Scup (Stenotomus chrysops)


A member of the Sparidae family of porgies, which includes about 112 species, the scup is most commonly known as “porgy” and is a common angling catch along the eastern United States. It is a fine food fish that has had significant commercial interest. Primarily caught through trawling, it was overexploited and at low population levels throughout the 1990s.

Identification

Somewhat nondescript, the scup is rather dusky colored, being brownish and almost silvery, with fins that are mottled brown. It has a deep body, about the same depth all the way to the caudal peduncle, where it narrows abruptly. The fins are spiny. The caudal fin is lunate (crescent-shaped). The front teeth are incisor-form, and there are two rows of molars in the upper jaw.

Size/Age

Scup attain a maximum length of about 16 inches. The all-tackle world record is a 4-pound, 9-ounce Massachusetts fish. Ages up to 20 years have been reported.

Food and feeding habits

The diet of scup consists of crabs, shrimp, worms, sand dollars, snails, and young squid. Although they sometimes eat small fish, scup usually browse and nibble over hard bottoms.

Other Names

porgy.

Distribution

Scup are found in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Florida but are rare south of North Carolina, occurring primarily in the Mid-Atlantic Bight from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. An introduction into Bermuda was unsuccessful.

Habitat/Behavior

A schooling species, scup are common in the summer in inshore waters from Massachusetts to Virginia; in the winter, they frequent offshore waters between Hudson Canyon and Cape Hatteras at depths ranging from 230 to 590 feet. Sexual maturity is essentially complete by age 3, when the fish is 81⁄4 inches long; spawning occurs during the summer months.
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