As spring progressed and the Bay waters warmed, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Juvenile Fish Trawl Survey team noted the annual influx of the common members of the summer fish assemblage to Chesapeake Bay and its major Virginia tributaries. Atlantic Croaker, Spot, and Summer Flounder are among the common fishes that visit the Bay at this time of year and are common targets of recreational anglers. Large specimens of each have been recorded. Although several large flounder have been measured it is interesting to note that high numbers of juvenile flounder have been in the samples as well.
Along with the more common and well recognized fishes seen from the trawl, several species are captured that may be less recognizable to the general public. Two such species are the Rough Scad and the Atlantic Cutlassfish. As mentioned previously in this column, scad are members of the Jack family that includes more well known fishes such as Pompano and Greater Amberjack, both of which are also known to inhabit our waters. The Rough Scad is a diminutive fish rarely exceeding one foot in length with an overall silvery appearance accented by enlarged scutes (modified scales) along its entire lateral line. Rough Scad are occasional visitors to lower Chesapeake Bay during the warmer months. Atlantic Cutlassfish are in the family of snake mackerels and are the single species of that family known to inhabit Bay waters. Atlantic Cutlassfish are common in Chesapeake Bay but aren’t often seen unless inadvertently captured by recreational fisherman or as by-catch by waterman targeting commercial species. Atlantic Cutlassfish are easily recognizable by their unique ribbonlike silvery appearance. Additionally, cutlassfish have impressive teeth that are easily seen from the exterior and lack a caudal fin; in its place their bodies taper to a point. Atlantic Cutlassfish are known to eat a variety of fishes, squids and shrimp and may attain lengths approaching 4 feet.