This fish lies half-buried in the bottom sediments, both eyes facing up, waiting for unsuspecting prey such as shrimp, squid and small fish to swim by. It can live up to 20 years, growing to a length of 30 inches or more, with a long dorsal fin that stretches from head to tail.
Summer flounder have a flat, pan-shaped body that is brown on top with large spots and whitish on the underside. When larvae hatch, they have an eye on each side of the head. The right eye gradually moves to the left side of the head, next to the left eye. When they reach adulthood, both of the flounder’s eyes are on the top – or on the left.
The species visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn, dwelling on the bottom in sandy and muddy sediments. Adults are usually found in deep channels or sandbars, while juveniles live in eelgrass beds in the shallows. They tend to remain in the lower reaches of the Bay, and will not move above the Gunpowder River. It spawns in the coastal ocean waters from late summer to mid-winter and their larvae move into the Bay, using it as their nursery grounds.
Illustration of Summer Flounder Courtesy of Duanne Rivers, USFWS