Leiostomus xanthurusSpot

Geographic Range

Leiostomus xanthurus (commonly known as the "Spot") can be found in marine areas along the Atlantic seaboard from the Gulf of Maine down the coast all the way to the mouth of the Rio Grande. The greatest abundance can be found in the stretch between the Chesapeake Bay and South Carolina (Florida Caribbean Science Center 2000; Husser 1999; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000).


Leiostomus xanthurus are found in estuaries and coastal saltwaters roaming over sandy and muddy bottoms. They migrate seasonally--entering the bays and estuaries in the spring. They can go to waters as deep as 60 meters but usually stay in much shallower areas. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (35-95 degrees) and salinity (freshwater-37 ppt.) In fact, recent research has been conducted on the effects of salinity changes for juvenile Spot. During the experiment, the fish adjusted quickly to salinity changes, adapting better to an increase in salinity than a decrease. These remarkable adaptations of the young Spot might show how the Spot can emigrate from estuaries. Further research is expected to be conducted on whether or not the temperature of the water is important to the euryhaline Spot in salinity adaptation (Schultz 2001; Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2001; Miller and Moser 1994).

Physical Description

Leiostomus xanthurus can reach a maximum of 36 centimeters but usually barely exceed a foot in length. Approximate lengths for fish ages 1-5 are 5.5 inches, 8.5 inches, 9.5 inches, 11.5 inches, and 13.5 inches, respectively. Characterized by and named for the dark, round, eye-sized spot behind the upper edge of the gill cover, these fish have deep, short, and compressed bodies. Their coloring is a bluish gray to silver with a gold tint on the sides. The fins are pale yellow--except for the dorsal and caudal fins which are a milky color. While there are approximately a dozen thin, oblique bars on the upper portion of the fish stretching from the gill to the tail, the dorsal fin has thirty rays while the anal fin has more than twelve rays. The tail is slightly concave and has no chin barbels. A lateral line goes all the way down to the tail. The spiny and soft parts of the dorsal fin are separated by a deep notch. These fish have short heads with a small mouth, which lack teeth on the lower jaw. There is no real distinction between males and females (Florida Caribbean Science Center 2000; Husser 1999; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000; Schultz 2001; EarthMax Development 2001).

  • Average mass
    227 g
    8.00 oz
  • Average mass
    247.5 g
    8.72 oz


During the fall to early winter months, L. xanthurus moves offshore to spawn in the shallow to middle-shelf waters. This period of spawning extends from fall to early spring. In areas such as North Carolina, the period is October to February. In areas such as Florida, the period is from December to March. The spawning occurs in waters a little deeper and further offshore than most Sciaenids. Anywhere from one hundred thousand to 1.7 million eggs may then be carried shoreward by winds and currents. Fertlization is external and occurs at night in shallow waters. The larvae grow rapidly in the warmer offshore waters. The young Spot then move into coastal shallows and the lower bays during the winter. This is where they spend their first year. Usually, during the summer, the young reside in the tidal creeks and shallow estuarine areas. Then, during the winter, once again, they go into deeper estuarine waters or the ocean. Young Spot tend to move into areas with lower salinity and even freshwater until they are old enough to return back to the saltwater. Young Spot have also been known to reside in eelgrass communities. The age of maturity is about 2-3 years when the Spot are about 186-214 milimeters in length. The maximum age for a Spot is 5 years (Husser 1999; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000; EarthMax Development 2001; Schultz 2001; Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2001).


  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 years


Leiostomus xanthurus travel in huge, slow-moving aggregates over sand-mud bottoms. They are a schooling fish and travel in groups of 100 or more. The male Spot makes a drumming sound with his swim bladder. Common predators of the Spot are the striped bass, bluefish, flounder, shark, and weakfish (Husser 1999; Schultz 2001; University of Delaware 2001; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Leiostomus xanthurus are omnivores. They consume bottom dwelling, soft bodied (benthic) invertebrates and smaller, easily crushed crabs and shrimp. Polychaetes, crustaceans, worms, small fish, small plankton, and mullusks, as well as plant and animal detritus, are also favorites (Husser 1999; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000; Schultz 2001; Atlantic Edge 2001).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Spot make for fair eating because they are small in size and there is a great abundance of them. Leiostomus xanthurus are used for pet food processors; about 3000-4000 tons a year are used for this purpose. Spot are important recreational and commercial fish; in 1980 they were ranked third in the recreational fishing survey at 1.3 million fish. Spot are one of the most frequently caught fish by fishermen. Their flesh is excellent and can be fried fresh or after being stored in salt. The flesh is soft and has a good flavor; they are known as very good panfish. Spot have great economic importance to the community fisheries in the Chesapeake areas and the Carolinas (Husser 1999; Volusia County Government 2001; Chesapeake Bay Program 2000; EarthMax Development 2001; Raffield Fisheries 1998).

Conservation Status

Although L. xanthurus are not an endangered species, in 1991 the Chespeake Bay Atlantic Croaker and Spot Fishery Management Plan (FMP) stated that the bycatch of Spot was a problem. This plan took effect from Delaware south through Florida because many of the fish were being caught accidentally in nets designed for other fish. So, the plan called for a minimum size to be caught. Substantial progress has been made in the reduction of the bycatch of Spot (Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2001).

Other Comments

The largest Spot ever recorded was 14 inches in length, and the oldest was 5 years of age. Optimal supplies for fishing for Spot are light lines and small hooks. They prefer pieces of clam and cut fish or worms. Because fishermen usually do not go out with the intention of catching Spot, L. xanthurus are not viewed too favorably when on a hook or in a net (Maryland Department of Natural Resources 2001; Schultz 2001).


Lyndsay Bare (author), Western Maryland College, Louise a. Paquin (editor), Western Maryland College.


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


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

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


uses touch to communicate


Atlantic Edge, 2001. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.atlanticedge.com/vila/spot.html.

Chesapeake Bay Program, November 7, 2000. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.chesapeakebay.net/info/spot.cfm.

EarthMax Development, LLC, 2000. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at www.insideflagler.com/fishing/species_spot.htm.

Florida Caribbean Science Center, May 22, 2000. "Leiostomus xanthurus" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://nas.er.usgs.gov/fishes/accounts/sciaenid/le_xanth.html.

Husser, R. 1999. "Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus-Lousiana Fishing)" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.sportsmans-paradise.com/species/spotty.html.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 2001. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 26, 2001 at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/education/spot/spot.html.

Moser, M., J. Miller. 1994. Effects of salinity fluctuation on routine metabolism of juvenile spot, Leiostomus xanthurus. Journal of Fish Biology, 45: 335-340.

Raffield Fisheries, Inc., 1998. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.raffieldfisheries.com/product.cfm?ID=35.

Schultz, K. 2001. "Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus)" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.kenschultz.com/template2.asp?fishname=spot.

University of Delaware, 2001. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://www.ocean.udel.edu/mas/seafood/spot.html.

Volusia County Government, 2001. "Spot" (On-line). Accessed February 15, 2001 at http://volusia.org/fisheries/Ixan.htrm.