A sudden drop in water temperature is believed to be the cause of the deaths of about two million fish, mostly small juvenile spot, in the Chesapeake Bay last week.
Spot, a popular sport and bait fish known for the spot on their sides and the croaking sound they make with their swim bladders, are plentiful in the Bay in the spring through fall. But by December they normally migrate out of the Bay into the Atlantic Ocean, where they range from Maine to Florida. This year, however, an abnormally warm fall kept many in the Chesapeake longer than usual, and then a sudden cold snap killed them.
Here are some other fun facts about spot, or Leiostomus xanthurus, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources:
* The Chesapeake Bay angling record in Maryland was caught in Tangier Sound and weighed 2 pounds.
* The largest spot ever recorded measured 14 inches in length and the oldest was 5 years of age.
* Spot are an important food source for other fish species including striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, shark and flounder.
Large cold-related fish kills have happened at least twice before, in 1976 and 1980, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
To read up more about water temperature and the Bay, click here to read an interesting article by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Chesapeake Bay office.
Below is a graphic that shows how unusually cold water temperatures were in December. It is courtesy of a Chesapeake Bay data collection site called Eyes on the Bay that is maintained by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.