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Summer Flounder

Paralichthys dentatus

The summer flounder is a flat fish with spots on the top side of the body. Both eyes are located on the top side of the head. (Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk/Flickr)
The summer flounder is a flat fish with spots on the top side of the body. Both eyes are located on the top side of the head. (Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk/Flickr)

The summer flounder is a flat, brownish fish with large spots on the top side of the body. It visits the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

The summer flounder has a flat, rounded body that usually grows 15 to 22 inches in length. Females are larger than males. Summer flounder are brownish on top and whitish on the bottom, with various large spots on the top side of their body. Both eyes are located on the top side of its head. It has a long dorsal fin that stretches from the head to its slightly pointed tail fin.

Habitat:

Bottom-dweller that usually lives in deep channels and ridges; young can be found in shallow waters and on sandbars.

Range:

Visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn. Most remain in the middle to lower Bay, but some travel as far north as Maryland’s Gunpowder River. As water temperatures decrease, they will usually migrate offshore for winter.

Feeding:

Summer flounder are bottom-feeders that eat shrimp, squid, worms, crustaceans and other fish.

Predators:

The summer flounder conceals itself from predators by burying itself in bottom sediments and changing colors to blend in with its surroundings.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Spawning occurs in autumn and mid-winter in coastal ocean waters. After hatching, larvae have one eye on each side of the head. The right eye gradually travels to the left side of the head to a position next to the left eye. Larvae eventually drift into the Bay in October to May. They live in the Bay’s shallow eelgrass beds, which serve as protective nursery areas. Summer flounder can live up to 20 years; females tend to live longer than males.

Other Facts:

  • The Maryland Chesapeake Bay record summer flounder was caught in 1978 and weighed 15 pounds.
  • The summer flouder is considered to be a "left-handed" flatfish because its mouth and eyes are on the left side of the body when viewed from above.
  • It is nearly impossible to spot a flounder that has changed colors to blend in with its surroundings.

Sources and Additional Information:




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