- Size: adult males up to 2 feet long; adult females up to 3 feet long.
- Color: brown or gray with white underside; can change color.
- Habitat: estuaries and coastal waters.
- When and where to observe: summer from local piers and fishing boats.
Nicknamed “chameleons of the sea,” this flat fish can change its color to blend with the sandy bottoms of local waters. Adults, partially covered in sand, wait to ambush their prey, while above anglers also lie in wait to catch this popular recreation fish.
As suggested by their name, summer flounder are found in New York City’s coastal waters during warm months. Belonging to a larger group called “left eye flounders,” this fish is found from Nova Scotia to Florida. Populations were very low for many decades, but fishing regulations on quantity and size have resulted in healthier numbers.
Fluke spawn (mate and lay eggs) as they move to deeper offshore waters in autumn and early winter. The number of eggs released is determined by the female’s size – a large fish can produce as many as 4 million eggs.
Eggs are released near the continental shelf, and newly hatched young fish called larvae drift towards shore with the currents to estuaries and coastal lagoons. Larvae’s eye placement is similar to other fish, but in a few days, the right eye begins to move so both are on the left side.
Larvae consume zooplankton but as they mature into juvenile fish, their diet changes to small fish and crustaceans.
Juvenile fluke grow quickly and can reach lengths of 9-12” in their first year; mature males can grow to 2 feet and females up to 3 feet. Fluke are sexually mature in 2 to 3 years and may live 12 to 14 years.
Predators of larvae and juveniles include larger fish like cod, while adults fall prey to sharks, rays and monkfish.
Many fishing boats leave from various NYC marinas to fish for fluke, or join the fluke tagging program offered by the American Littoral Society.
- Fluke: Facts and Fishing by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, accessed on 5/14/12 at: http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/flukefct.htm
- Summer Flounder by NOAA Fish Watch, accessed on 5/14/12 at: http://www.fishwatch.gov/seafood_profiles/species/flounder/species_pages/summer_flounder.htm
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