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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)
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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:

  • Flat, rounded body
  • Brownish on top and whitish on the bottom
  • Various large spots on the top side of the body
  • Both eyes located on the top side of the head
  • Long dorsal fin that stretches from the head to the tail
  • Slightly pointed tail fin
  • Usually grows 15-22 inches long. Females are larger than males.

Habitat:

  • Bottom-dweller
  • Adults usually live in deep channels and ridges
  • Young 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
  • Usually migrates offshore for winter as water temperatures decrease

Feeding:

  • Bottom-feeder
  • Eats shrimp, squid, worms, crustaceans and other fish

Predators:

  • Conceals itself from predators by burying itself in bottom sediments and changing colors to blend in with its surroundings

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns 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-May. They live in the Bay’s shallow eelgrass beds, which serve as protective nursery areas.
  • 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
  • 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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