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Atlantic Needlefish

Strongylura marina

The Atlantic needlefish has a long, narrow body with a greenish back. Its silvery sides have a thin, bluish-silver stripe along each side. (NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center)
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The Atlantic needlefish has a long, narrow body with a greenish back. Its silvery sides have a thin, bluish-silver stripe along each side. (NOAA NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center)

The Atlantic needlefish is a skinny, silvery fish with long, tooth-filled jaws. It lives in the Chesapeake Bay’s shallow waters from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • Long, narrow body with a greenish back
  • Silvery sides with a thin, bluish-silver stripe along each side
  • Long, slender jaws filled with tiny teeth
  • Lower jaw is slightly longer than upper jaw
  • One dorsal fin located far on the back, close to the tail
  • Grows to 2 feet long

Habitat:

  • Found in shallow waters near the shoreline
  • Often seen at the water’s surface near docks, marshes, beaches and bay grass beds

Range:

  • Found throughout the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn
  • Ventures up the Bay’s rivers into fresh water

Feeding:

  • Forages for shrimp and small fish such as killifishes and silversides
  • Patiently stalks its prey then catches it sideways in its scissor-like jaws.

Predators:

  • Larger fish
  • Fish-eating birds such as bald eagles and black skimmers
  • Bottlenose dolphins

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in May-June
  • Females have only one ovary
  • Her round eggs sink to the bottom, where they attach by adhesive fibers to underwater grass blades and other surfaces
  • Young needlefish do not have elongated jaws like adults do

Other Facts:

  • Gets its name from its long, needle-like jaws
  • Attracted to lights, which is why they often congregate near piers and bridges

Sources and Additional Information:




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