Members of the Echeneidae family, remoras and sharksuckers are slim ﬁsh that have a ﬂat sucking disk on the top of their heads. They attach themselves usually to sharks or other ﬁsh—including marlin, grouper, and rays—but sometimes to the bottoms of boats or other objects. These hitch-hikers take effortless rides with their hosts, feeding on parasitic copepods found on the hosts’ bodies and gill chambers.
Developed from the ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn, the sucking disk consists of a series of ridges and spaces that create a vacuum between the remora and the surface to which it attaches. By sliding backward, the remora can increase the suction, or it can release itself by swimming forward.
A diverse and important group of marine ﬁsh, rockﬁsh are members of the Scorpaenidae family, which includes 310 species generically characterized as scorpionﬁsh. Rockﬁsh may be referred to as rock cod, sea bass, snapper, and ocean perch because of their resemblance to these species or to the quality of their ﬁllets, but the latter species are not related to rockﬁsh.
IdentificationAdult rockﬁsh range in size from 5 to 41 inches, but most species grow to between 20 and 24 inches in length. The rockﬁsh is characterized by bony plates or spines on the head and the body, a large mouth, and pelvic ﬁns attached forward near the pectoral ﬁns.
A member of the Scorpaenidae family, the black rockﬁsh is widely distributed in the eastern Paciﬁc. It is an excellent food ﬁsh.
IdentificationThe body of the black rockﬁsh is oval or egg shaped and compressed. The head has a steep upper proﬁle that is almost straight; the mouth is large and the lower jaw projects slightly. The eyes are moderately large. The color is brown to black on the back, paler on the sides, and dirty white below.
The copper rockﬁsh is a member of the Scorpaenidae family and is a widely distributed, hardy species. It often appears in aquarium displays.
IdentificationThe body of the copper rockﬁsh is moderately deep and compressed. The head is large, with a slightly curved upper proﬁle; the mouth is large, and the lower jaw projects slightly. Its coloring is copper brown to orange tinged with pink. The back two-thirds of the sides along the lateral line are light, the belly is white, and there are usually two dark bands radiating backward from each eye.
Also a member of the Scorpaenidae family, the yelloweye rockfish is known to many anglers as “red snapper,” although it bears only a slight resemblance to a true snapper. It is one of many red to yellow species in the eastern Pacific, however, and resembles several others, making identiﬁcation difﬁcult. The large size and the excellent ﬂesh of this species make it a favorite among anglers.
IdentificationThe yelloweye rockfish is orange-red to orange-yellow in body coloration; it has bright-yellow irises and black pupils and a raspy ridge above the eyes. The ﬁns may be black at the margins.
The roosterﬁsh is a superb light-tackle gameﬁsh and a member of the Carangidae family of jacks, so named for the comb of long dorsal ﬁn spines that extends far above the body of the fish. It has been exploited at a local level because of its excellent quality as a food ﬁsh and is marketed fresh.
IdentificationA striking, iridescent ﬁsh, the roosterﬁsh is characterized by seven long, threadlike dorsal ﬁn spines, which are found even on young ﬁsh. This comb stands erect when the roosterﬁsh is excited, as when threatened, but ordinarily, the ﬁn remains lowered in a sheath along the back. There are also two dark, curved stripes on the body and a dark spot at the base of the pectoral ﬁn.
The blue runner is a small, spunky member of the Carangidae family that is valued as bait for big-game ﬁshing. It is an excellent food ﬁsh and is marketed fresh, frozen, and salted.
IdentificationThe body of the blue runner is bluish-green to brassy, silvery, or light olive above. There is a black, some what elongated spot near the upper end of the gill cover, and there may be faint bluish bars on the body. A characteristic feature is the blackish shading on the tips of the tail ﬁns. The blue runner is easily distinguished from the crevalle jack because it lacks the dark blotch found on the pectoral ﬁns of that ﬁsh.
A member of the Carangidae family of jacks, the rainbow runner does not look like other jacks because it is a much slimmer, more streamlined ﬁsh. It is also an excellent food ﬁsh, with ﬁrm, white ﬂesh, marketed fresh and salted/dried. In Japan, the rainbow runner is cooked with a special sauce or eaten raw and is considered a delicacy.
IdentificationThe rainbow runner is blue-green above and white or silver below, with a yellow or pink cast. On both sides, there is a broad, dark-blue, horizontal stripe from the snout to the base of the tail; a narrow, pale-blue stripe immediately below it that runs through each eye; a pale to brilliant-yellow stripe below that; and then another narrow pale-blue stripe.
With its characteristic large dorsal ﬁn and superlative aerial ability, the sailﬁsh is arguably the most striking member of the Istiophoridae family of billﬁsh. Although present taxonomy suggests that the Atlantic and the Paciﬁc sailﬁsh are the same species, some experts are not yet convinced.
It has long been believed that Indo-Paciﬁc specimens of sailﬁsh attain a much greater size than do their Atlantic counter-parts (and this is reﬂected in record catches), but a recent study of size data from the Japanese longline ﬁshery provided evidence that eastern Atlantic specimens (identiﬁed by some ichthyologists as I. albicans) can attain much larger sizes than previously recorded.
The only salmon in the Salmonidae family that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and its tributaries, the Atlantic salmon has been coveted for its excellent ﬂesh since recorded history.
IdentificationCompared to the size of its body, a mature Atlantic salmon has a small head. Its body is long and slim, and in adults the caudal or tail fin is nearly square. Individuals that return to spawn prematurely (called grilse) are mostly males and have slightly forked tails. At sea, the Atlantic salmon is dark blue on top of its head and back; its sides are a shiny silver, and the belly is white.
The chinook salmon is one of the most important sportﬁsh and commercial ﬁsh in the world, especially, and historically, to the Paciﬁc coast of North America, where this and other salmonids have long had great cultural and food signiﬁcance. It is the largest member of the Salmonidae family and both the largest and the least-abundant member of the Paciﬁc salmon genus Oncorhynchus.
Pacific stocks of chinook, as well as of other Pacific salmonids, however, have suffered greatly throughout large portions of their range due to dams, other habitat alterations, pollution, and excessive commercial ﬁshing. Some chinook runs in the Paciﬁc Northwest are threatened or endangered.
The late spawning run of the chum salmon severely affects its popularity as a sportﬁsh. The frequently used name “dog salmon” reportedly originates with its prevalent use as dog food among aboriginals.
IdentificationIn the ocean, the slender, somewhat compressed, chum salmon is metallic greenish-blue on the back and silvery on the sides and has a ﬁne black speckling on the upper sides and the back but no distinct black spots.
A member of the Salmonidae family, the coho salmon is an extremely adaptable ﬁsh that occurs in nearly all of the same waters as does the larger chinook salmon, but it is a more spectacular fighter and the most acrobatic of the Paciﬁc salmon. It is one of North America’s most important sport- and commercial ﬁsh, especially to the Paciﬁc coast of North America.
IdentificationThe body of the coho salmon is elongate and somewhat compressed, and the head is conical. For most of its life (in saltwater or lake, as well as newly arrived in a spawning river), this species is a dark metallic blue or blue-green above, becoming silvery on the sides and the belly. There are small black spots on the back and on the upper lobe of the caudal ﬁn.
An important commercial catch, the pink salmon is the smallest North American member of the Pacific salmon group of the Salmonidae family.
IdentificationThe pink salmon is known as the “humpback” or “humpy” because of its distorted, extremely humpbacked appearance, which is caused by the very pronounced, laterally flattened hump that develops on the backs of adult males before spawning. This hump appears between the head and the dorsal ﬁn and develops by the time the male enters the spawning stream, as does a hooked upper jaw, or kype.
A member of the Salmonidae family, sockeye leave the ocean to spawn in freshwater, as do other Paciﬁc salmon, but they enter only those rivers having lakes at their headwaters. The erection of dams and the alteration of habitat, however, as well as commercial overﬁshing and other factors, have caused an overall decline in sockeye stocks and the loss of some speciﬁc runs.
IdentificationThe sockeye is the slimmest and most streamlined of Paciﬁc salmon, particularly immature and pre-spawning ﬁsh, which are elongate and somewhat laterally compressed. The sockeye is metallic green-blue on the back and the top of the head, iridescent silver on the sides, and white or silvery on the belly. Some ﬁne black speckling may occur on the back, but large spots are absent.
A member of the Bothidae family of left-eyed ﬂatﬁsh, the longfin sanddab is a small but common bottom-fishing catch by anglers, particularly in Southern California.
IdentificationThe body of the longﬁn sanddab is oblong and compressed. The head is deep, the eyes are large and located on the left side, and the mouth is large. The color is uniformly dark with rust-orange or white speckles, and the pectoral ﬁn is black on the eyed side. The blind side is white.
A member of the Bothidae family of left-eyed ﬂatﬁsh, the Paciﬁc sanddab is an excellent food ﬁsh that has both commercial signiﬁcance and a popular sportﬁshing following. This species is often listed on the seafood menus of California restaurants and is viewed by some as a delicacy.
IdentificationThe body of the Paciﬁc sanddab is oblong and compressed. The head is deep, and the eyes are large and on the left side. The color is light brown, mottled with yellow and orange on the eyed side and white on the blind side.
Resembling small eels, sand lance are burrowing ﬁsh that are important as food for many gameﬁsh. They are excellent to eat when prepared in the style of whitebait. Quantities of sand lance are often dug up in the intertidal zone by people seeking clams.
IdentificationSand lance are small, slim, elongated, and round-bodied ﬁsh with no teeth, usually no pelvic ﬁns, no ﬁn spines, and forked tails. Although the sand lance has a long soft dorsal ﬁn, it does not have a ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn. The body has sloping ﬂeshy folds, and there is a distinct ﬂeshy ridge along the lower side; the straight lateral line is close to the base of the dorsal ﬁn.
Unlike the young of herring, which are often marketed as sardines, the Paciﬁc sardine is a true sardine. Once one of the most important commercial ﬁsh along the Paciﬁc coast, the Paciﬁc sardine population has been depleted by pollution and overﬁshing. Most commercial ﬁsh are canned or processed to make ﬁsh meal, fertilizer, or oil; Paciﬁc sardines are not marketed fresh.
IdentificationThe Paciﬁc sardine has an elongated body, a compressed head, and a small mouth with no teeth. It is silvery with dark blue on the back, shades of purple and violet along the sides, and black spots along both the sides and the back. It can be distinguished from the typical herring by the absence of a sharp ridge of scales (which is found down the midline of the belly of a herring) and by vertical ridges on its gill covers.
The sargo is the largest of the Paciﬁc grunts and is commonly caught incidentally by anglers fishing for other species, primarily during the summer.
IdentificationThe body of the adult sargo is a compressed oval shape, and the back is elevated. The head has a steep, straight upper profile and a small mouth. The sargo’s coloring is a metallic silver, with a grayish tinge on the back. It is silvery below, and there is a distinguishing dark vertical bar running across the body from the dorsal ﬁn to the base of the pectoral fin. Occasionally, sargo are entirely bright yellow, orange, or pure white.
Abundant offshore ﬁsh, sauries are members of the four species Scomberesocidae family. They have only moderately elongated jaws that are beaklike, and they are easily distinguished from needleﬁsh and halfbeaks by the ﬁve to seven ﬁnlets behind the dorsal and the anal ﬁns, as in mackerel. Sauries as a group have small scales, relatively small mouth openings, small teeth, and no swim bladders. These relatively abundant ﬁsh are heavily preyed upon by tuna, marlin, blueﬁsh, and other predators.
The Atlantic saury (Scomberesox saurus) travels in schools containing thousands of ﬁsh. They are commonly attacked by a variety of predators that sometimes drive the schools into shallow nearshore waters. Often a whole school will rise simultaneously from the sea and skitter across the surface (for this reason, commercial fishermen refer to them as “skippers”). They are sometimes caught commercially when abundant, but they are not ﬁshed for regularly.
The California scorpionﬁsh is an excellent food ﬁsh and the most venomous member of the scorpionﬁsh family. It has venom glands that are attached to the dorsal, the pelvic, and the anal ﬁn spines, and if these spines penetrate the skin, an intense and excruciating pain in the area of the wound occurs almost immediately.
If there are multiple punctures, the wound can induce shock, respiratory distress, or abnormal heart action and sometimes leads to hospitalization of the victim. The California scorpionﬁsh is often called a sculpin but is not a member of the sculpin family.
The Cottidae family of sculpins is made up of more than 300 species, most of which are marine, but many of which also occur in freshwaters throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They are important as food for larger ﬁsh and as predators of the eggs and the young of gameﬁsh. Bottom-dwelling ﬁsh of cold waters, sculpins live in shelf waters and in rocky tidal pools. A few species of larger sculpins inhabit depths of up to 4,200 feet in saltwater.
Sculpins are characterized by wide bodies that taper to slender, compressed tails. They may be unscaled or may have spiny prickles or platelike scales, although the development of these varies within species, depending on habitat, and is not necessarily useful in identiﬁcation.
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.
IdentificationSomewhat 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.
Black sea bass are members of the Serranidae family and are popular sportﬁsh.
IdentificationThe black sea bass has a relatively stout body that is three times as long (excluding the tail) as it is deep. It also has a noticeably high back, a ﬂat-topped head, a slightly pointed snout, and a sharp spine near the apex of each gill cover. The elongated top ray of the tail sticks out past the rest of the tail and is the most distinguishing feature of this ﬁsh.
The body color ranges from black to gray or brownish-gray. The dorsal ﬁns are marked by several slanting white spots, and there also appear to be thin stripes on the sides, with wide vertical bands overlapping the stripes on some ﬁsh and a large dark spot on the last dorsal spine. The upper and the lower edges of the tail are white, as are the outer edges of the dorsal and the anal ﬁns.
The giant sea bass, a member of the Serranidae family, is not only a formidable ﬁsh in size, it is also renowned for its lengthy life span.
IdentificationThe body of the giant sea bass is elongate and has dorsal spines that ﬁt into a groove on the back. Greenish-brown or black, the giant sea bass has black or transparent fins, with the exception of the ventral fins, which appear lighter because of a white membrane between the black spines. There is usually a white patch on the throat and underneath the tail, and the membranes between the rays are also light.
A member of the Sciaenidae family, the popular white seabass belongs to the grouping of weakﬁsh or corvina and is not a true bass or sea bass. White seabass stocks have struggled due to overﬁshing by commercial gillnets, which are now illegal in California for this species.
IdentificationThe body of the white seabass is elongate and somewhat compressed. There is a characteristic raised ridge along the middle of the belly, between the vent and the base of the pelvic ﬁns. The head is pointed and slightly ﬂattened. The mouth is large, with a row of small teeth in the roof and a projecting lower jaw.
Sea robins are mostly tropical and subtropical ﬁsh of the Triglidae family, characterized by split pectoral ﬁns that consist of stiff separate rays on the lower half and broad, soft, winglike rays on the upper half. The upper rays are not as large as in the similar-looking ﬂying gurnard but are used for the same purpose—swimming. The lower rays are used to find food by sifting through debris and turning over rocks.
Sea robins also use their pelvic and pectoral ﬁns to “walk” across the bottom as they search for ﬁsh, shrimp, squid, clams, and crabs to satisfy their insatiable appetites. They are often brightly colored, are capable of making loud noises by vibrating muscles attached to their air bladders, and inhabit moderately deep waters. These fish spawn throughout the summer, their eggs ﬂoat on the surface, and the young grow quickly during the ﬁrst year.
A member of the Sciaenidae family (drum and croaker), the sand seatrout is a small and frequently caught ﬁsh. Found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, it supports a minor commercial and sportﬁshing industry. It is closely related to the weakﬁsh of the Atlantic coast.
IdentificationIts coloring is pale yellow on the back and silver to white below, without any real deﬁned spots. A young sand seatrout has a cloudy back, sometimes forming crossbands. The inside of the mouth is yellow. There are 10 to 12 soft rays in the anal ﬁn. It does not have any chin barbels and can be distinguished from the silver seatrout by the presence of 10 anal rays, the silver seatrout having only 8 or 9.
A member of the Sciaenidae family (drum and croaker), the silver seatrout is smaller than other seatrout and generally similar in body shape. It is often misidentiﬁed with the spotted seatrout.
IdentificationIts coloring is pale straw or walnut on the back and silver to white below, without any real deﬁned spots, although faint diagonal lines may be present on the upper body. There are 8 to 9 rays in the anal ﬁn, distinguishing it from the sand seatrout, which has 10 rays. The silver seatrout has large eyes and a short snout, no chin barbel, and one to two prominent canine teeth usually present at the tip of the upper jaw. The lower half of the tail is longer than the upper half.
The spotted seatrout is a member of the Sciaenidae family of drum and croaker. It belongs to the genus Cynoscion (weakﬁsh and seatrout), which is named for its members' tender mouths, from which hooks tear easily. Considered an exceptionally valuable commercial ﬁsh and an even more valuable sportfish to anglers, it is intensely pursued throughout its range, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.
Most Gulf and Atlantic coast states have experienced a decline in spotted seatrout populations due to overfishing and exploitation, and ﬁshing is strictly controlled; in some areas, the cessation of gillnetting is leading to stock recoveries and is providing optimism for the future.
Sennets are members of the Sphyraenidae family of barracuda, although they are smaller and less wide-ranging than barracuda are. Northern sennets (Sphyraena borealis) grow to a maximum of 18 inches; they occur in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Southern sennets (S. picudilla) are similar, occurring in Bermuda, Florida, and the Bahamas south to Uruguay; also known as picuda china, they have more commercial relevance than the northern sennet and are found near the surface, sometimes in large schools.
This member of the Clupeidae family of herring and shad is an anadromous species virtually ignored by anglers. It does have some commercial significance, however.
IdentificationA silvery fish like its other relatives, the Alabama shad has a large terminal mouth, with upper and lower jaws of almost equal length. Its tongue has a single median row of small teeth, there is no lateral line, the posterior of the dorsal fin lacks an elongated slender filament, and there are 18 or fewer anal rays. In general, it is nearly identical to the larger-growing American shad, but an adult fish has 42 to 48 gill rakers on the lower limb of the first gill arch.
The American shad is an anadromous member of the Clupeidae family of herring and shad and is highly regarded as a gamefish in coastal rivers.
IdentificationThe laterally compressed, fairly deep body of the American shad is silvery white, with some green to dark blue along the back, frequently with a metallic shine. The coloring darkens slightly when the fish enters freshwater to spawn. There is a large black spot directly behind the top of the gill cover, followed by several spots that become smaller and less distinct toward the tail; sometimes there are up to three rows of these dark spots, one under the other.
A member of the Clupeidae family of herring and shad, the hickory shad is of significant recreational interest, being a friskier, although smaller, cousin of the American shad.
IdentificationGray-green on the back and fading to silver on the side, the hickory shad has clear fins, with the exception of the dusky dorsal and caudal fins, which are occasionally black edged. It has a strongly oblique mouth, a lower jaw that projects noticeably beyond its upper jaw, and a cheek that is longer than or about equal to its depth.
Today there are at least 370 species of sharks worldwide. Like all fish, sharks are vertebrates, but ichthyologists place them in a separate class from most bony fish because the shark’s skeleton is made of cartilage instead of bone. Sharks also have five to seven gill slits on each side of the head, allowing each gill to vent separately into the surrounding water. Bony fish, in contrast, have on each side of their bodies one gill opening that is covered by a bony plate called the operculum.
Sharks also lack the gas-filled swim bladders of most bony fish. Instead, sharks have evolved a different means of maintaining buoyancy: They have extremely large livers that contain oils that are lighter than water. These oils, coupled with the cartilaginous skeleton, make sharks almost neutrally buoyant.
The Atlantic angel shark is brownish- to bluish-gray on the back and whitish on the belly, and it has a mid-dorsal row of denticles. The large mouth is terminal, and each tooth has a broad base with a long, pointed central cusp. The pectoral fins are not attached to the body at the rear, and Atlantic angels swim without making much use of them.
The second largest shark in existence today, growing to 45 feet, the basking shark is a member of the mackerel shark family and is basically harmless to humans.
A dark gray or slate-gray fish fading to a paler shade on its belly, the basking shark gets its name from its habit of swimming slowly at the surface. As a plankton feeder, it will not take bait, being too large for sportfishing anyway.
The blacktip shark reaches just over 8 feet in length; the alltackle world record is a 270-pound, 9-ounce fish taken off Kenya in 1995.
It is dark bluish-gray on the back and whitish below, with a distinctive silver-white stripe on each flank; young fish are generally paler. As the name implies, it is black-tipped on the insides of the pectoral fins, as well as on the dorsal, the anal, and the lower lobe of the caudal fins in young fish. This shading may be faint, especially on the first dorsal fin, and it fades with growth.
A member of the requiem shark family, the blue shark is very slender and streamlined, with a long and pointed snout that is much longer than the width of its mouth.
Appropriately, it is a deep, brilliant blue or a dark cobalt to indigo blue above, fading gradually to white below. With up to three rows of functional teeth in each jaw, the larger teeth in the upper jaw are “saber shaped,” or broadly convex on one side and concave on the other; the teeth are serrated along the edges, and those in the lower jaw are narrower.
The bonnethead shark is the smallest member of the hammerhead sharks, the family characterized by having eyes located at the far ends of extended lateral lobes.
The bonnethead is particularly distinctive in appearance because it has a smooth, broadly widened head, frequently described as “spade shaped,” which has more curve to it than do the heads of any other hammerheads. Also, the front of the head is lacking a median groove, which is pres- ent in other hammerheads. Gray to grayish-brown in color, the bonnethead shark seldom exceeds 3 feet in length, maturing at about that length to bear 6 to 12 live young at one time.
A large member of the requiem shark family, the bull shark is also called the freshwater whaler and the river whaler because it is most common inshore around river mouths and can adapt to life in freshwater.
This is the species that is landlocked in Lake Nicaragua in Nicaragua and has gained fame as a man-eater because it has been repeatedly implicated in attacks on humans. Also known as the Zambezi shark in southern African waters, the bull shark is one of the three most dangerous sharks in that area, along with great white and tiger sharks, due to its relative abundance in inshore habitats where people are more likely to be attacked.
Hammerhead sharks occur worldwide; the most prominent species include the great hammerhead (S. mokarran), the smooth hammerhead (S. zygaena), the scalloped hammerhead (S. lewini), and the bonnethead shark (see).
Hammerheads are easy for even a novice to identify, with eyes located at the ends of two thin lobes and the overall structure resembling a hammer. One possible reason why the head takes on a hammer shape may be that the shape is ideal for turning and locating odors, making the best use of the electroreceptors present in all sharks, which in turn makes detecting food an easier chore.
A requiem family shark, the lemon shark grows to 11 feet at maximum, although it is usually between 5 and 8 feet long. A potentially dangerous shark, it may rest on the bottom in coastal waters in groups of 4 to 6 and become aggressive when in the vicinity of spearfishing.
It is commonly yellow-brown, although it can also be muddy dark brown or dark gray with olive sides and a paler belly. It has a blunt and broad snout that appears rounded from below. The second dorsal fin is almost equal in size to the large first dorsal fin, and the upper lobe of the tail is much larger than the lower.
Lemon sharks are good inshore, light-tackle sportfish that inhabit western Atlantic waters from New Jersey to Brazil; in the eastern Pacific they extend from southern Baja California, Mexico, and the Gulf of California to Ecuador.
The leopard shark is a striking fish, so named for its leopardlike black spots, which run in crossbars across its back and sides over a lighter gray background.
It has an elongate body and a short snout that is bluntly rounded. Attaining lengths of up to 7 feet, the leopard shark inhabits inshore sand flats and rocky areas, often in schools with smoothhound sharks. As a smaller, less aggressive species of shark, it is not considered dangerous.
The porbeagle shark is a member of the mackerel shark family, as are the great white and the mako sharks, and bears a resemblance to both species.
The porbeagle has a robust, cobalt blue body with a perfectly conical snout that ends in a point. It is easily identified by its teeth, which are smooth and have little cusps on each side of the base. It often has a distinctive white area at the base portion of the first dorsal fin; this fin is farther forward than it is on mako or white sharks.
The sandbar shark is an inshore fish and a good light-tackle fighter, growing usually to between 5 and 7 feet long. A relatively heavy-bodied fish, it is dark bluish-gray to brownishgray and has a pale or white belly.
There is a distinct ridge on the back between the first and the second dorsal fins, and the first fin is large and pointed, starting over the middle of the pectoral fin. Its snout is shorter than the width of its mouth, appearing rounded from below.
Previously called Odontaspis taurus, the sand tiger shark is the most common shark sighted along Atlantic beaches.
It grows to about 9 feet and is grayish-brown or tan, with dark brown spots along the sides that grow more numerous toward the tail; although it bears a resemblance to the tiger shark, it has a larger second dorsal fin, a longer snout, and strongly projecting teeth.
Usually caught accidentally by surf casters fishing for other fish, sand tigers are sluggish and offer little resistance when hooked. In the western Atlantic, they occur from the Gulf of Maine to Argentina.
There are six sharpnose sharks in the Rhizoprionodon genus of the requiem shark family, all sharing a similar external appearance that is characterized by a long, flattened snout.
The best-known member of the family is the Atlantic sharpnose (R. terraenovae), which is a very popular small species as an inshore food fish and a small gamefish in the Gulf of Mexico. It grows to between 2 and 4 feet in length and has the characteristic long and flattened snout, as well as a slender brown to olive-gray body with a pale belly. The dorsal and the caudal fins may be edged in black, especially in the young, and often there are small, scattered whitish spots on the sides.
The shortfin mako is by far the most popular of angling sharks, exceeding 1,000 pounds in weight and 13 feet in length.
The shortfin mako has a streamlined, well-proportioned body that is most striking for a vivid blue-gray or cobalt blue coloring on its back, which changes to a lighter blue on the sides and a snowy white on the belly; this brilliant coloring fades after death to a grayish-brown. Other characteristic features are a conical, sharply pointed snout; a large flattened keel on either side of the caudal peduncle; and a lunate (crescent-shaped) tail with lobes of nearly equal size.