July/August 2010

  • _cuskeelwithruler.jpg
     The Striped Cusk-Eel is the only cusk-eel species known from Chespeake Bay. Their dorsal and anal fins are continuous with the caudal fin and their maximum adult size is 23 cm (9 in.).  
  • _cuskeelcurled.jpg
     The Striped Cusk-Eel is nocturnally active and feeds on small crustaceans and fishes.  
  • _angelsharkoncooler.jpg
     The raylike Atlantic Angel Shark can grow to 1.5 m (5 ft.) and its range includes the waters of Massachusetts to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean to Venezuela.  
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     Tha Atlantic Angel Shark has many small, sharp teeth. It feeds on fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks.  
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During July and August 2010, the VIMS Juvenile Fish Trawl Survey scientists continued their monthly surveys just as they have for more than 50 years.  During these sampling events, the crew aboard the R/V Fish Hawk captured and identified thousands of fish.  As has been the case for most of the spring and summer, very few large Atlantic Croaker or Summer Flounder have been brought to the deck, however, numbers of small flounder remain promising for upcoming years.  Amongst the common and regularly caught species each month there are fishes the public doesn’t often encounter except by chance.  Two of these fish species are the Striped Cusk-Eel and the Atlantic Angel Shark.  Striped Cusk-Eels (Ophidion marginatum), which are not actually eels but are so named for their resemblance to true eels, are an elongate tapering fish with dorsal (top), anal (bottom) and caudal (tail) fins that are continuous.  Striped Cusk-Eels have highly modified pelvic fins that resemble barbels just below their mouth that help distinguish them from true eels.  Additionally, Striped Cusk-Eels only reach about 9 inches total length whereas American Eels can reach several feet in length.  Little is known about the habits of this fish but it is thought to be a burrower that is only active at night in pursuit of small crustaceans and smaller fishes.  Similar to the confusion between cusk–eels and true eels, Atlantic Angel Sharks (Squatina dumeril)  are easily confused with rays because they possess similarly shaped bodies and are generally less well known.  Angel sharks have an overall depressed (flattened top to bottom), ray-like body shape with greatly enlarged pectoral fins.  Angel sharks are considered, by some, to be an intermediate species between sharks and rays.  Atlantic Angel Sharks bury themselves in mud or sand and ambush prey as it passes.  In the past, Atlantic Angel Sharks have bitten careless anglers earning them the nickname “sand devil”.  Two angel sharks were caught by the Trawl Survey in July and August.  Although they are known to be occasional summer visitors to Chesapeake Bay, these are only the third and fourth specimens ever recorded by the Trawl Survey.