June/July 2009

During June and July, the VIMS Juvenile Fish Trawl Survey team measured numerous large Summer Flounder aboard the R/V Fish Hawk. The largest of these fish, a 26” individual, came from the York River just upstream of the Coleman Bridge. The southern shore of the York River between the Watermen’s Museum and the U.S. Naval Weapons Station was a hotspot as was Hampton Bar in the James River.

Blue Catfish in the two-foot range were measured in both the James and Pamunkey Rivers. In the Pamunkey River these fish appeared to be concentrated near Eltham Marsh.

The York River was producing large croaker during June and early July. Numerous fish in the 14- to 18-inch range were measured from Bells Rock upstream into the Pamunkey River as far as Eltham Marsh.

There are nearly a dozen common drum species present in Chesapeake Bay and Banded Drum, a small and lesser-known member of this family, were present in samples from June and July. Banded Drum possess 7 to 9 vertical bars on their backs that extend downward along the sides of the body. Banded Drum lack chin barbells, which helps to distinguish them from juvenile Black Drum. During June, scientists measured Banded Drum in the Bay and the James River while in July they were only encountered in James River samples.

Survey scientists counted a high number of Skilletfish from the Rappahannock during July. Skilletfish, a common member of the clingfish family, are year-round residents of Chesapeake Bay but are not often encountered due to their secretive nature and small size. Skilletfish have a unique sucking disk that allows them to cling to various substrates such as shells or rocks.

The largest fish encountered by survey scientists during the last two months was a Spiny Butterfly Ray that measured 52 inches across. Spiny Butterfly Rays are seasonally present in Chesapeake Bay, may attain widths approaching 7 feet, and, like stingrays, possess a serrated spine above their tail.