Fish Species found in BHI's Waters

Click below to learn more about the different species of fish found on Bald Head Island

Atlantic Croaker

Atlantic Croaker, Micropogonias undulatus

Identification: The Atlantic croaker is a silver to gold fish in the drum family. Its name comes from the sounds it makes by vibrating its muscles against its swim bladder. When young, Atlantic croakers can have a purplish-pink, silvery appearance. On average they grow to be about eighteen inches long at full maturity.
Habitat and Habits: The Atlantic croaker lives in coastal regions of the Atlantic ocean. They like places with low visibility such as muddy flats, estuaries, and salt marshes. During breeding season they will travel to the Chesapeake Bay region and begin to turn a gold or bronze color.  
Conservation: Least Concern.
 The Atlantic croaker is one of the most abundant fish in the Atlantic Ocean. It is an important commercial fish for local fisheries. 
Cool Facts: 

  • They “croak” by vibrating muscles against their swim bladders.
  • They are the loudest fish in the drum family.
  • Because of predation, more than 95% of the Atlantic croaker population dies every year.
  • Atlantic croakers are also called hard heads.

On BHI: You can catch Atlantic croaker on almost any beach on the island and can see juveniles in the salt marsh. Kids can join us for the chance to catch them in our Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing program  

Atlantic Spadefish

Atlantic Spadefish, Chaetodiperus faber

Identification: Atlantic spadefish are silver fish with four to six vertical, black bars. They are commonly mistaken for angelfish because of their compressed body and long second dorsal fin. Atlantic spadefish usually grow to weights of two ten pounds, but have been recorded to be as large as twenty pounds.
Habitat and Habits: Atlantic spadefish live offshore in hard bottom reefs common to North Carolina. They are schooling fish that like to stay in the water column. Called generalists,  they will eat whatever they can, including plankton in the water column and crustaceans from the ocean bottom. 
Conservation:  Least Concern.
There is currently no evidence for widespread decline in the Atlantic spadefish population, but they can and are affected by the loss of hard bottom reefs.  With no place to breed and feed, it is more difficult for them to sustain their population numbers.
Cool Facts:

  • Because of their prevalence in the summer season, they are a popular game fish.
  • Small spadefish drift on their sides, mimicking debris to avoid predation.
  • Distribution is temperature dependent.
  • Spadefish can swim in schools of up to five hundred.

On BHI: These fish are found mostly offshore. To go game fishing we suggest a boat!


Black Drum

Black Drum, Pogonias cromis

Identification: Juvenile black drum have gray bodies, with four or five black, vertical bars. As they grow these bars start to fade. They have characteristic barbels underneath their chins and can grow up to two feet long.
Habitat and Habits: Black drum live in and around brackish water. Young fish begin in less salty water and increase their salt tolerance as they age. Black drum feed on everything from zooplankton when they are young, to crabs and fish when they get larger.  
Conservation: Least Concern.
While these fish still have a large population they are a popular sport fish and are commonly consumed by humans, both of which could limit their numbers in the future.
Cool Facts: 

  • Black drum are the largest fish in the drum family.
  • Small black drum under a pound are sometimes called butterfly fish, while those over thirty pounds are called bull drum.
  • Smaller fish are kept for eating while the larger are released to spawn.
  • Because they depend heavily on smell, it is difficult to catch black drum with artificial bait.

On BHI: You can catch large black drum on the on the beaches of Bald Head Island and juvenile black drum in the salt marsh. Children can join us for the chance to catch them in our Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing programs.

Blacktip Shark

Blacktip Shark, Carcharhinus limbatus

Identification: Blacktip sharks can be up to eight feet long and weigh as much as 220 pounds. They have a gray top that fades into a white underside and each of their fins has a distinct black tip for which they are named.
Habitat and Habits: Blacktip sharks are usually found in shallow water at depths under one hundred feet. They tend to swim near the shore where they often encounter humans. They are not aggressive, but like any animal will attack if they feel threatened. 
Conservation: Near Threatened.
Since they live so close to the shore line, blacktip sharks are threatened by coastal development, which limits their nursery and feeding grounds. They are also hunted for their large fins.
Cool Facts: 

  • Blacktips are known to leap out of the water, spinning as they catch fish.
  • They live in sex segregated groups throughout most of the year. 
  • Blacktips are one of the few sharks known for parthenogenesis, or birth without the need for egg fertilization.
  • Their species name ‘limbatus’ means ‘bordered’ for the outline in black.

On BHI: Adult blacktip sharks are known to hang around BHI’s frying pan shoals, but the juveniles spend a lot of time on all of our beaches. Come to our Kid's Night Surf Fishing program to have a chance to catch a baby shark!   


Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix

Identification: Bluefish have silver bodies and a forked tail. They grow, on average, to between eight and twenty-four inches and can weigh up to forty pounds, though over twenty is rare. They have two dorsal fins with spines that are usually pushed down into a groove on top of the body.
Habitats and Habits: Bluefish are a pelagic species, tending to live in the water column above the continental shelf. On the east coast bluefish migrate from Florida in the winter to New York in the summer. They swim in schools and will sometimes cross open ocean to find new feeding grounds
Conservation: Vulnerable.
Bluefish are a highly sought after sport fish and in some areas are used for food. They are mostly at risk of overfishing. 
Cool Facts:

  • Bluefish are also called tailor, shad, and elf in different parts of the world.
  • They will continue to attack prey even after full.
  • They are often used as live bait for tuna and sharks.
  • Bluefish are the only fish in their family, Pomatomidae.

On BHI: Bluefish can be found right off the shore and in deeper waters all around BHI during the spring and fall. Try your luck at catching one in our Kid's Night Surf Fishing program. 


Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus

Identification: Bluegills are named for the deep blue spot on the end of their gill cover. They are usually dark brown or green in color and often have a red or orange underside. They can grow to be one foot in length.
Habitat and Habits: Bluegill are found in freshwater. They will swim in both shallow and deep water, but prefer somewhere with places to hide, like docks or water plants.  They rely on their sight to catch their food, so they primarily hunt during the day.
Conservation: Least Concern.
Bluegill are often stocked species, with humans taking particular interest in keeping their populations high. People like to have them in their lakes and ponds to keep bug populations low. They are often fished for sport, but it is mostly catch and release. 
Cool Facts:

  • Bluegill are also known as brim, bream, and copper nose.
  • A bluegill may eat up to six times its own weight in one summer.
  • Although they are freshwater fish, they can tolerate up to 2% salinity.

On BHI: You can find bluegill in most of the freshwater ponds on the island. Visit the wildlife overlook on your own to see if you can find any, or join BHI Conservancy for an Island Nature Tour .


Cobia, Rachycentron canadum

Identification: Cobia are elongated, darkened fish. They have a broad, flat head and lack a swim bladder. They have a white underside with two dark lines on each side, which are more prominent during mating season. The largest cobia was measured to weigh 135 pounds.
Habitat and Habits: Cobia are pelagic fish, living mostly in the open ocean water column.  They migrate from the Gulf of Mexico in the winter, up to Massachusetts in the summer.  They are usually solitary fish but will gather in large masses during mating season. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
There are no major threats to the cobia population, although they are a sport fish. They are solitary fish, which limits their commercial value. Most fishing for cobia is catch and release.
Cool Facts:

  • Cobia are the only member of its genus and family.
  • It is also known as black kingfish, black salmon, ling, and lemonfish.
  • Cobia is one of the most suitable candidates for marine aquaculture in the world.

On BHI: These can mostly be found in offshore waters during the spring and fall.  Try a fishing charter to test your luck with these sport fish!

Florida Pompano

Florida Pompano, Trachinotus carolinus

Identification: The Florida pompano is a deep compressed fish with a deeply forked tail and one small dorsal fin. It is mostly silver with a white to yellow underside. Some can grow up to 2.5 feet long, but most are under seventeen inches. 
Habitat and Habits: These fish stay mostly on hard bottom reefs in places with high benthic activity where they like to eat mollusks and crustaceans. They are schooling fish that stay out of clear water and migrate to warmer water for breeding.
Conservation: Least Concern.
They are a widespread species that is commercially and recreationally important. Through aquaculture and management their population has remained stable. There are, however, signs of the Florida population of this fish declining. 
Cool Facts:

  • Florida produces over 90% of the pompano harvest.
  • There is a Pompano beach in Florida named after the fish.
  • Mosquito pesticides used near the shore can cause mortality due to bioaccumulation.

On BHI: You can find schools of these fish offshore on BHI.  Be ready for a fight when you go out, because they fight beyond their weight.       

Inshore Lizardfish

Inshore Lizardfish, Synodus foetens

Identification: Lizardfish have elongated bodies whose backsides are colored yellow to brown. They have diamond shaped dark spots on their sides, the number of which varies between individuals.  Lizardfish have dorsal fins in the middle of their body that are often pressed into their backs. They have a wide mouth with thin teeth.
Habitat and Habits: They usually live in shallow saltwater. You can find them around beaches as well as in the mouths of rivers and salt marshes. They will eat whatever they can find, and as adults they may look to deeper water for food. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
The largest threat inshore lizardfish face is shrimp trawling in the Gulf of Mexico, where they are a common bycatch species. However there have been steps taken to reduce the bycatch. They are abundant in all of their habitats. 
Cool Facts:

  • They are ambush predators.
  • Synodus means ‘grown together teeth.’
  • The inshore lizardfish is also known as the galliwasp, lagarto, and sand pike.

On BHI: You can catch these on most beach accesses around the island. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing to test your luck!

King Mackerel

King Mackerel, Scomberomorus cavalla

Identification: Mackerels are elongated, silver fish with forked tails. The king mackerel can be differentiated from the Spanish mackerel by the large dip in the middle of their lateral line. King mackerels can grow to be over ninety pounds. 
Habitat and Habits: They are usually found in water ranging from 40 to 150 feet deep. They  migrate to stay in slightly warmer waters and school before migrating from place to place. They are aggressive predators and will eat anything they catch.   
Conservation: Least Concern.
These fish are not yet in danger of overfishing.  They are managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources. 
Cool Facts:

  • King mackerel are also called kingfish, despite there being another fish by that name.
  • There are three separate migrating groups - Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific.
  • They will leap out of the water while fighting fishing lines.

On BHI: These fish are common on our shores in the Fall and Spring. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing during those times to see if you can reel in a big one!


Kingfish, Menticirrhus americanus

Identification: Kingfish are silver to white fish with two pronounced dorsal fins. They have a subterminal mouth, or a mouth facing the bottom, and a single hard barbel under their chin. Kingfish can have dark bands down their sides and grow to about twenty inches long. 
Habitat and Habits: Kingfish are a demersal species, meaning they live close to the bottom.  They live in sandy areas with at least five feet of water, but can be found at depths of up to fifty feet. They eat crabs and other bottom dwelling creatures.   
Conservation: Least Concern.
This species of fish is caught recreationally and commercially. There is currently no downward trend in it’s global population, but some subpopulations are suffering from overfishing. One such population is that of the kingfish in Brazil. 
Cool Facts:

  • There are three species of kingfish; this page focuses on southern kingfish.
  • Kingfish are also called southern kingcroaker, round mullet, and whiting.
  • The other two species are northern and gulf kingfish.

On BHI: These can be caught on the beaches of BHI. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing to see if you can reel one in.   


Permit, Trachinotus falcatus

Identification: Permit are deep compressed fish. They are mostly silver with a white to yellow spot right before their anal fin. Permit have a forked tail, can reach up to four feet in length, and can weigh up to eighty pounds.
Habitat and Habits: Permit can often be found in the surf zone, near beaches with lots of biological activity. They prefer places with easy access to large, deep channels. When alone they are timid, but they can be quite aggressive when in schooling formation. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
The permit population has been stable since 1999. While permit is a recreational fishing species, fishing does not seem to affect the global population. There are size and catch limits in most states for this fish.
Cool Facts:

  • Permit are a member of the jack family.
  • Two submarines were named USS Permit.
  • Permit have a specialized plate in the back of their mouths to crush shelled organisms.

On BHI: Permit can be found on the beaches of BHI, often closer to west beach. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing to try and catch them!


Pigfish, Orthopristis chrysoptera

Identification: Pigfish are generally light, blueish-grey to silver in coloration. They have several bronze scales that form horizontal lines, while darker spots form vertical stripes. Pigfish are generally nine inches long, but can be up to fifteen inches in some cases.
Habitat and Habits: Juvenile pigfish live mostly in shallow water, while adults prefer soft bottoms in deep parts of the ocean. They can survive in both fresh and salt water, but typically prefer saltier waters.  Their large teeth are critical to their diets, allowing them to grind up mollusks and other shelled animals.
Conservation: Least Concern.
While their population is currently stable across the globe, they are threatened by shrimp trawling bycatch. They are popular bait fish and are often threatened by oil spills.   
Cool Facts:

  • They are also called piggies.
  • Pigfish are a member of the grunt family which gets its name from the sound they make.
  • They produce their sound by grinding their teeth and throats together.

On BHI: You can usually catch adult pigfish on the shores of Bald Head. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing to see if you have a fisherman’s touch.  


Pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides

Identification: Pinfish rarely grow more than five inches, and can have five or six vertical, black bars on their posterior. They range in color from yellow to white, with iridescence in purple and blues. They have a black spot behind their gills and spikes on their first dorsal fin.
Habitat and Habits: Adults tend to swim in water twenty to fifty feet deep, while juveniles will stay in shallower areas and places with cover. They don’t often school, but will congregate in areas where food is abundant.
Conservation: Least Concern.
The pinfish population is currently abundant, and there are no known, severe threats. The largest threat facing them is the use of these fish as live bait. 
Cool Facts: 

  • It is also called butterfish.
  • No more than two percent of pinfish make to one year of age.
  • They have been used to test for the potiental effects oil spills might have on marine life.

On BHI: Pinfish are commonly found in the salt marsh. You can join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing for a chance to catch them. 

Red Drum

Red Drum,  Sciaenops ocellatus

Identification: Red drum are red or bronze on their back, fading into white on their stomach.  They have a characteristic black spot right before their tai and have two spiny dorsal fins. At full grown they can be twenty-five to thirty-three inches long.
Habitat and Habits: Adult red drum spend most their life in shallow, ocean water. Juveniles often spend time in salt marshes and brackish estuary inlets. Red drum feed on a variety of different small marine life with preferences differing depending on age.
Conservation: Least Concern.
Red drum has a widespread population across the world. There was a period in the 1980s where they declined due overfishing, but since a commercial fishing moratorium was employed in 1987 their population has rebounded. They are still a popular sport fish. 
Cool Facts: 

  • The red drum is the North Carolina state saltwater fish.
  • Red drum sometimes swim in water so shallow that their backs are exposed. 
  • The spot on their tails confuses predators, who attack their tail instead of their heads. 

On BHI:  You can find red drum all around the island, but they are more prominent in the tidal creeks of the salt marsh. Come to  Kid's Night Surf Fishing with the BHI Conservancy to see what you catch! 

Sandbar Shark

Sandbar Shark, Carcharinus plumbeus

Identification: Sandbar sharks are blue-gray to bronze on top and white on the bottom. They have large, dorsal fins and small, secondary, dorsal fins. Females grow to between six and eight feet, while males only reach six feet in length. They have large rounded noses that are shorter than other shark species.  
Habitat and Habits: Sandbar sharks have a wide range, but are named for the sand and mudflats they usually inhabit. Sandbar sharks can live to be about forty years old, and don’t reach sexual maturity until age twelve or thirteen.
Conservation:  Vulnerable.
Sandbar sharks are often hunted for their large, dorsal fins. In 2008 landing sandbar sharks was banned after a population survey reported low numbers. These sharks are important predators in the ocean.
Cool Facts: 

  • Sandbar sharks are also called thickskin sharks.
  • Their natural predators include other sharks like tiger sharks.
  • They are one of the safest sharks to swim with, making them great aquarium sharks.

On BHI: Sandbar sharks can be found near beaches all around the island.  Adult sandbar sharks like the frying pan shoals as feeding grounds. Join BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing to see if you can reel in a shark!

Sheepshead Minnow

Sheepshead Minnow,  Cyprinodon variegatus

Identification: Sheepshead minnows are small fish, growing to only three inches long. They are olive green, fading into shades of yellow on the bottom. Juveniles have dark bars that on males are lost with age, but on females remain for life. During the breeding season, males become more blue with a pinker underside.
Habitat and Habits: Sheepshead minnows prefer brackish water, such as that in the salt marsh. They do not tolerate changes in salinity well, and prefer places with no waves or other disruptions. These minnows are omnivores and will aggressively attack prey.
Conservation: Least Concern
There are not any major threats to this fish, although they are often used as bait. They have a large population and many subpopulations with no major recorded declines. 
Cool Facts:

  • They will hibernate during winter months.
  • These minnows are common home aquarium fish. 
  • Sheepshead minnows will group together to attack and eat bigger fish.

On BHI: You can find lots of minnows in the salt marsh, including sheepshead minnows.  Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing to see if you can catch any in a cast net.   

Silver Perch

Silver Perch, Bairdiella chrysoura

Identification: The silver perch is a small, silvery fish with yellow-gray fins. They can grow to nine inches long, and often resemble sand seatrout in appearance. However silver perch have three pairs of mental pores under their chin. 
Habitat and Habits: Silver perch can be found inshore in shallow waters. They are often found in seagrass, tidal creeks, and salt marshes.  Silver perch can even be found in some freshwater areas. They can live up to six years and reach maturity at the age of two. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
This species has a large global distribution and no major threats. They are rarely caught for table fare, although it does occasionally happen. Silver perch can often be caught as bycatch in trawling nets, but it does not seem to significantly affect the global population. 
Cool Facts:

  • They usually spawn at dusk. 
  • Their true common name is silver croaker.
  • They have an acute sense of hearing, similar to a goldfish.

On BHI: Silver perch are small fish that often like to hide in the grasses of the salt marsh at high tide. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing to see what you can reel in!


Smooth Dogfish

Smooth Dogfish, Mustelus canis

Identification: Smooth dogfish have a brown or gray topside fading into a white or yellow underside. They have two serrated dorsal fins and round, blunt noses. Smooth dogfish can be up to five feet long. 
Habitat and Habits: This species is considered a demersal, or bottom dwelling. They tend to stay in shallower water and are a migratory species, moving farther north in the summer and swimming south in the winter.
Conservation: Near Threatened.
The primary threat facing these sharks is gillnetting. They are a bycatch species in most areas, not being hunted directly. There is no call for action yet, but research into their population could lead to protective regulations being enacted. 
Cool Facts: 

  • Smooth Dogfish is also called dusky smoothhound.
  • They can have up to twenty pups in a litter.
  • Smooth dogfish have the ability to change color to camouflage.

On BHI: We tend to see more of these sharks during the winter, but they can occasionally be caught year round. You will mostly catch them offshore, but there is a possibility to catch them from our beaches. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Night Surf Fishing to see if you get lucky!

Southern Flounder

Southern Flounder, Paralichthys lethostigma

Identification: Southern flounder are dark, flat fish with lots of spots on the top of their bodies. Like other flounders, they can change their body color to match their surroundings.  While males only grow to about fifteen inches, females can be up to twenty-five inches long. 
Habitat and Habits: Southern flounder generally live in muddy- or sandy-bottomed waters.  They stay close to the ground, often burrowing into it. They prefer salt water, but can also be found in salt marshes, and less commonly in freshwater rivers.
Conservation: Near Threatened.
These flounder have experienced a thirty percent decrease in population size in the past fifteen years. Threats that have caused their decline include overfishing (both commercial and recreational) and bycatch from shrimp trawls.
Cool Facts:

  • The southern flounder is a left handed flatfish, often mistaken for the summer flounder. 
  • Paralichthys means parallel fish in reference to the flounder’s shape.
  • They are often caught at night by flounder gigging.

On BHI: You often find flounder in the beach areas around the island as well as in the salt marsh. Try your hand at fishing during BHI Conservancy’s Kid's Night Surf Fishing or Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing.

Spanish Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus

Identification: Spanish mackerels are elongated, silver fish with forked tails. They are often confused with the king mackerel, but looking closely at the lateral line reveals a gradually falling line in the Spanish mackerel, compared to the large dip found in king mackerels.
Habitat and Habits: These mackerels are shallow water species, preferring depths of ten to forty feet. They migrate to stay in warmer water. They are opportunistic feeders and tend not to hunt as aggressively as the king mackerel.    
Conservation: Least Concern.
These fish are not yet in danger of overfishing.  They are Managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Coastal Migratory Pelagic Resources. 
Cool Facts:

  • Scomber is the Latin word for mackerel.
  • They will leap out of the water while fighting fishing lines.
  • This species was overfished in the 1980s until management practices began.

On BHI: These fish are common on our shores in the fall and spring. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Night Surf Fishing during those times to see if you can reel in a big one!

Spiny Dogfish

Spiny Dogfish, Squalus acanthias

Identification: Spiny dogfish are countershaded, meaning that they have a darker top fading into a lighter underside. They have pointy noses and a heterocercal tail (one lobe larger than the other). Additionally, they have two spines on each of their fins and several small white spots along their bodies. Males grow to about three feet long while females can be up to five. 
Habitat and Habits: Spiny dogfish are bottom dwelling sharks that tend to be in water over 150 feet deep. They tend to travel in packs, which are separated by the sharks’ sex. After mating in the winter, they have a gestation period of twenty-two to twenty-four months. 
Conservation: Vulnerable.
This species of shark is extremely susceptible to overfishing. They are often caught using gillnets and are popular for their meat. Because of the decline in population, there are now maximum catch limits for targeting as well as bycatch. 
Cool Facts:

  • The spines on the dorsal fins secrete a mild venom. 
  • Spiny dogfish will often ram their prey with their nose.
  • They are often used as the fish in the popular dish “fish and chips”.

On BHI: You will find these mostly off the coast when you go line fishing by boat.  


Spot, Leiostomus xanthurus

Identification: The spot is a small fish named for the distinct black spot behind its gills. They live to be six years old and grow to ten inches long. They are a member of the croaker family.
Habitat and Habits: Spot are usually found in coastal waters and salt marshes. They migrate seasonally, going inland during spring to breed. Afterward, during the summer months, spot will move into higher salinity waters. They eat mostly from the bottom and thus live close to the ocean floor. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
Spot are managed because of their popularity as sport fish. The population is stable because of good management practices, and they are easy to catch in most places. 
Cool Facts:

  • It is the only member of its genus.
  • Their full name is actually spotfin croaker.
  • Despite being small, they are still caught to eat.

On BHI: You can catch these in any salt water around Bald Head Island, but you have a better chance of grabbing one in the salt marsh. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing for the chance to catch one!

Spotted Seatrout

Spotted Seatrout, Cynoscion nebulosus

Identification: Spotted seatrout are silver fish with distinct spots on their back which extend to the dorsal and caudal fins. They have canine teeth and are often compared to brown trout. They can be up to seventeen pounds, though it is uncommon to see them above eight. 
Habitat and Habits: Spotted seatrout prefer estuarine coast, or areas where freshwater meets saltwater. They can be found inshore, around mangroves, oyster bars, and salt marshes. Young eat shrimp but as these fish grow bigger, they consume mostly fish. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
Seatrout populations seem to be increasing around the U.S. and are well managed. There are weight, length, and capture limits for all those caught in U.S. waters. Though they are often caught recreationally, there is little concern for their population because of strong management practices.
Cool Facts:

  • The true common name is actually speckled seatrout.
  • Large spotted seatrout are called gator trout. 
  • Spotted seatrout are one of the top ten recreational fish species caught in the U.S.

On BHI: These fish are common right off our our beaches, but tend to live closer to the river side of the island on west beach. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Night Surf Fishing to see what you can catch.  

Striped Bass

Striped Bass, Morone saxatilis

Identification: Striped bass have streamlined silver bodies with long dark horizontal stripes from behind their gills to their tails. They are usually eight to forty pounds, but the record is a whopping 124 pounds. They can live for thirty years and can grow up to six feet long. 
Habitat and Habits: Striped bass can live in both fresh and salt water, making them anadromous. They spawn in freshwater and migrate to the ocean when they get older. They aren’t picky eaters, and will eat anything they can get into their mouths. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
Although there were declines in striped bass populations in the 1980s due to overfishing, their populations are now stable. Individual states have their own regulations for fishing striped bass. 
Cool Facts:

  • Striped bass are often hybridized during breeding.
  • It is the state fish of six states, including South Carolina.
  • Almost 60% of striped bass sold in the U.S. was grown through aquaculture. 

On BHI: Striped bass live all around the island from riverside to a couple of miles offshore.  If you are looking for large striped bass, try chartering a fishing boat. 

Summer Flounder

Summer Flounder, Paralichthys dentatus

Identification: Summer flounder are dark in color and have between five and fourteen ocellated spots on the top of their bodies. They can change the pattern and color of their skin to match the surrounding bottom. They can weigh up to twenty-six pounds, with females being slightly larger than the males. 
Habitat and Habits: Summer flounder generally like to live in muddy or sandy bottomed waters. They stay close to the ground, often burrowing into it. They prefer salt water, but can also be found in salt marshes, and less commonly in freshwater rivers. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
This species is currently under management by the Summer Flounder, Scup, and Black Sea Bass Fishery Management Plan. They do not have any global threats, but research still needs to be done on their population. 
Cool Facts:

  • They are also called Fluke.
  • It is considered to be the most important flounder in the commercial business.
  • It is a left-handed flatfish.

On BHI: You often find flounder in the beach areas around the island, as well as in the salt marsh. Try your hand at fishing during one of BHI Conservancy’s two programs, Kid's Night Surf Fishing  or  Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing . 


Weakfish, Cynoscion regalis

Identification: The weakfish is a silver fish with speckles on the top side, from the back of its head to the base of its tail. They can grow to be three feet in length and weigh up to twenty pounds. Their tail is usually dark while the other parts of the fish are a lighter, yellowish color. 
Habitat and Habits:
Adult weakfish prefer deep water, whether that be rivers, bays, sounds, or open ocean.   Adults move closer to shore during warmer months, and can be found in the surf and inlets.  Juveniles are usually born in estuaries and remain there until fully grown.
Conservation: Not Evaluated.
These fish do not have an IUCN red listing status, but they have been a stocked fish since the 1900s. They seem to have a stable population, but are regulated by states rather than by a committee. 
Cool Facts:

  • The origin of the name ‘weakfish’ came from the weakness of the fish’s mouth.
  • They are also called ‘squeteague’ by Native Americans.
  • It is the state fish of Delaware. 

On BHI: You can find weakfish across the beaches during the summer on BHI.  During the colder months weakfish can be found offshore.  

White Perch

White Perch,  Morone americana

Identification: White perch are normally silver to white in color. They can be darker on the top depending on their habitat. White perch can grow to twenty inches long, and can weigh up to five pounds.
Habitat and Habits: White perch prefer brackish water, but can also be found in freshwater and coastal waters. They are occasionally found in small, land-locked lakes and ponds where they were introduced by humans. 
Conservation: Least Concern.
There are no major threats to the white perch population; it is large and has many subpopulations that seem to be quite stable. 
Cool Facts:

  • Sometimes their diets consist of 100% fish eggs.
  • White perch that are darker in color are nicknamed “black-black.”
  • Female white perch can lay over 150,000 eggs in a single spawning season.

On BHI: The best place to catch a white perch is in the salt marsh. Join BHI Conservancy for Kid's Marsh Crabbing and Fishing to see what you reel in!