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Spot have 12-15 dark, angled bars across the back. (Virginia Institute of Marine Science)
Spot have 12-15 dark, angled bars across the back. (Virginia Institute of Marine Science)

Spot are small, feisty fish with a distinctive large, black spot near the gill opening. They are common from spring through autumn in the shallow waters of the middle and lower Chesapeake Bay.


  • Bluish-gray body
  • A distinctive large, black spot near the gill opening
  • 12-15 dark, angled bars across the back
  • Brassy white belly
  • Pale fins
  • Deep notch in the dorsal fin
  • High, rounded back that slopes down to a small head
  • No teeth in the lower jaw
  • Forked tail fin
  • Grows 11-12 inches long


  • Found in the Chesapeake Bay’s shallow waters, often near pilings and jetties
  • Schools just below the water’s surface
  • Has been collected from all depths and bottom types
  • Juveniles often move into freshwater rivers


  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay from April-May through late autumn
  • Found throughout the Bay
  • Leaves the Bay in autumn for southern coastal waters


  • Bottom-feeder
  • Preys upon bristle worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and plant and animal detritus
  • Juveniles eat tiny crustaceans


  • Larger fish such as bluefish, weakfish and striped bass
  • Sharks such as smooth dogfish, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns over the continental shelf from late September-March
  • After spawning, adults may stay offshore
  • Tiny larvae enter the Bay and move to freshwater shallows and tidal creeks, where they stay and grow throughout the summer
  • Most young leave the Bay by December
  • Matures at 2-3 years old
  • Can live for five years but rarely lives longer than three years

Other Facts:

  • Also called Norfolk spot
  • One of the most abundant fish in the Chesapeake Bay
  • Popular with recreational anglers
  • A member of the drum family, which includes weakfish, red drum, black drum, spotted seatrout and Atlantic croaker. All drums are able to make a loud drumming or croaking sound by vibrating their swim bladder using special muscles.
  • The Chesapeake Bay record spot, caught in 1980 off Poquoson, Virginia, weighed 2.5 pounds

Sources and Additional Information:

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