venturing upriver to fresh water. Atlantic Stingrays are easily distinguished from other locally occurring stingrays by their prominently pointed snout.

Croaker & Summer Flounder

Large Atlantic Croaker were measured in samples from the York River in both April and May (the largest fish approaching 17 inches) while only present in May samples from the James and Rappahannock Rivers. In the York River the bulk of the large fish were caught from Wormley Creek upstream to Purtan Bay. In the James River they were in samples taken between the mouth of the Warwick River and Kingsmill Marina while on the Rappahannock they were caught between Monaskon and Ross Rock. Large Summer Flounder were scarce with only a few fish sampled that would make the 19-inch minimum.