What fish are caught on the east coast?

The main species of fish landed include Atlantic mackerel, tuna (albacore, bluefin tuna, bigeye, yellowfin and sardine), dogfish, monkfish, skate, whiting, sea bass and mullet. If you want to talk about sailing along the east coast, keep in mind that the largest estuary in North America, the Chesapeake Bay, is a meeting point for almost all types of vessels, from its upper regions near Havre de Grace (Maryland) to its wide mouth at Cape Henry, and including its many tributaries. One could spend a lifetime in the region and never taste all the nautical richness of the bay. It can be a year-round boating opportunity for kayakers and small boat operators in marshes, streams and rivers, although the season in the main waters is from March to early December.

Striped bass is the main catch, but white perch, sea trout, bluefish, croaker, spot and many other species are available depending on the season. The king fish of the Gulf is also widely known as the whiting or whiting of the Gulf. This species belongs to the Drum Sciaenidae family. The king fish of the Gulf, commonly found on the muddy shores of waves, is usually 12 inches tall, but can grow to around 20 inches and usually weigh less than a pound.

The size of the record exceeds 2 pounds. Easy to catch, the whiting has a mild flavor, but is good to eat when well seasoned. The gag can be found in shallow reefs, on rocks and reefs all over Florida, and usually around 25 pounds are caught. When they become as big as in this image captured in Fort Pierce, their bellies turn black or copper and are known as black bellies or copper bellies.

On the Gulf Coast, it's less common to see Gag of this size. The marks on their bodies can be described as worm-like and sometimes form kissing tracks. The jaws are considered, for the most part, to be the best tasting of all Mroupers. Image courtesy of Last Mango Sportfishing Charters, Fort Pierce.

Striped bass is currently the most sought after coastal sport fish species in North Carolina. This highly migratory fish moves north from the Mid-Atlantic area during the spring and returns south during the fall, and spends approximately the months of May to October feeding on any food it can find, such as herring, crabs, lobsters, menhaden and silversmith. The Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River estuaries contain the main spawning and rearing areas for striped bass on the east coast. Spawning usually takes place during April and May in the freshwater tributaries of these estuaries.

Nearly all females are mature when they reach 36 inches in length and 5 to 9 years of age. Striped sea bass has a large mouth and stiff, sharp spines located on the branchial covers, the anterior dorsal fin and the anal fin. A full-bodied fish, the striped bass is dorsally bluish to dark olive, with a silver belly and sides. Several dark lateral stripes, ranging from the gills to the base of the tail, are the most prominent features that distinguish striped bass from other coastal species.

Stripers caught in North Carolina are 10 to more than 50 inches long and can weigh more than 50 pounds. The world record striped bass was caught in North Carolina waters and weighed 50 plus pounds. Fishing for striped bass over the years has started to decline again, so the AMFC, together with the state itself, are implementing new regulations on it. Here is a brief summary of the main sailing areas on the east coast, from north to south, all of which also stand out for sport fishing.

If you see a line of sargassum weeds and flying fish flying out of the water, you'll know that dolphin fish are under the undergrowth. The black loin is a flounder on the right side, meaning that the dark side where the eyes meet is located on the right side of the fish. The recreational scallop season runs from July 1 to September 10 each year and only a saltwater fishing license is needed to fish for scallops. Since Wilmington, NC is close to the Gulf Stream,  and also the Outer Banks near Cape Hatteras are a 140-mile-long strip of barrier islands with several major rivers and sounds, this is one of the most important sailing areas on the East Coast.

The powerful Atlantic swordfish can be found in coastal structures, such as buoys or towers, and in reefs. The southern flounder is the second largest flounder in Florida, averaging 2 to 4 pounds and 15 to 20 inches long, but has been caught over 10 pounds. The sharp, curved teeth and an elongated lure similar to a lure over the eyes make monkfish an effective predator of other species, including seabirds. The tripletail is a surface fish that rests among floating debris and buoys waiting for dinner to arrive.

Striped bass, blue fish, flounder (“flounder”), tauton and black drum are the main fishing targets near the coast, while tuna and marlin operate on the high seas in summer. Tautog fishing in summer is practically non-existent, and the winter months cause the tautog to become inactive. Triggerfish are an excellent table dish with firm and tasty white meat: remove the hard skin and fillet. They are a popular species for sport fishing, but they make a terrible table meal, so the game with this fish is catch and release.

Marbled grouper is classified as vulnerable by the American Fisheries Society and is rarely caught, but can be found in most tropical waters. This grouper can grow up to 30 pounds and tends to be smaller in the eastern Gulf of Mexico due to the lack of a soft bottom. 

There are many fishing charter businesses to choose from on the east coast. If you find yourself in Wilmington NC, and looking for a fishing charter in Wilmington NC should contact Reel Zinger Fishing Charters of Wilmington. Captain Bryce has many years of fishing experience to put you on the right spot for a big day out.

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