Smooth Dogfish

Mustelus canis


Smooth Dogfish


A common to abundant seasonal visitor in summer and fall to lower Chesapeake Bay, smooth dogfish swim in packs or schools, this may be the basis for the use of the term "dogfish."

Maximum Size

Approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters) in length. 

Geographic Range

Found only in the coastal areas of the western Atlantic but apparently absent from much of Brazil. Migrates north and south with the seasons in the northern part of its range. The smooth dogfish is a common to abundant seasonal visitor in summer and fall to lower Chesapeake Bay.


Feeds mainly on crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, shrimps); also, on a variety of small bottom-dwelling and pelagic bony fish, king crabs, squid, bivalves, gastropods, polychaete worms, and occasionally garbage.

Depth Range

Typically found in waters less than 60 feet (20 meters) deep. Rarely down to 450 feet (150 meters). 


An active bottom shark, especially on muddy bottoms of coastal waters. Occasionally found in fresh water but not ascending rivers very far above their mouths. Viviparous, with 4 to 20 young per litter. Kept in aquaria for public viewing.

Fishing Interest

Fished in coastal waters, an important fisheries catch off Cuba, Mexico, and northeastern Venezuela, but probably caught wherever it occurs. Caught mainly with bottom longlines; also with floating longlines, probably gill nets, and occasionally with bottom trawls. Marketed fresh and salted, not highly esteemed as a food-fish in some places.