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What is that spot?

We’ve all probably heard of the dog Spot in the old “Dick and Jane” stories that we learned to read in the first grade. In the Gulf there’s a fish that doesn’t look like a dog with the common name spot (Leiostomus xanthurus). The spot is a member of the scianidae family like the croaker and red drum.The spot never gets much more than about ten inches long and lives no more than five years. It gets its name from a dark round spot called an ocellus that looks like an eye just behind the gills. The spot has about 12 to 15 light colored bands that run from the dorsal fin at a right angle almost all the way down to the stomach.The spot ranges from Cape Cod, down the east coast and around into the Gulf to the Mexican border. It is very common species except at the extreme limits of its range. Spot travel in very large, slow moving schools and prefer muddy and sandy bottoms. Spots are often confused with croakers because their general similarity in appearance. You’ll not catch a spot on hook and line every often like the croaker, though you will every now and then. Spot aren’t bad eating but take longer to clean than larger fish.Spot migrate, entering bays and estuaries in the spring, where they remain until late summer or fall when they move offshore to spawn. They mature between the ages of two and three at lengths of seven to eight inches with the females producing at least 70,000 – 90,000 eggs. Their maximum life span is about five years, though fish over three years of age are uncommon. Spawning occurs in offshore waters from late fall to early spring. After spawning, adults may remain offshore. The larvae will enter inshore waters in December or January, washed in on the incoming tide. Nursery areas for juvenile spot are in low salinity areas of bays and tidal creeks, but they’re also found in sea grass beds. Young spot grow rapidly over the summer and by fall will reach an average length of around five inches.Spot lives on the bottom feeding on invertebrates, small fish and in their first months of life on bottom detritus. They primarily stay in near shore and marshy areas but like muddy areas. As a result of this it’s frequently caught in shrimp trawls as by-catch.Because spot bunch up in large schools it has been and is sought after by seine fishermen for pet food processors. By decades, for the period from 1950 to 2000 respectively, 6.68, 3.41, 2.52, 2.16 and 2.47 million of pounds of spot were landed by the commercial fishing industry. This general decline in the landings of spot has been attributed to over fishing by the commercial industry.

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