Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus)

A member of the Sciaenidae family, the spot is an important commercial fish. Its migration habits bring it to shore in schools, enabling both recreational anglers and commercial fishermen to catch spot in large numbers. Much like its cousin, the Atlantic croaker, the spot is a small and flavorful fish.

Other Names

Norfolk spot, spot croaker; French: tambour croca; Spanish: verrugato croca.


The body of the spot is deep and stout, and the tail is slightly forked. The soft dorsal fin has more than 30 rays, and the anal fin has more than 12 rays. Its coloring is gray to silver, with a gold tint on the sides and 12 to 15 dark lines extending from the dorsal fins to the lateral line.

There is a round black spot about the same size as the eye above each pectoral fin. The fins are pale yellow, except for the dorsal and the caudal fins, which are milky. The spot's color and lack of chin barbels distinguish it from other sciaenids.


The average spot weighs 1/2 pound, and these fish rarely reach 2 pounds, making them the proverbial saltwater panfish. They can live for 5 years.

Life history/Behavior

Spawning occurs at sea in the fall and the winter, in water temperatures of 59° to 79°F. A female spot is capable of producing as many eggs as the Atlantic croaker, nearly 1 million. The eggs are pelagic and carried shoreward by wind and currents.

Juveniles move into less saline estuary areas, sometimes even to freshwater, until they are old enough to return to saltwater. Growth is rapid for the first few years, due to the abundance of food in estuaries. They reach maturity at age 3. The spot is a schooling fish and travels in groups of 100 or more.

Food and feeding habits

Spot consume small crustaceans, detritus, worms, and small fish.


Spot occur from Massachusetts to Mexico, inhabiting roughly the same range as the Atlantic croaker.


Spot inhabit estuaries and coastal saltwaters, generally roaming over sandy and muddy bottoms. They may frequent waters as deep as 197 feet but usually remain much shallower.