MARYLAND AT A GLANCE

WILDLIFE

FISH


[photo, Black Drum, Visitors Center, Assateague Island National Park Seashore (Worcester County), Maryland]

Black Drum, Visitors Center, Assateague Island National Park Seashore (Worcester County), Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


[photo, National Aquarium in Baltimore,
Pier III, Baltimore Inner Harbor, 501 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland] With the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland is home to one of the most extensive displays of aquatic life in the world. Home to more than 660 different species, the Aquarium displays a diverse look at sealife.

Maryland also maintains a rich and diverse supply of aquatic life in nature. From the saline mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to the fresh water Inner Harbor of Baltimore, streams, lakes, and the Bay provide for an incredibly diverse indigenous population.

National Aquarium in Baltimore, Pier III, Baltimore Inner Harbor, 501 East Pratt St., Baltimore, Maryland, December 2007. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


The Department of Natural Resources co-sponsors a free year-round tournament called the Maryland Fishing Challenge. The Challenge includes three components: Angler Award Achievers, Invasive Species Award, and the Maryland Fishing Challenge (MFC) Youth.

Each summer, Ocean City hosts the Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament (July 13-15, 2018), and the Big Fish Classic tournament (Sept. 2018). Ocean City also hosts the White Marlin Open (Aug. 2018), a big-game tournament in which teams from around the world compete for prizes of $2 million or more.

The Calvert Marine Museum annually hosts "Sharkfest" on the second Saturday in July. This event gives visitors the opportunity to see and learn about fossils and live sharks. It next will be held in July 2018.

The Championship on the Chesapeake, the largest tournament for striped bass in the world, is held annually in Maryland's Bay. It next will be held in May 2018.

Aquafarms are another example of Maryland's aquatic ties. A growing number of sites throughout the State export farm-raised sea life, including eels, beside more traditional fish.

Maryland's waterways also are home to a large number of invertebrates (animals without backbones), including crustaceans and molluscs, as well as other creatures that do not fall under any category. These include the Boring Sponge, Common Sea Star, Ghost Anemone, Jellyfish, Sea Cucumber, Sea Squirt, and Whip Coral.

To prevent an adverse impact on an aquatic ecosystem or on the productivity of State waters, the importation, possession, or introduction of nonnative aquatic organisms is prohibited in Maryland (Code Natural Resources Article, sec. 4-205.1). Nonetheless, in recent years, native Maryland water-life has come under attack from a number of sources, including Didymo, a microscopic algae that forms thick mats, and the Northern Snakehead, a predator from Africa and Asia. The Potomac Snakehead Tournament is an annual event that awards cash for the heaviest total weight of Snakeheads caught, as well as the heaviest single Blue Catfish, caught by bow or rod.

Another threat to indigenous marine life are fish kills. This term applies to large masses of fish found dead in the water, which can result from a number of causes. In some cases it occurs naturally, as when a school of fish gets stranded on land at ebb tide. Increasingly frequent, however, are dead zones, areas unable to support marine life due to an unnaturally low oxygen content in the water. Most often caused by sewage or excessive algae, these zones appear near coasts or in small bodies of water. In 2007, some 138 fish kills were reported in Maryland waters. The largest, with approximately 50,000 dead fish, was February 19, in Charles County.


MARYLAND FISH


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Anchovy, Bay (Anchoa mitchilli)
Bay Anchovies have small, thin bodies that are silver-green with a silver stripe running along the sides. They have a long jaw, a single dorsal fin, and a forked caudal fin. They can grow up to 4 inches in length. They eat zooplankton. They Anchovies live in schools in shallow water, but migrate to deep water during winter months. Bay Anchovies are the most abundant fish in the Chesapeake Bay.
Bass, Black Sea (Centropristis striatus)
Black Sea Bass have long black-blue bodies, blue streaks beneath their eyes, large mouths with pointed teeth, and scales with blue center spots. Juveniles are brown with a dark stripe. Black Sea Bass have spotted or striped dorsal fins and pointed caudal fins. They can grow up to 24 inches in length. They live alone at the bottom of the ocean, usually in rocky areas near solid structures, including pilings and wrecks, and they eat molluscs, crabs, and other fish. Black Sea Bass migrate to warmer waters during winter months.

Bass, Largemouth (Micropterus salmoidess)
Largemouth Bass have green bodies with silver undersides and a dark stripe. They have a lower jaw which stretches past the back of the eye. They can grow up to 30 inches in length. They eat insects, fish, crustaceans, reptiles, as well as small water birds and mammals. They live in fresh and brackish waters, particularly in slow, clear rivers. The males build the nests and guard the eggs. The Largemouth Bass is an introduced species in Maryland and is the most popular sport fish in the country.

Bass, Smallmouth (Micropterus dolomieu)
Smallmouth Bass are brown or bronze with dark vertical bars and red eyes. Depending on where they live, they can be either torpedo-shaped or oval-shaped. Their upper jaw stretches to the middle of the eye. They can be harvested at 12 inches in length. They eat zooplankton, insects, crayfish, and small fish. Smallmouth Bass live in the cool, clear water of stream and lakes and can tolerate slow or fast currents. The males build the nests and guard the eggs. The Smallmouth Bass is an introduced species. Also known as Bareback Bass and Bronzeback.

Bass, Striped (Morone saxatilis)
Striped Bass are silver fish with seven or eight dark stripes between the gills and tail and separated dorsal fins. Striped Bass can grow up to 60 inches in length. They eat insects, crustaceans, and small fish. They live in coastal areas and in bays, but spawn in rivers and migrate to warmer waters during winter months. There are landlocked Striped Bass populations in several Maryland reservoirs, including Piney Run and Rocky Gorge. The Striped Bass is Maryland's most important commercial fish. Also known as Rockfish and Striper.

The Striped Bass is Maryland's State Fish.

Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix)
Bluefish are gray blue-green with silver-white lower sides, white bellies, and wide, forked tails. Their lower jaw extends past the upper jaw and they have sharp, pointed teeth. Bluefish can grow up to 40 inches in length. They live in schools in the oceans and in bays, migrating to warmer waters during winter months. Called the "marine piranha," Bluefish attack and destroy schools of fish, including menhaden and anchovies, sometimes chasing them into shallow water and churning the water up in what is called a "bluefish blitz." They are known to bite humans who venture too close while they are feeding. Also known as Snapper and Skipjack.


[photo, Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), Dept. of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland] Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluegills are sunfish. They are green with yellow bellies and oval-shaped bodies. Their name comes from the blue markings on their lower jaws and gill covers. Bluegills have dark patches at the edge of the gills and at the base of the dorsal fin. They have 5-9 dark vertical bands on their sides. They can grow up to 12 inches in length. They eat insects, snails, and small fish. Bluegills live in lakes and ponds as well as streams with slow currents. The males build the nests and guard the eggs. Also known as Sunnies.

Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus, Department of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


[photo, Striped Burrfish, Visitors Center, Assateague Island National Park Seashore (Worcester County), Maryland] Burrfish, Striped (Chilomycterus schoepfii)
Striped Burrfish are brown or olive with yellow bellies and powerful jaws. They have bulging yellow eyes with iridescent blue-green pupils. They have brown or black parallel stripes and black spots. Striped Burrfish get their name from the short, immovable spines which cover their spherical bodies. They can inflate their bodies when threatened. They can grow up to 12 inches in length. They eat oysters, barnacles, and small crabs. Striped Burrfish live in the ocean and in bays, cool to hot waters, and usually among seagrass.

Striped Burrfish, Visitors Center, Assateague Island National Park Seashore (Worcester County), Maryland, May 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Carp, Common (Cyprinus carpio carpio)
Common Carp are brown or bronze with brass or bronze sides and yellow bellies. They have two barbels or slender, whisker-like bristles on each side of their mouths. They have a long dorsal fin and a forked caudal fin. Common Carp usually have large scales that have dark edges and a dark spot at the base. They look as if they are made of leather. They can grow up to 30 inches in length. They eat water plants, insects, and crustaceans. Common Carp live in schools in fresh and slightly brackish waters, preferably those with slow or no currents. Also known as German Carp, Leather Carp, and Mirror Carp.

Carp, Grass (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
Grass Carp are olive with brown-yellow sides and white bellies. They have long, torpedo-shaped bodies and large, outlined scales. They can grow up to 54 inches in length, but are usually around 24-40 inches in length. They primarily eat aquatic plants, but will also eat insects. Grass Carp live in freshwater, including lakes, rivers, and areas with slow-moving or standing water. The Grass Carp is an invasive species. Also known as White Amur.


[photo, Catfish, Accokeek, Maryland] Catfish, Blue (Ictalurus furcatus)
Blue Catfish are slate blue with white bellies. They have long, scaleless bodies, low-set eyes, a forked tail, and four pairs of black barbels around the mouth. They can grow up to 50 inches in length. They eat fish, mussels, and frogs. Blue Catfish live in fresh water, preferably in deep rivers with a fast current. The Blue Catfish is an invasive species. Also known as Hump-back Blue.

Catfish. Accokeek, Maryland, May 2011. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.


Catfish, Channel (Ictalurus punctatus)
Channel Catfish are gray with white on the sides and belly and spots that disappear as they age. They have long, thin, scaleless bodies, deeply-forked tail, and four pairs of long barbels around the mouth. Channel Catfish have keen senses of taste and smell. Their average length is around 16 inches. They eat insects, frogs, and fish. Channel Catfish live in fresh water, preferably in deep pools around solid natural structures that can be used for cover. The Channel Catfish is an introduced species. Also known as Forked Tail, River Cat, and Spotted Cat.

Catfish, Flathead (Pylodictis olivaris)
Flathead Catfish are brown, olive, or yellow and mottled with white bellies. They have a wide, flat head with a protruding lower jaw and four pairs of barbels on the chin. Their square tail fin is slightly notched and there is a white patch on the upper lobe. They can grow up to 61 inches in length. They eat insects, fish, and crustaceans. Flathead Catfish live in freshwater, such as lakes and rivers, usually in areas with slower currents. The Flathead Catfish is an invasive species. Also known as Bashaw, Motley, Shovelhead Cat, and Yellow Cat.

Catfish, White (Ictaluarus catus)
White Catfish are blue-gray with white bellies. They have stout, scaleless bodies, a forked tail, and a broad head. White Catfish have four pairs of barbels, with the chin pair colored white. They can grow up to 13 inches in length. They eat insects and fish, primarily feeding at night. White Catfish live in fresh and brackish waters, including lakes, streams, and backwaters. Also known as Cat and Mudcat.

Croaker, Atlantic (Micropogonias undulatus)
Atlantic Croakers are silver-pink with a silver or white belly, but they turn gold during the spawning season. They have long bodies, brown-brass spots that form bands, and 3-5 pairs of small chin barbels. Their dorsal fin is notched and their caudal fin is pointed. Atlantic Croakers can grow up to 24 inches in length. They eat worms, small fish, and crustaceans. They live on the muddy or sandy bottoms of bays and estuaries during the warmer months, but move back to the ocean during the colder months. Their name comes from the croaking sound that they make when they vibrate muscles against the swim bladder. Also known as Hardhead.


Darter, Maryland (Etheostoma sellare)
Maryland Darters are brown-red with four black vertical bars. The upper part of the caudal fin extends further than the lower part. They grow up to 3 inches in length. They eat insects and snails. Maryland Darters live in clean, fast-flowing parts, or riffles, of streams.

Native only to Maryland, the Darter has only been found in Deer Creek, Swan Creek, and Gasheys Run in Harford County. Classified as endangered, it has not been seen 1988. A federally-funded effort was launched by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 2009 to locate the elusive Darter in known waterways, as well as connected waterways, such as the Susquehanna River.

Drum, Black (Pogonias cromis)
Black Drums are dark gray-silver with rounded backs, black fins, 10-14 chin barbels, and pharyngeal teeth. They have a notched dorsal fin. Juveniles have 4-6 vertical black bars and a lighter body. Black Drums can grow up to 66 inches in length. They eat molluscs and crabs. They live in inshore, usually brackish, waters, including estuaries and lagoons, but can be found offshore as well. Black Drums migrate to warmer waters during winter months. Their name comes from their swim bladder which makes a drumming sound when muscles vibrate against it. Also known as Pompey Drum and Puppy Drum.

Drum, Red (Sciaenops ocellatas)
Red Drums are silver with a red-copper hue. They have a long body and at least one black spot at the base of their square tail. Their scales have dark centers and the dorsal fin is notched. Red Drums can grow up to 60 inches in length. Adults live in schools in coastal waters where they eat small fish and crustaceans, while juveniles inhabit estuaries and eat zooplankton and small invertebrates. Red Drums migrate to warmer waters during winter months. Their name comes from their swim bladder which makes a drumming sound when muscles vibrate against it. Also known as Channel Bass and Redfish.


Eel, American (Anguilla rostrata)
American Eels can be yellow or olive in color with a white belly. They have round tails and a lower jaw that is longer than the upper jaw. They have a long, continuous fin that runs from their belly, around their tail, and to their back. American Eels produce a layer of slime that protects them from diseases. They can grow over 36 inches in length and are nocturnal. They eat worms, molluscs, small fish, and crustaceans. They live in fresh and brackish water, such as streams, bays, and ponds. American Eels go to the Sargasso Sea near the West Indies to spawn and die.
Flounder, Summer (Paralichthyus dentatus)
Summer Flounder are brown with white bellies. They have a flat, round body. Their eyes are on the top left side of their head when seen from above. They have multiple spots on the top of their bodies. Summer Flounder change their color and pattern in order to camouflage themselves. They grow up to 22 inches in length. They eat squid, crustaceans, fish, and worms. They live in estuaries and coastal waters, usually near the bottom, but migrate to deeper waters during winter months. Summer Flounder can swim very fast for short distances. Also known as Fluke.
[photo, Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus), Dept. of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland] Gar, Longnose (Lepisosteus osseus)
Longnose Gars are olive-brown or gray with white bellies and black spots. Juveniles have a dark brown stripe on their backs and along their sides. They have long beak-like snouts with sharp teeth and large, cylindrical bodies. Longnose Gars have hard, armor-like scales for protection. They can grow up to 72 inches in length. They eat crustaceans and fish. They live in rivers, estuaries, lakes, and mud flats. Longnose Gars can tolerate high temperatures and water with little oxygen.

Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus), Department of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Herring, River
River Herring is the collective name for Alewife Herring and Blueback Herring. They closely resemble each other and are often caught together. River Herring are silver with scutes, or modified spiny scales, on their bellies. They can grow up to 15 inches in length. They eat plankton, shrimp, and small fish. They live in schools in the ocean, but return to freshwater rivers, ponds, and lakes to spawn. There is a catch-and-release policy for River Herring in Maryland. Also known as Alewives.
[photo, Striped Killifish (Fundulus majalis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland] Killifish, Striped (Fundulus majalis)
Male Striped Killifish have olive tops and yellow sides and bottoms with dark vertical stripes along their sides. Females are olive on top and white on the bottom with dark horizontal stripes running along their sides, and several vertical stripes near their tailfins. Both sexes have a silver luster. They grow up to 7 inches in length. In shallow, coastal water, they feed on crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and insects. Also known as Striped Mummichog.

Striped Killifish (Fundulus majalis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


[photo, Northern Kingfish (Menticirrhus saxatilis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland] Kingfish, Northern (Menticirrhus saxatilis)
Northern Kingfish have gray-silver bodies with black bars along the top, and a long, dark stripe behind pectoral fin. Their dorsal fin is divided into two parts: the first includes a long spine, while the second is shorter and longer. Their pectoral, pelvic and anal fins are dark with white tips. Their upper jaw is longer than the lower jaw. They can grow up to 18 inches in length. In shallow, coastal water, they eat crustaceans and worms in the sand. Though members of the Drum family, Sciaenidae, Northern Kingfish lack the air bladder necessary to make the drumming or croaking sound. Also known as Northern Kingcroaker.

Northern Kingfish (Menticirrhus saxatilis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Lamprey, American Brook (Lampetra appendix)
Adult American Brook Lampreys have long, scaleless bodies that are brown, black, or silver on top and paler on the bottom. They have one nostril, seven pairs of gill holes near their eyes, and a round, jawless mouth. The larvae, or ammoecetes, have dark heads, clear bodies, and a dark stripe down their backs. Adult Brook Lampreys don't eat, but in the larval stage, which can last up to seven years, they eat detritus and algae. They live in brooks and streams. They change into adult lampreys before spawning and die shortly afterwards.
Classified as Endangered.
Marlin, White (Tetrapturus albidus)
White Marlin have blue backs and white, brown-spotted sides and bellies. Their dorsal and pelvic fins are blue, while the pectoral and caudal fins are black-brown. Their bodies are covered with scales. Their spear-like upper jaw is twice the length of the lower jaw. The first dorsal fin run nearly the length of the body and has black spots. They eat fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. They prefer deep blue oceans where they live alone or in small groups. They migrate to subtropical waters to spawn. White Marlin are known for "tailing," swimming while only the caudal, or tail, fin's dorsal lobe is visible. Also known as Billfish.

Menhaden, Atlantic (Brevoortia tyrannus)
Atlantic Menhaden are silver with small black spots on their sides and one larger black spot behind their gill openings. They have scutes on their bellies and a deeply-forked caudal fin. They can grow up to 15 inches in length. Atlantic Menhaden eat plankton and, as adults, they can filter up to 4 gallons of water per minute. They live in schools and spawn in the ocean, but the juveniles move into estuaries and tributaries. They migrate to warmer waters during deeper months. Their name comes from the Native American word "Munnawhatteaug," or fertilizer. Menhaden have been used as fertilizers for crops and as oil. The Chesapeake Bay is a nursery for menhaden. Also known as Alewife, Bunker, Bugmouth, Fat-Back, and Pogy.

Monkfish (Lophius americanus)
Monkfish are brown or olive green with white bellies. Their spiny heads are very wide and they have large mouths with sharp teeth. Their bodies are narrow and taper at the end, giving them the appearance of large tadpoles. The females are larger and can grow up to 54 inches in length, while the male can reach about 36 inches in length. Monkfish live at the bottom of the ocean, camouflaged in the sediment. They catch their prey, mainly fish, by using one of their head spines as a lure. They also will eat crustaceans, molluscs, and water birds. Also known as Anglerfish and Goosefish.

Muskie, Tiger (Esox masquinongy x Esox lucius)
Tiger Muskies are a hybrid of the Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) and Northern Pike (Esox lucius). They are light colored with dark, vertical bars. They have deep bodies, rounded caudal fins, and 10-16 pores on their lower jaw. They can grow up to 48 inches in length. Tiger Muskies are sterile. They eat other fish. They live in freshwater lakes and rivers, staying in shallow areas in the summer and fall, but moving to deeper waters in winter and spring. The Tiger Muskie is a nonnative species, but their origin in Maryland in unknown. Also known as Muskie.


Needlefish, Atlantic (Strongylura marina)
[photo, Needlefish (Strongylura), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland] Atlantic Needlefish have long, thin bodies and long, beak- or needle-like jaws filled with sharp teeth. With blue-green backs and silver sides, blue stripes mark their sides. Their fins are located near the tail. They generally grow up to two feet in length. In shallow water, they live often around marinas or docks, where they eat small fish and shrimp.

Needlefish (Strongylura), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Perch, Silver (Bairdiella chrysoura)
Silver Perch are members of the Drum Family. They are silver, blue, or green on top and silver on the bottom with yellow fins, and have a horizontal stripe along their side. Their lower jaw is longer than their upper jaw. They grow up to 9 inches in length. During warm months, they swim in shallow water, but move to deep water in winter. They eat crustaceans and worms. Also known as Sand Perch.

Perch, White (Morone americana)
White Perch are silver with faint lines along their sides and white bellies. Their backs are domed and can be black or gray. Their lower jaw extends slightly further than the upper jaw. They can grow up to 19 inches in length. They eat small fish eggs, insects, shrimp, and clams. White Perch can be found in shallow fresh and brackish waters, including reservoirs, estuaries, and streams, but move to deeper waters, such as channels, during winter months.

Perch, Yellow (Perca flavescens)
Yellow Perch are yellow or brass-green with 5-8 dark vertical bars and orange-red fins. They have a forked fin and two separate dorsal fins, with one spiny and the other smooth. They can grow up to 12 inches in length. Yellow Perch eat invertebrates, small fish, and crustaceans. They live in freshwater streams and reservoirs, but also live in brackish waters, usually near grass beds. Also known as Ned and Yellow Ned.

Pickerel, Chain (Esox niger)
Chain Pickerel are green with a dark, chain-like pattern and scaled cheeks and gill covers. They have long bodies, long heads with large mouths, and a forked caudal fin. They can grow up to 30 inches in length. Chain Pickerel eat small fish, insects, and crustaceans, ambushing their prey from vegetation or man-made structures. They live in fresh water, including streams, lakes, and tributaries. Also known as Chainsides, Jackpike and Pike.

Pike, Northern (Esox lucius)
Northern Pike are usually olive green or gray with white or yellow bellies. They have yellow spots on their bodies and dark spots on their fins, though juveniles have yellow stripes that later turn into spots. They have five sensory pores on each side of their lower jaw and a bill-shaped mouth. They can grow more than 36 inches in length. They prefer to live in clear, shallow, fresh water, including large lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, particularly in areas with slow current and sufficient cover. Northern Pike eat smaller fish, ambushing their prey with remarkable speed, but will eat their own kind if food is scarce. They also eat small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Their names comes from their resemblance to the pole-like weapon.


[photo, Pipefish (Syngnathus spp.), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland] Pipefish (Syngnathus spp.)
Pipefish have long, tube-like snouts and long, thin bodies that are plated in bone. They have a dorsal fin and a fan-shaped caudal fin, but lack ventral fins. They grow between 6 to 8 inches long.

Pipefish (Syngnathus spp.), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


The Chesapeake Bay contains two species of Pipefish: Dusky and Northern. Dusky Pipefish are white or brown with brown or black markings. Northern Pipefish are generally brown-tan with brown markings. The snout of the Dusky is longer than that of the Northern, but their dorsal fin is shorter.

In warmer months, Pipefish live in the shallow grass beds where their ability to blend in with surrounding vegetation provides excellent camouflage from predators. During the winter, they move to deeper water. They eat crustaceans, but also fish, fish eggs, and tiny aquatic animals. Pipefish are in the same family as Seahorses, and like them, their fertilized eggs develop inside the male's brood pouch.

Puffer, Northern (Sphoeroides maculatus)
Northern Puffers are gray, olive, or brown with white or yellow bellies. Their club-shaped bodies are covered with small spines. They have black bars on their sides and black spots over most of their body, especially around the cheeks. They have a small beak-like mouth and small dorsal fin. They grow up to 10 inches in length. If they sense danger, Northern Puffers inflate, or puff up, by inhaling air or water. They eat shellfish. They live at the bottom in bay flats and coastal waters, but migrate to deeper waters during winter months. Also known as Sugar Toad.


Ray, Cownose (Rhinoptera bonasus)
Cownose Rays are usually brown with white or yellow bellies. They have kite-shaped bodies, broad heads with wide-set eyes, squared cow-like snout, strong dental plates, fins or "wings" that can have a span of more than 36 inches. There is a spine at the tail's base that is coated with venom. They eat molluscs, which they uncover from the sediment by flapping their fins. Cownose Rays live in schools in shallow waters and migrate to warmer coastal areas during winter months. Also known as Doublehead.
Seahorse, Lined (Hippocampus erectus)
Lined Seahorses can be orange, black, red, yellow, or green, depending on their environment. They have a horse-like head and a prehensile tail that curls forward. Their lined bodies are covered in approximately fifty armor-like plates. Their eyes can move independent of each other. They can grow to 6 inches in length. They eat tiny crustaceans and zooplankton, sucking them into their long snout. They live in shallow waters, including oyster beds, bays, and marshes, camouflaged among the grasses or sponges, but move to deeper water during winter months. The Lined Seahorse is the only seahorse in the Chesapeake Bay.

Seatrout, Spotted (Cynoscion nebulosus)
Spotted Seatrout are gray with silver bellies. They have dark spots across their back as well as the dorsal and caudal fins. They have large teeth and a lower jaw that extended past the upper jaw. They can grow to 36 inches in length. They eat crustaceans and fish. They generally live in shallower waters, including estuaries and rivers, often around oyster beds and among grasses. Spotted Seatrout migrate to warmer waters during winter months. Spotted Trout are not trout, but are members of the Drum family. Also known as Speckled Trout.

Shad, American (Alosa sapidissima)
American Shad are silver with spots on their shoulders. They have scutes on their bellies. They can grow up to 30 inches in length. They eat plankton, crustaceans, and fish eggs. They live in schools in the ocean, but return to their natal freshwater rivers to spawn. They migrate into deeper waters during the winter months. Also known as Atlantic Shad, Common Shad, or White Shad. There is a catch-and-release policy for American Shad in Maryland.

Shad, American Gizzard (Dorosoma cepedianum)
American Gizzard Shad are gray, black, or blue with silver sides and white bellies. They have a dark spot behind their gill openings and their caudal fins are forked. The last ray on the dorsal fin is very long. They produce slime. American Gizzard have a muscular stomach, or gizzard, which grinds up food, which is how they got their name. They can grow to 22 inches in length. They eat invertebrates and phytoplankton. They live in freshwater or brackish bays, rivers, and lakes. They migrate to deeper waters during winter months. Also known as Mud Shad.

Shad, Hickory (Alosa mediocris)
Hickory Shad are gray-green with silver sides. They have at least one dark shoulder spot. They have scutes on their bellies. Their lower jaw extends much further than the upper jaw. They can grow up to 20 inches in length. They eat small fish, crustaceans, insects, and squid. They live in schools in the ocean, but spawn in freshwater rivers and swamps. Also known as Hickory Jacks and Tailor Shad. There is a catch-and-release policy for Hickory Shad in Maryland.

Shark, Sandbar (Carcharhinus plumbeus)
Sandbar Sharks can be brown, gray, or blue with white bellies. They have burly bodies, short, round snouts, and a cartilage skeleton. Their first dorsal fin is very high and triangular and they have very long pectoral fins. They can grow up to 84 inches in length. They eat fish, crabs, and invertebrates. They live in shallow coastal waters, such as harbors and rivers, usually in areas with muddy or sandy bottoms. They migrate to warmer waters during winter months. The Sandbar Shark is the most common shark found in the Chesapeake Bay, which is an important nursery for the species. Also known as Brown Shark and Thickskin Shark.

Shark, Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
Spiny Dogfish Sharks are brown or gray with white or gray bellies and white spots along the back. They have flattened heads, narrow snouts, and large eyes with iridescent pupils. The upper lobe of their caudal fin is longer and they are lacking an anal fin. They have two spines, which are located in front of each dorsal fin and which contain poison. If the Spiny Dogfish Shark is attacked or captured, it arches its back and strikes the aggressor with the spine(s). They can grow up to around 60 inches in length. They eat fish, squid, and crustaceans. They live in schools, or "packs" (hence the name "dogfish"), in the ocean near the bottom and migrate to deeper waters during winter months. Also known as Mud Shark, Piked Dogfish, Rock Salmon, Rock Shark, Sand Shark, and Spurdog.

Shiner, Mimic (Notropis volucellus)
Mimic Shiners are silver, gray, or olive with outlined scales and a dark stripe along the sides. They have small bodies, large eyes, and a round snout. They have transparent fins and eight anal rays. They can reach up to 3 inches in length. They eat algae, insects, and small crustaceans. Mimic Shiners live in freshwater lakes and streams, usually in areas with little current and but containing vegetation. Their name comes from the difficulty of classifying these fish as they closely resemble other shiners. The Mimic Shiner is an invasive species.


[photo, Northern Snakehead (Channa argus), Dept. of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland] Snakehead, Northern (Channa argus)
Northern Snakeheads are gold-brown with dark blotches on the sides and back. They have flattened heads, long dorsal and anal fins, and large mouths and canine teeth. They can grow up to 40 inches in length. An aggressive predator, they eat fish, crustaceans, and amphibians. They live in shallow, freshwater areas that are stagnant or with slow-moving currents, including ponds, rivers, and swamps.

Northern Snakehead (Channa argus), Department of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Northern Snakeheads need to breathe air. They are able to survive on land for up to four days as long as their skin stays wet and they can wriggle or "walk" to other waters. The Northern Snakehead is an invasive species.

In August 2008, a single brood of over 150 Snakeheads was located and destroyed in Charles County. In an effort to curb their spread, State regulations prohibit import or transportation of any live fish or viable eggs into Maryland.

Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus)
Spot are gray-blue with yellowish bellies and fins and small heads. They have a large black spot behind their gill opening and around fifteen darker bars along their bodies. They can grow up to 14 inches in length. They eat detritus, molluscs, worms, and crustaceans. Spot live in estuaries, bays, and coastal waters, but migrate to deeper waters during winter months. They make a croaking sound with their swim bladder. Also known as Spot Croaker.

Sturgeon, Atlantic (Acipenser oxyrhinchus)
Atlantic Sturgeon are black-blue or olive with tan sides and white bellies. They have sloped heads and long snouts with four barbels. Their small mouth is on the underside of their heads. They have five rows of scutes. They can grow up to 14 feet in length, but are usually around 5-8 feet. They eat crustaceans, molluscs, and worms. They live in the ocean, but return to their freshwater natal rivers to spawn. Juveniles will spend several years in fresh or brackish waters before moving into the ocean. Atlantic Sturgeon will occasionally leap out of the water, exposing the whole body.

Federally classified as endangered, the Atlantic Sturgeon was once a common sight in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including the Pocomoke and Potomac rivers. A primary food source for early colonists, the sturgeon population of Maryland has decreased from an estimated 20,000 fish during the 1800s, to fewer than 300 today. State and Federal efforts are underway to increase the sturgeon's population. Atlantic Sturgeon cannot be caught in Maryland.

Sturgeon, Shortnose (Acipenser brevirostrum)
Snortnose Sturgeon are black or brown. They are bony fish, with five rows of plates covering their scaleless bodies, and short snouts and four barbels or whiskers. Their mouths are located on the bottom of their heads. They eat crustaceans, insects, and mollusks off the bottom of rivers and estuaries. They live in freshwater and brackish environments. Females can live twice as long as males. Shortnose Sturgeon are the largest native fish in the Chesapeake Bay. Also known as Bottlenose, Little Sturgeon, and Roundnoser. Classified as Endangered.


[photo, Tautog (Tautoga onitis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland] Tautog (Tautoga onitis)
Tautog are stout fish with dark brown, gray, green, or black bodies, and dark mottling along their sides. They have a long dorsal fin, strong jaws, and slimy skin. Around rocks in coastal waters, they live and munch on mollusks, crustaceans, barnacles, and fish. Also known as Blackfish.

Tautog (Tautoga onitis), Assateague Island Visitor Center, Maryland District, 11800 Marsh View Lane, Berlin, Maryland, October 2016. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Trout, Brook (Salvelinus fontinalis)
Brook Trout are green or brown with orange-red lower sides and white bellies. They have cream vermiculations, or wavy markings, across the back as well as red spots inside blue circles along their sides. Their bellies are white and their lower fins are red or orange with white frontal edges and black streaks. Nonbreeding adults may not have visible red spots or orange-red sides. They can grow up to 12 inches in length. They eat insects, small fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and amphibians. They live in clear, cold lakes and rivers that are well-oxygenated and pollution-free, though some species spend part of their lives in saltwater. The only trout native to the State, the Brook Trout swims in nearly 100 Maryland streams. Brook Trout is actually a char, not a trout. Also known as Speckled Trout and Squaretail.

Trout, Brown (Salmo trutta)
Brown Trout are generally olive or brown with gold sides and whitish bellies. They have black spots inside light circles across their back, sides, and dorsal fin, but can also have red spots on their lower sides. Some can be silver with white bellies and few spots. Brown Trout usually grow to around 14 inches in length, but larger specimens have been found. They eat fish, amphibians, insects, and birds. While many live in freshwater river and lakes, others migrate to the ocean, only returning to spawn. The Brown Trout is an introduced species.


[photo, Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Dept. of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland] Trout, Rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Rainbow Trout vary in color and size depending on habitat and subspecies. They are usually blue-green or olive, but in Maryland, they can be green-silver with silver sides. They have black spots over most of their body and a red stripe along their sides. They usually grow up to 13 inches in length, but larger specimens have been found. They eat insects, crustaceans, fish eggs and carcasses. Many live in rivers and lakes with gravel bottoms, though some migrate to the ocean, returning only to spawn. Rainbow Trout is an introduced species and is main fish grown in Maryland trout hatcheries.

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Department of Natural Resources exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.


Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum)
Walleye are olive or green with gold sides and white bellies. Their large eyes point outward and are opaque, which is how they got their name. There are dark bars across their backs. The first dorsal fin has a dark spot at its base, while the caudal fin's lower lobe and the anal fin are white-tipped. Walleye have a large mouth filled with sharp teeth. They can grow more than 30 inches in length. They eat fish, crayfish, and leeches. They live in cool lakes with gravel bottoms.

Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis)
Weakfish are gray-olive green with iridescent blue, green, purple, or copper sides and white-silver bellies. They have black spots along their backs and sides. Weakfish have large mouths with two large canine teeth, but weak jaw muscles, the origin of their name. They have a lower jaw that extends further than the upper jaw. Their fins are yellow or yellow-tinged. They can grow up to 29 inches in length. They eat fish, crustaceans, molluscs, and squid. They live in schools in shallower coastal waters, but migrate to warmer waters during winter months. They make a drumming sound. The Chesapeake Bay is important for spawning weakfish. Also known as Drummer, Gray Trout, Sea Trout, Squeteague, and Tiderunner.

Weatherfish, Oriental (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus)
Oriental Weatherfish are brown-yellow with green-gray or brown markings on the top and silver bellies. They have long eel-like bodies, small mouths, and six chin barbels. They can grow up to 12 inches in length. They eat detritus, insects, worms, snails, and fish eggs. They live in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and swamps, where they prefer slow currents and muddy bottoms. Oriental Weatherfish become extremely active when the barometric pressure changes due to severe weather, which is how they got their name. The Oriental Weatherfish is an invasive species. Also known as Loach.

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