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Northern Searobin

Prionotus carolinus

The northern searobin uses its finger-like pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey. (U.S. Geological Survey)
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The northern searobin uses its finger-like pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey. (U.S. Geological Survey)

The northern searobin is an unusual-looking fish with a mottled body, wing-like fins and a flat, bony head. It visits the deep waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through early winter.

Appearance:

  • Tapered body that gets thinner toward the tail
  • Mottled grayish or reddish-brown back
  • Whitish belly
  • Flat, bony head
  • Bright blue eyes
  • Sharp spines on the cheeks, neck, shoulders and above each eye
  • Three finger-like pelvic fins
  • Large, wing-like pectoral fins
  • Two separate dorsal fins: one spiny and one smooth. The spiny dorsal fin has a black spot between the fourth and fifth spines.
  • Grows less than 12 inches long

Habitat:

  • Bottom-dweller
  • Lives over deep, sandy flats and channels

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through early winter
  • Most common in the lower Bay, but has been collected as far north as the Potomac River
  • Moves offshore or to warmer southern waters in winter

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Uses its modified pelvic fins to feel for and uncover its prey, which includes crabs, shrimp, bivalves and other fish

Voice:

  • Uses its swim bladder to make a croaking sound, similar to a frog’s croak

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns from late spring through summer
  • The female lays its eggs over a sandy area
  • Eggs hatch within 60 hours
  • Parents do not care for their young

Other Facts:

  • The most common searobin species in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Anglers consider searobins to be a nuisance because they steal bait and are unpleasant to handle. However, they are tasty to eat.

Sources and Additional Information:




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