Many species are managed by a single fisheries management body. Others are managed by as many as three or even four. We understand that all of this can be confusing and hope to make it easier for our readers to understand this process. Simply click on a species in the list below to see all articles (and other information) related to that species.
American eel are a catadromous fish species, spending most of their life in freshwater or estuarine environments, traveling to the ocean as adults to reproduce and die. Sexually maturing eel migrate to spawning grounds located in the Sargasso Sea, a large portion of the western Atlantic Ocean east of the Bahamas and south of Bermuda. American eel found along the eastern coast of Mexico are from the same population as eel found in the St. Lawrence River in Canada. American eel have a multitude of life stages: leptocephali, glass eel (also known as elvers), yellow eel, and silver eel. Yellow eel are the primary life stage harvested by commercial and recreational fishermen. Currently, American eel stocks are depleted. Much is still unknown about the species. Their range and life cycle contribute to the difficulties in sustainable management.
Croaker are in the same family as red drum and weakfish. Their name is derived from the noise they make during mating season. They are a bottom dwelling fish that feeds primarily on shrimp, crabs, and worms. Croaker spawn in the fall and winter in offshore waters. The larva drift into estuaries to mature. The Chesapeake Bay is a primary nursery for croakers. They can live up to 18 years but few fish over 10 years old are ever seen. The annual catch for croaker has declined dramatically since 2001. It peaked at 41 million pounds and has declined to only 10 million pounds coast wide. Croaker are managed by a Traffic Light Analysis. This management tool is typically used for data door species.
The Atlantic halibut is not only the world’s largest flatfish, but also one of the largest bony fish in the ocean. Only the bluefin tuna, broadbill swordfish and blue and black marlin grow larger. They are a cool- and cold-water species, that historically ranged from the Arctic to as far south as Virginia, in water depths of 150 to more than 6,000 feet. However, as halibut abundance decreased sharply in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the fish’s range contracted, and they are now seldom seen south of New England. Atlantic halibut can reach weights in excess of 700 pounds, although even fish half of that size are rarely seen in the northwest Atlantic today. Atlantic halibut are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council. Although the population declined sharply in the past 150 years, and remains at low levels of abundance, the species is still harvested in the commercial groundfish fishery; about 288,000 pounds were landed in 2016. Halibut are also occasionally caught by anglers, who place high value on such encounters. However, the total recreational catch is very small. Atlantic halibut are overfished, but overfishing is not currently occurring.
Atlantic Herring (aka Sea Herring) are a pelagic species considered to be one of the most important forage species found along the East Coast. This species of herring spends its entire life cycle in the ocean and is not known to enter rivers and estuaries. The species range is from Labrador to Virginia and they can be found from state waters out the edge of the continental shelf. Atlantic Herring are jointly managed by both the NEFMC & the ASMFC. The NEFMC conducts most of the management and the ASMFC manages spawning protections and some commercial activities. They are managed as one stock and the current status is that Atlantic Herring are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. The next benchmark assessment is expected to be completed in late 2018. There are multiple fleets that target this species commercially. The MAFMC management of Atlantic Mackerel is often intertwined with management if Atlantic Herring because often times the exact same vessels leave the dock seeking of encountering both species. Small mesh draggers/trawlers and purse seines are minor players with the vast majority of commercial landings coming from the industrial scale single and paired mid-water trawl fleet. This is one of the most controversial fishing fleets in the US because of its ability to catch millions of fish in a single tow and the fleets decade long battle to resist 100% monitoring of its catch & by-catch. Fissues.org regularly reports on the management of this controversial species.
Menhaden are truly the most important fish in the sea. They are a key forage species for countless predatory species. Menhaden feed on plankton. That means that this little fish cleans the water as it feeds as well as helping to convert the sun's energy to protein. So, they provide a critical link in the food web between primary production and higher organisms. Menhaden are currently managed as a single species meant for harvest. There was an overwhelming push in 2016 to manage menhaden for their ecological significance, Despite an enormous public outcry, the decision was made to wait until an updated stock assessment becomes available in 2019. Currently, the lion's share of menhaden harvest is being taken by Omega Corp out of a single port, Reedville, VA.
Atlantic striped bass (Morone saxatilis) are an estuarine species that can be found from Florida to Canada, although the stocks that the Commission manages range from Maine to North Carolina. A long-lived species (at least up to 30 years of age), striped bass typically spend the majority of their adult life in coastal estuaries or the ocean, migrating north and south seasonally and ascending to rivers to spawn in the spring. Mature females (age six and older) produce large quantities of eggs. In fact, striped bass egg production increases 200,000 eggs per 1kg increase in weight of female. Larger fish also have larger eggs, giving the larva a head start on growth and development. This process increases throughout the life of the breeding aged females. The larger and older the fish, the more fertile eggs and each egg is far larger than one produced from a smaller female. Striped bass stocks are measured by biological reference points in relation to the SSB (Spawning Stock Biomass/ Sexually Mature Females). The population has been in steady decline since the peak SSB between 2002 and 2004. Currently, striped bass SSB is sitting precariously close to the threshold. If the SSB population falls below the threshold, management action would be mandatory. Learn more about striped bass on Fissues
“Atlantic billfish” is a generic term that includes five different species, the blue marlin, white marlin, Atlantic sailfish, longbill spearfish and roundscale spearfish. All five species are found in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region. Sailfish and spearfish are generally limited to the southern Mid-Atlantic, while blue marlin are sometimes found off southern New England and white marlin were once common off Massachusetts. Blue marlin are the largest Atlantic billfish, and can attain weights in excess of 1,400 pounds; roundscale spearfish, on the other hand, seldom if ever break the 50-pound mark. The other three billfish species are also relatively small, with the largest individuals ever recorded weighing between 150 and 175 pounds. All Atlantic billfish are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is guided by the decisions of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. None may be commercially harvested, although recreational anglers with an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species permit may land all billfish except longbill spearfish. Both blue and white marlin are both overfished and subject to overfishing.
The northern stock of black sea bass (BSB), from North Carolina (Cape Hatteras) to Maine, has dramatically increased primarily due to climate change and warming water. The ideal temperature range is 59 to 64 degrees. BSB are caught closer to shore in spring and summer. They migrate to deeper offshore water in the fall and winter. BSB have the ability to adjust their color to blend in with the bottom with colors ranging from grey, brown, black to a deep indigo hue and black. They can be found on the bottom near structure… rocky areas, jetties, reefs, rips and are often caught when fishing for summer flounder (fluke). BSB are hermaphroditic fish… they begin life as female then turn male. The world record for BSB is ten pounds four ounces and 26 inches long. The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission work cooperatively to develop regulations for BSB. These two management bodies manage BSB cooperatively because fish are caught in state waters as well as federal waters. Learn more about Black Sea Bass on Fissues
Bluefish are ferocious predators that can grow up to forty inches and top the scales at almost 30 pounds. They range throughout the world and frequent many coasts as they are a migratory species. In the US, bluefish are predominantly a recreational fishery. As bluefish migrate seasonally up and down the Atlantic coast, anglers from Maine to Florida target these voracious predators near inlets, shoals, and rips, where they come to feed on large schools of bait. Learn more about bluefish on Fissues
Atlantic chub mackerel is a small, pelagic, schooling, tuna-like species prevalent from Florida and recently all the way up to Rhode Island. They expand across the Atlantic and can be found in the Mediterranean well. Chub mackerel aggregations are a fairly recent occurrence in the Mid Atlantic. In the last several years they have shown up in extraordinary numbers from Virginia up to New York, usually offshore of 20 fathoms. Such chub aggregations have become a forage source for billfish, tuna, mahi etc. In recent years chub have undoubtedly driven spatial and temporal offshore recreational fishing opportunities. While large scale chub mackerel fisheries certainly exist on the other side of the Atlantic, there was, more or less, no commercial fishery for chub here until fairly recently. Industry went from catching close to none in 2008 to catching over 5-million pounds in 2013. An extraordinary escalation in a very short amount of time. In response, the Mid Atlantic Council capped the commercial fishery at an average of the three most recent three years they had data for, 2010 to 2013, while allowing for a forty-thousand pound “incidental” limit to be caught after that cap was met. That cap was intended to last three years after it went into effect (in 2018). During that time, the intent was for the Council to develop alternatives for longer-term management of chub mackerel fisheries to ensure sustainability, not simply from a yield perspective, but from an ecosystem on (i.e. making sure enough remained in the water for predators). Most interpreted that to mean adding chub mackerel as a stock in the Butterfish Fishery Management Plan (FMP) Mackerel, Squid, , so that it would be managed under the Magnuson Stevens Act. Currently the Council is developing such an amendment, but is struggling with data gaps and a general lack of information on chub mackerel in the Mid Atlantic. For a full species description and management history on the Fissues page for chub mackerel
Atlantic Cod are one of the most important fish species in history. Early abundance of this fish was so high that explorers honored the species importance when naming Cape Cod. The historic fishing port of Gloucester MA was established by colonial charter to profit from Cod fishing. Since 1874 a hand carved “sacred cod” has hung in the MA State House. This important fish ranges from Greenland to Cape Hatteras and is targeted by multiple commercial and recreational communities. Many on the East Coast first experienced salt water fishing aboard a “deep sea” party/head boat whose main target was historically Atlantic Cod. In the US Atlantic Cod are managed by the NEFMC as two separate stocks under the Northeast Multispecies (ground fish) Fishery Management Plan: Gulf of Maine Cod & Georges Bank Cod. The two stocks are separated by the “42” degree line off of Cape Cod. Currently both stocks are considered overfished and many would claim both of these stocks are in a state of collapse. There are both anecdotal and scientific signs of slight growth but overall both species are in very bad shape. Because these are highly desired fish with very low quotas; both commercial and recreational management of both stocks are in a constant state of controversy.
Dolphin, also frequently referred to as “mahi,” are an abundant, pelagic sport and food fish that are widespread in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate seas. They are caught throughout the Mid-Atlantic, and are often seen as far north as Massachusetts during the summer. Although many of the dolphin encountered are “chicks” weighing less than five pounds, twenty-pound fish are far from rare, and dolphin weighing more than fifty pounds are encountered every year. They are a very fast-growing fish, and even the largest dolphin are no more than five years old. Dolphin are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, through the Fishery Management Plan for Dolphin and Wahoo that is administered by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, acting in cooperation with the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. Recreational fishermen on the Atlantic coast landed nearly 3.7 million pounds of dolphin in 2017, compared to 2016 commercial landings of less than 900,000 pounds. The dolphin stock is healthy, neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.
Many a mate on recreational party/head boats are happy when they see Haddock being caught because when Haddock glow (their silvery white color shines in the sun) the tips flow. New England fishermen know that Haddock taste much better than their larger and much more popular cousins the Atlantic Cod. Haddock range from Newfoundland to Cape May NJ and are managed by the NEFMC under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan. Similar to Atlantic Cod, Haddock are managed as two separate stocks; Gulf of Maine (GOM) Haddock and Georges Bank Haddock. Both stocks are currently experiencing years of high abundance with both species under the status of not being overfished and overfishing not occurring. The high abundance of Haddock is the one bright spot and is literally saving portions of both the recreational and commercial ground fish fleets.
Horseshoe crabs spend their winter near the continental shelf. In the spring, the migrate inshore looking for calm, sandy beaches to lay their eggs. Juveniles spend a few years close to shore and then join the adult stock. Horseshoe crab eggs are a critical part of the food web on the Atlantic seashore. Sea birds rely on the eggs during their yearly migration. Horse shoe crabs are also commercially harvest as bait for the welk fishery as well as used in the biomedical industry. Little is known about the horseshoe crab stock. We do know that population have increased in the South East region and decreased north of Delaware. A new stock assessment is scheduled for October 2018.
Atlantic Pollock are a lesser desired cousin to the Atlantic Cod and are typically found in the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank. Some juveniles find their way to coastal harbors and are known as “Harbor Pollock” but are indeed the exact same species. For many years, filets of this and few other cousins to the Atlantic Cod were sold and served under the generic marketing term of “schrod.” Due to availability of quota this species commercial and recreational value on the rise. Pollock are managed as a single stock by the NEFMC under the Northeast Multispecies (ground fish) Fishery Management Plan. The status of the species is that Atlantic Pollock are not overfished, and overfishing is not occurring.
Red drum (redfish, channel bass) are a prized species by many anglers on the Atlantic Coast. Much like striped bass, juvenile fish spend their first few years in estuaries. The adults leave the estuary and become part of the coastal migratory stock. Red drum can live up to 60 years and reach up to 90lbs. The stock is managed as two separate entities. There is a southern stock that exists from South Carolina to Florida. The northern stock is managed from North Carolina to New Jersey. According to tagging and dna studies, the two stocks rarely mix. The most recent stock assessment indicates that overfishing is not occurring for either stock. In the Atlantic, red drum have a maximum size of 27 inches. Anything over this size must be released. This practice allows for protection of the large females which are critical to the stability of the species. Red drum require healthy ecosystems, especially salt marshes, in order to maintain an abundant population.
Red hake, also called “ling” along parts of the Mid-Atlantic coast, are a wide-ranging species that can be found from Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence south to North Carolina, and from shallow coastal waters to depths of more than 1,500 feet. They are most often found between Maine and northern New Jersey. They are not a large fish; although the largest red hake may weigh close to 15 pounds, most individuals caught be recreational fishermen are in the two- to four-pound class. The largest red hake ever recorded as caught on rod and reel was a 12-pound, 13-ounce fish caught off New Jersey in 2010. Although the meat is white and good-tasting, it tends to be somewhat soft, more suitable for fish cakes and similar uses than for steaks or fillets. As a result, red hake command a low ex-vessel price, often selling for about fifty cents per pound. Red hake are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council. It supports a substantial commercial fishery, and is frequently caught by recreational fishermen. In New York and New Jersey, red hake are often sought by party boat anglers, who either target them or catch them while fishing around wrecks for other species such as cod and black sea bass. The Gulf of Maine/Northern Georges Bank stock of red hake is neither overfished nor subject to overfishing. However, it was recently determined that overfishing was occurring with respect to the Southern Georges Bank/Mid-Atlantic stock, which has also recently been found to be overfished.
Scup (or porgy) are plentiful as the stock was officially declared rebuilt in 2009 as it increased 30-fold from 1997 to 2008 largely due to conservation measures. They are caught in waters between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Cape Haters, North Carolina. Scup can be found in open water as well as around structure. Scup are harvest commercially and recreationally. Scup can grow as large as 18” and three pounds and can live for over twenty years. They migrate north and inshore to spawn in the spring, and then migrate offshore and in fall/winter as the water cools. In a NOAA Fisheries taste test participants discovered the lesser known scup has a subtle, delicious flavor and an excellent alternative to more popular white fish. Scup are also a forage fish for striped bass, blue fish and other species. Scup is managed cooperatively by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Cooperative management was developed because scup are caught in both state waters and in federal waters. Learn more about scup on Fissues
“Shad and river herring” is a category that encompasses four closely-related species belonging to the genus Alosa, including the American shad, hickory shad, alewife and blueback herring. All are anadromous species that spend most of their adult lives at sea, but return to coastal rivers to spawn in early spring. River systems each host their own unique “runs” of fish that generally return to their natal waters to spawn, although some returning fish do wander into other streams, where they can serve to rebuild populations lost to dams, pollution or other causes. The American shad is the largest and most valued alosine species. Large females can occasionally weigh more than 11 pounds, and the species was such an important food fish in the United States during parts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that author John McPhee dubbed it “The Founding Fish.” Hickory shad are far smaller, rarely if ever exceeding three pounds, and are much less valued as a food fish. The two species of “river herring,” blueback herring and alewives, are the smallest of all, occasionally attaining a maximum length of 16 inches. As commercial species, river herring are far less important than American shad, and are caught primarily for lobster bait, although some are smoked or pickled for human consumption. However, the primary value of both species is as forage fish, which are fed upon by a wide variety of fish, birds and aquatic mammals. All four species of shad and river herring are included in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission’s Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Shad and River Herring; the National Marine Fisheries Service does not manage any of the species while they are at sea, although it does limit shad and river herring bycatch in large-volume fisheries for Atlantic herring and Atlantic mackerel. Episodes of bycatch in such large-volume fisheries can cause significant harm to shad and river herring stocks; coupled with the effects of past overfishing, and restricted access to spawning grounds caused by dams, pollution, dredging, etc., the abundance of all four species has declined substantially. The health of the various shad and river herring runs differs from river to river. However, on an overall basis, both American shad and river herring are deemed to be “depleted” by ASMFC; no formal assessment of the hickory shad population has taken place, although abundance of that species also appears to have declined. Learn more about Shad and River Herring on Fissues
There are about forty species of shark included in this category, which includes the whale shark—the largest fish in the world—familiar species such as the tiger, shortfin mako and white sharks and a host of lesser known species found in shallow coastal waters, the waters of the continental shelf and in the open ocean. Although not all species range along the entire coast, at least a few shark species can be found everywhere between Maine and North Carolina. Sharks in federal waters are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which coordinates its management decisions with those of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic
vSilver hake, also known as “whiting,” is a small, wide-ranging foodfish that belongs to the same biological order as cod. They can be found along the continental shelf between southern Labrador and South Carolina, and sometimes off the Bahamas although, as a cool-water species, they are most common north of New York. Depending on the time of year, they can regularly be found anwhere between the beach and depths of 1,200 feet or so, although they are sometimes seen in more than 2,500 feet of water Silver hake are aggressive predators. At one time, they were common, during the winter, in the New York Bight, were they frequently chased bait in the surf line after sunset. Such behavior gave them the nickname, “frostfish” for they often overshot the water’s edge while chasing their prey, ending up on the beach, where they froze stiff and could be gathered by people walking along the shore. Most silver hake caught are between 12 and 15 inches in length, although the largest, which anglers once called “baseball bat whiting,” could achieve lengths approaching 30 inches and weights of over four pounds. The largest angler-caught silver hake on record weighed four pounds, eight ounces, and was caught off southern Maine in 1995. Like other hakes, silver hake have white, good-tasting meat that tends to become soft soon after the fish is caught. Commercially-caught hake are usually not sold for the retail whole-fish market, but instead are used for fish sticks and similar products; as a result, hake bring a relatively low price at the market, typically selling for around $0.75 per pound. Silver hake once supported a large recreational fishery, prosecuted primarily by the party boat fleet off New York and northern New Jersey. However, that fishery collapsed in the early 1980s; the current recreational fishery is small, with most silver hake caught by bottom fishermen off New England. The commercial harvest now dwarfs the recreational landings. Silver hake are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council. The stock appears healthy, neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.
Spanish mackerel are a fast swimming fish that travel great distances. They are also known to school in open water but can sometimes be found in shallow areas. Spanish mackerel grow quickly, reaching lengths up to 15 inches in their first year of life. Wintering off Florida, they begin a migration North in early spring. Reaching North Carolina by April and as far as New York by June. The stock was at low levels from the mid 80's to the mid 90's. Since then, the biomass has steadily increased while fishing mortality decreased. The stock is currently well above the spawning stock biomass (ssb) target. Overfishing is not occurring. In fact, the recreational release percentage in 2015 was the highest on record at 65%.
Spiny Dogfish are managed by the New England Fishery Management Council, Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The most recent stock assessment indicates spiny dogfish are in good shape. Overfishing is not occurring. The spawning stock biomass sits just above the target level. Researches are trying to understand how spiny dogfish recovered so quickly from historically low levels in 2005. This information could lead to developing new management strategies for other depleted shark species. There are no possession or size limits for the recreational fishery. The commercial fishery is considered underutilized. Spiny dogfish are used in fish-n-chips in the European market.
Spot are most abundant from the Chesapeake Bay to South Carolina. Spot are a short lived fish. This causes fluctuations in both recreational and commercial catch. The catch, in most years, consists primarily of only one year class. Spot experience significant bycatch issues with haul seine and pound net fisheries in North Carolina and the Chesapeake as well as the shrimp fishery in the South Atlantic. Spot are also a prized live bait for striped bass. The recreational catch in 2015 was only 2.27 million pounds. This is the lowest harvest in almost twenty years. Spot are managed by a Traffic Light Analysis. The management tool looks at both harvest and population metrics to determine the health of the stock. The 2017 benchmark stock assessment was not endorsed by an independent panel of scientists for management purposes. They did recommend continued use of the TLA. The independent panel also determined that estimated bycatch of croaker and spot is significant. They suggested that byctach estimate be included in the next benchmark assessment for spot,
Squid are without-a doubt an important component of marine ecosystems of the East Coast, serving as forage for a wide variety of inshore and offshore fish and marine mammals. They also support a substantial commercial fishery, and are widely used as bait by anglers. The Mid Atlantic fishery Management Council manages Ilex (shortfin) and loligo (longfin) squid as part of their Mackerel, Squid, Butterfish Fishery Management Plan. Ilex are present mostly on the continental shelf and continental slope throughout much of the North Atlantic, where they can be found anywhere from the surface down to about 3,500 feet. Longfin squid prefer warmer waters than do Ilex, and can be found inshore, much shallower. Both shortfin and longfin squid have a lifespan of less than one year, making them exempt from annual catch limits and accountability measures. Nonetheless, the Council seeks to manage squid sustainably. Ilex squid harvest is controlled through a single annual catch limit, while the annual catch limit for longfin squid is broken down into three 4-month trimesters. Trimester 1 (Jan to April), Trimester 2 (May to August) and Trimester 3 (September to December). The trimester system generally follows the annual migration the squid make: offshore in the winter and inshore in the summer. Biologists lack the information needed to determine whether or not shortfin squid are overfished or experiencing overfishing. However, abundance appears to be declining, presumably because of unfavorable oceanographic conditions. According to the best available science, the longfin squid stock is in relatively good condition, yet there are most certainly localized depletion concerns as it relates to predator aggregations, most notably off Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket t during trimester 2. Regardless, the spawning stock biomass is estimated to be well above the spawning stock biomass target, and currently, loligo squid is being considered by the Marine Stewardship Council for “sustainable” certification, despite objections from anglers in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket localized depletion as well as several ENGOs. For a full species description and management history see the Fissues page for squid
Summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus) are found in inshore and offshore waters from Nova Scotia, Canada to the east coast of Florida. In the U.S., they are most abundant in the Mid-Atlantic region from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to Cape Fear, North Carolina. Summer flounder usually begin to spawn at age two or three, at lengths of about 10 inches. Spawning occurs in the fall while the fish are moving offshore. Spawning migration is linked to sexual maturity, with the oldest and largest fish migrating first. As in their seasonal migrations, spawning summer flounder in the northern portion of the geographic range spawn and move offshore (depths of 120 to 600 feet) earlier than those in the southern part of the range. Larvae migrate to inshore coastal and estuarine areas from October to May. The larvae, or fry, move to bottom waters upon reaching the coast and spend their first year in bays and other inshore areas. At the end of their first year, some juveniles join the adult offshore migration. Adults spend most of their life on or near the sea bottom burrowing in the sandy substrate. Flounder lie in ambush and wait for their prey. They are quick and efficient predators with well-developed teeth allowing them to capture small fish, squid, sea worms, shrimp, and other crustaceans.
Swordfish are a large pelagic predator that range from the tropics well into Canadian waters. Although they are most abundant on the outer continental shelf and near deep-water banks and other offshore structure, where they regularly feed more than 1,000 feet below the surface, swordfish historically ranged well inshore, sometimes “finning out” on the surface inside the 20 fathom line. Although anglers often catch swordfish “pups,” weighing less than 100 pounds, when “chunking” for tuna around the offshore canyons at night, individuals weighing well over 300 pounds are sometimes encountered. On rare occasions, swordfish of more than 1,000 pounds have been caught. Swordfish are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which acts in accord with recommendations made by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. Overfishing by the pelagic longline fleet drove the North Atlantic swordfish population to very low levels during the 1990s; however, it has since been successfully rebuilt, thanks to a successful international conservation effort. Thanks to that effort, U.S. commercial fishermen landed more than 2,000,000 pounds of swordfish in 2016, with more landed by recreational anglers, yet the North Atlantic stock is now neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.
Tautog (or blackfish) can be found along the Northeast Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Georgia with the greatest abundance between Cape Cod and the Chesapeake Bay area. In spring as water warms to about 47 degrees, tautog migrates inshore to spawn in estuaries. They move offshore to deeper water in fall/winter. Tautog are often caught in structure with anglers maneuvering to get on top of them. Once a tautog is hooked it will try to work its way back down into structure. Bottom tie-ups and lost rigs are all part of the process. These slow growing fish can live for 35 to 40 years. The average fish caught is two to four pounds with a record 28.83 pound tautog caught off Maryland in 2015. Tautog are managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. About ninety percent are harvested recreationally and ten percent commercially. Amendment 1 passed in 2017 delineates the stock into four regions… Massachusetts-Rhode Island, Long Island Sound, New Jersey-New York Bight, and Delaware-Maryland-Virginia.
There are two species of tilefish commonly found off the New England/Mid-Atlantic coast, the golden and the blueline. Both inhabit the outer continental shelf and continental slope, at depths ranging from 250 to 1,500 feet. Tilefish are not migratory, but instead burrow into soft mud bottoms, expanding such burrows as they grow larger over the course of their lives. Such sedentary behavior renders tilefish vulnerable to changes in oceanographic conditions; incursions of water colder than 48 degrees Fahrenheit can result in mass mortality events. Golden tilefish are the larger and more abundant of the two species. They are slow-growing fish, capable of living for about 50 years and attaining weights that approach 70 pounds. Blueline tilefish reach a maximum weight of 25 to 30 pounds; most individuals are substantially smaller. Golden tilefish are managed Tilefish support a lucrative commercial fishery, with most of the directed catch taken on bottom longlines. There is also a directed recreational fishery, which sees anglers “deep drop” for tilefish and other bottom species such as barrelfish, wreckfish and snowy grouper. The National Marine Fisheries Service manages both species pursuant to its Tilefish Fishery Management Plan, which is administered by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. The golden tilefish stock is relatively healthy, neither overfished nor subject to overfishing. The blueline tilefish stock is not overfished, but overfishing is taking place.
Six species of tuna are present in the New England/Mid-Atlantic region, including the albacore, bigeye, blackfin, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin. Most can be found throughout the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England, although the bluefin ranges north into Canadian waters, while the blackfin is a southern species that rarely ventures north of Delaware Bay. All six species support significant commercial and recreational fisheries. Bluefin are by far the largest member of the complex, and can reach weights at least 1,500 pounds. Skipjack and blackfin, on the other hand, weigh less than 50 pounds, with the vast majority never reaching half of that size; New England/Mid-Atlantic skipjack seldom break the 10-pound mark. The other three species fall somewhere in between those extremes. Bigeye reach a maximum weight of about 400 pounds. The largest New England/Mid-Atlantic yellowfin grow to about 250 (they grow far larger in the Pacific), while albacore don’t quite reach 100. All of the tunas are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which acts in accord with the recommendations of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas. While bigeye tuna are not overfished, they are subject to overfishing. The other five species are in better condition; none are overfished, and overfishing is not taking place.
Wahoo are a fish of tropical, subtropical and warm temperate seas, which are sometimes caught as far north as Massachusetts. They are one of the fastest fish in the ocean, reportedly capable of reaching 60 miles per hour when pursuing prey. Wahoo are a long, thin fish that related to mackerel, although their ability to move they upper jaw, like billfish, puts them in their own genus, Acanthocybium. They are a medium-sized predator, that reaches a maximum size of about 200 pounds, although most of the wahoo caught probably fall into the 25 to 75 pound range. Wahoo are managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service, through the Fishery Management Plan for Dolphin and Wahoo that is administered by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, acting in cooperation with the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. Recreational fishermen on the Atlantic coast landed more than 900,000 pounds of wahoo in 2017, compared to 2016 commercial landings of less than 63,000 pounds. The wahoo stock is healthy, neither overfished nor subject to overfishing.
Weakfish (Cynoscion regalis) occur along the Atlantic coast of North America from Nova Scotia to southeastern Florida, but are more common from New York to North Carolina. Warming of coastal waters in the spring prompts an inshore and northerly migration of adults from their offshore wintering grounds between Chesapeake Bay and Cape Lookout, The stock has been depleted for at least 13 years. The fish essentially disappear after they reach 11 inches. The absence of adult fish is attributed to natural mortality. This has resulted in much speculation regarding potential recovery. Some believe that the lack of forage species is a huge obstacle in the recovery of the stock. Learn more about weakfish on Fissues
The white hake is a bottom-dwelling species normally caught on muddy bottoms in depths ranging from 100 to 3,000 feet of water. It prefers cooler water; although it can be found on the continental shelf and upper continental slope anywhere between Labrador and North Carolina, and sometimes as far south as Florida, its presence in southern waters is limited to the cooler, deeper waters. White hake are, by far, the largest hake found in the northwest Atlantic, capable of reaching weights approaching, and possibly exceeding, 50 pounds. The official record for the largest white hake ever caught by a recreational fishermen is a 46 ¼-pound specimen caught off Maine in 1986, although there are many stories of larger white hake, some approaching 60 pounds, that were caught in the southern New England recreational cod fishery but never submitted for official recognition. White hake are a good food fish, but like most hakes, their meat can become soft if it is not quickly and continually iced down. Even so, the fillets can often be found in seafood markets. Landings are dominated by the commercial fishery, where white hake bring a significantly higher price than other members of the hake family, about $1.50 per pound. Recreational landings usually occur as part of the mixed groundfish fishery of New Jersey, New York and New England. White hake are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council. Although the stock is currently neither overfished nor subject to overfishing, it has been slow to recover from past overharvest, and is now in the 14th year of what was intended to be a 10-year rebuilding plan.
Winter flounder are small flatfish belonging to the group known as “right-eyed flounder” because, when placed on a surface with their dark side facing up with their belly pointed toward the observer, their head (and eyes) will be facing toward the right. Winter flounder are a cool- to cold-water species; while individuals have been found in waters between Labrador and Georgia, for practical purposes the population never extended south of Delaware. They are a small fish, generally less than 18 inches in length and two pounds in weight, although some individuals, particularly those found on the offshore banks, can weigh as much as 7 or 8 pounds. Winter flounder are managed as three distinct stocks, the Gulf of Maine and southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks, both of which spawn in inshore waters and often move into deeper waters when spawning is completed, and a Georges Bank stock, which spends its entire life in offshore waters on and near its namesake bank. All three stocks are managed by the National Marine Fishery Service’s Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, administered by the New England Fishery Management Council; the Gulf of Maine and Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stocks are also managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission when in state waters. Winter flounder once supported important recreational and commercial fisheries, although the collapse of the Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock and an apparent decline of the Gulf of Maine stock over most of its range has sharply reduced flounder landings. The Southern New England/Mid-Atlantic stock is badly overfished, although overfishing is not currently occurring. The Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank stocks are neither overfished nor subject to overfishing. Learn more about winter flounder on Fissues/a>