Pomatomus saltatrixTailor run

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Geographic Range

Bluefish are found in all oceanic and coastal waters except the eastern and northwest Pacific. The adults can be found in estuaries and brackish water, but are most common in clean, high-energy waters, such as surf beaches and rock headlands (Agbayani 2001).

Habitat

Smaller bluefish live nearly year-round in estuaries and bays along the coasts. As they mature, they begin annual migrations. As the size of the bluefish increases, the distance they migrate also increases. They can tolerate water temperatures as low as 14°C, and can maintain a body temperature up to 40°C above the temperature of the surroundings. These coastal fish will sometimes enter brackish water, where they can tolerate a salinity concentration as low as 7 parts per thousand (Meyer; Bachand 1994).

Physical Description

Adult P. saltatrix reach an average length of 30 cm but can grow as large as 120 cm. Coloration is greenish-blue to dark blue above giving way to a silvery white on the sides and below. They are covered in relatively small scales, have a straight lateral line, a forked tail, and dorsal and anal fins. Bluefish have an extended, down-turned lower jaw, with both jaws being lined with extremely sharp, conical teeth. (Bachand, 1994; Temple, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2 to 6 kg
    4.41 to 13.22 lb
  • Range length
    120 (high) cm
    47.24 (high) in
  • Average length
    30 cm
    11.81 in

Reproduction

Bluefish have no external characteristics that can be used to distinguish males from females. However, males mature at an earlier age but their eventual size is not an indicator of gender. During their second year, bluefish reach sexual maturity. The females extrude between 0.6 and 1.4 million eggs in spurts as they migrate along the coasts. Males then spread their milt and fertilization occurs. Depending on water temperature, the free-floating, oil-filled eggs can hatch within 44 to 48 hours of fertilization. The newly hatched bluefish then migrate into estuaries and bays until they reach a weight of approximately 3 lbs. (Bachand 1994; Meyer).

Lifespan/Longevity

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    9 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Pomatomus saltatrix are constantly moving, as they travel in schools that can extend 6 to 8 km in length. As the schools move through the water, they will attack other schools of fish, destroying large numbers of excess prey. Each year, beginning in January, bluefish begin their annual migration northward. The cause for this migration is unknown, but it is speculated that it is due to seasonal changes in light intensity and the length of the day (Bachand 1994; Agbayani, 2001).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Bluefish are strictly carnivorous, eating squid, shrimp, crabs, and fish, such as herring, atlantic mackeral, menhaden, spot, butterfish, and mullet. They are visual feeders that hunt in schools and will attack anything that moves or slightly resembles food. Bluefish will often first bite the tail off their prey, will then consume the food, will regurgitate, and will again eat (Bachand 1994; Meyer).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Bluefish are economically important as both a sportfish and as a food. The bluefish's aggressive feeding habits and the fight it puts up makes it a very popular sportfish. Each year, about 55 million kilograms of bluefish are caught by anglers. In the United States, bluefish account for about 1% of the commercial fishery landings, but over the past 20 years, the catch was tripled (Manooch 2001; Species bluefish).

Conservation Status

Other Comments

Pomatomus saltatrix can increase and decrease the amount of air in their swim bladders faster than any other known species of fish (Bachand 1994).

Contributors

Jason Heavner (author), Western Maryland College, Louise a. Paquin (editor), Western Maryland College.

Glossary

Arctic Ocean

the body of water between Europe, Asia, and North America which occurs mostly north of the Arctic circle.

Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

coastal

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

heterothermic

having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

References

Agbayani, E. 2001. "Species Summary for Pomatomus saltator" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2001 at http://www.fishbase.org/.

Bachand, R. 1994. "Bluefish, Pomatomus saltatrix" (On-line). Accessed April 19, 2001 at http://www.bridgeportbluefish.com/facts.html.

Manooch, C. 2001. "Bluefish" (On-line). Accessed April 15, 2001 at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/info/bluefish.cfm.

Meyer, B. "Bluefish" (On-line). Accessed April 26, 2001 at http://www.combat-fishing.com/fishencyclo1/bluefishes/bluefish.htm.

Temple, R. 1999. "Tailor (Bluefish)" (On-line). Accessed March 26, 2001 at http://www.fishingbeautifulplaces.com.au/fish_tailor_(bluefish).htm.

Virginia Tech, 1996. "Species Bluefish" (On-line). Accessed April 26, 2001 at http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/WWW/macsis/lists/M010050.htm.