September 2011

  • _redgoatfishlabel.jpg
     Fishes of the goatfish family (Mullidae) are distinguished by the presence of two barbels under the chin. While swimming near the bottom they use the barbels to stir up sediment and find food. The two specimens shown here were collected in August 2006 and represent the second and third verified collection of Red Goatfish (Mullus auratus) from Chesapeake Bay.  
  • _pompanoFMB.jpg
     Like most jacks (family Carangidae), Florida Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) have silvery sides and a deeply forked caudal fin. Florida Pompano are renowned as game fish due to their fast strikes and runs, yet are also economically important as food fish.  
  • _largeblackdrum.jpg
     The Black Drum (Pogonis cromis) is a demersal species that uses its many chin barbels to detect prey, such as clams, oysters, and crabs. This specimen is 1110 mm (44 inches) long, the second largest specimen ever caught by the survey.  
  • _butterflyraywithjenny.jpg
     Spiny Butterfly Rays (Gymnura altavela) are bottom dwellers that primarily feed on fishes and squids. This specimen collected in August 2011 is 1880 mm (74 inches) wide, close to the maximum adult size of 2000 mm (79 inches.).  
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As the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Juvenile Fish and Blue Crab Trawl Survey (VIMS Trawl Survey) goes about their monthly surveys of Virginia’s portion of Chesapeake Bay and its major tributaries, the second half of summer and the early portion of autumn usually produce interesting and unique catches.  These catches are in addition to the normally encountered Spot, Atlantic Croaker, Weakfish, and Summer Flounder.  A Red Goatfish (Mullus auratus) was measured from a sample collected in lower Chesapeake Bay outside the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Although Red Goatfish are known from waters as far north as Nova Scotia, they are a tropical fish species rarely encountered in temperate waters like Chesapeake Bay.  The VIMS Trawl Survey has previously recorded this species just four times since 1955.  Another species more often associated with warmer waters yet commonly present in Chesapeake Bay is the Florida Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus).  Florida Pompano are a species in the Jack (Carangidae) family that is well represented in Chesapeake Bay with more than a dozen species known from area waters.   Young pompano are commonly encountered by those seining the shorelines of the Bay during summer and early autumn but collections from the Trawl Survey are infrequent due to differences in habitat sampled.  The Trawl Survey did however capture a single individual from Mobjack Bay during their September sampling. Adult pompano are uncommonly caught by anglers in our area but are highly prized table fare everywhere within their range.  Several other catches were unique due to the sizes of the individuals captured and not necessarily due to the species rarity within the Bay.  Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) and Spiny Butterfly Rays (Gymnura altavela) are both common inhabitants of local waters and both attain very large sizes in our area.  While sampling in the lower Bay in the vicinity of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel the survey encountered very large specimens of both of these species.  The Spiny Butterfly Ray was nearly 75 inches from tip to tip (145-155 lbs.), while the Black Drum was 44 inches long (45-60 lbs).  Spiny Butterfly Rays are in the family Gymnuridae and are one of only two species present within the bay and are distinguished from other rays by their disks being much wider than they are long giving them their “butterfly” appearance and by having a relatively short pointed tail.  As their name implies, Spiny Butterfly Rays may possess one or two venomous spines at the base of their tail. Black Drum are highly sought after by anglers within Chesapeake Bay with good reason. Black Drum grow to the greatest size of all drum (family Sciaenidae) along the United States’ Atlantic coast with maximum adult size exceeding 145 lbs.  This specimen is the second largest specimen the Survey has recorded from the Bay and the largest in over 4 years.  For Black Drum, longevity tends to coincide with large body size as other specimens of this size have been aged at more than 50 years.