Winter skate - Raja ocellata

winter skate

 

Diagnostic characteristics: Thorns present along dorsal midline in juveniles, absent in adults; disk more rounded than angular; snout more blunt than pointed; typically 1-4 dusky ocellar spots present, edged with white and located near inner posterior margin of pectoral fin in most individuals; upper jaw with at least 80 series of teeth (typically 90-100) in adults. Disk only slightly broader than long; anterior margin of pectoral fin with scattered thorns; first and second dorsal fins prickly and of approximately equal shape and size; caudal fin represented by dermal fold extending over tip of tail; pelvic fin long, with deep notch. Dorsal surface brownish; whitish ventrally; rounded black spots present on pectoral fin. 

Size: Maximum adult size 1 m TL (3.3 ft)

Habitat, biology and fisheries: The winter skate is an occasional winter to springtime visitor of the southern Chesapeake Bay. Winter skate are found on sand and gravel bottoms from inshore waters to depths are great as 120 m (400 ft) and are more likely to be found in deeper water during the warmer months. They feed mainly on crabs but also eat a variety of fishes, shrimps, mollusks, and worms. Egg cases are produced throughout most of the range of the species throughout the year but in greater numbers from summer to autumn. Winter skates are of no commercial or recreational interest in the Chesapeake Bay area. Winter skates are occasionally collected by pound nets in the lower bay during the early spring but not utilized for food.

Distribution: Gulf of St. Lawrence to North Carolina