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Fish

Approximately 350 species of fish live in the Chesapeake Bay. Some fish are year-round residents, while others swim into the Bay from the ocean to feed, reproduce or find shelter.

Each of the Bay's fish has a place in the food web. For example, menhaden and other filter-feeders are a vital link between the lower food web and higher-level predators. Menhaden feed on plankton and, in turn, are a critical food source for bluefish and striped bass.

For centuries, the Bay and its rivers have provided rich fishing opportunities. Striped bass and white perch are some of the many Chesapeake fish species that anglers and commercial fishermen seek out.

Click on the images below to learn about some of the fish that live in the Chesapeake Bay.

Freshwater fish live year-round in the freshwater streams and rivers that flow to the Chesapeake Bay. Some freshwater fish may move into brackish waters in the Bay and its tidal rivers.


Estuarine fish live throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers. Generally, estuarine fish stay close to the shore during summer and move to deeper waters in winter.


Migratory fish visit the Chesapeake Bay each year to feed or spawn. They can be broken down into three categories: marine, anadromous and catadromous.

  • Marine fish live and spawn in coastal waters. They usually move into the lower Bay in spring and go back to the ocean in autumn. Few marine fish travel north into the upper Bay.
  • Anadromous fish migrate from the ocean to freshwater rivers to spawn.
  • Catadromous fish migrate from freshwater rivers to the ocean to spawn. The American eel is the Bay's only catadromous fish.



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