Keep The Shell Flowing
Do You Have The Heart Of An Oyster?

What Is Your Favorite Oyster Reef Critter?


"Of All The Exciting Species Living On Oyster Reefs In Maryland Waters Of The Chesapeake Bay, Pipefish  Are Mesmerizing And Just Captivate My Attention!"- Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff

These small fish, related to seahorses, can be found hiding among oyster shells and underwater grasses in the Bay. Each oyster season I get exhilarated when I come across the Northern Pipefish as I lift an oyster cage out of the water, it is very rare to see 2 or 3 sightings! After a few moments of joy, then show and tell with other staff and volunteers, we all bid the pipefish farewell. If you have never had the pleasure of holding one in your hand, it can best be described as holding a squirming twig, it's unlike any other Bay critter and seeing one always make my day!

Pipfish_joe renyoldsPhoto by- Joe Reynolds

 "A little known fact about the pipefish is that it can move each of its eyes separately, although we don’t know exactly how this helps it."- Rugters Discover Fish Field Guide


"Blennies are my favorite Bay critter! I think they are so notorious and they look like little old men. Unlike other small fish around oyster reefs that hide, a blenny has no problem attacking your finger or any other fish that moves into its house!" -Carmera Thomas/CBF Staff

Blennies_bay.netPhoto by- Chesapeake Bay Program

An oyster reef is not complete without its own version of the mafia; "the blenny," is a species that always keeps order around the reef. Two different species (feathered and striped blenny) are predominate in the Maryland tributaries of the Bay. These fish grow to about 4 inches in length and are very feisty when you enter ‘their’ territory. These active fish will dart out, flair open their mouths and puff up their bodies to let humans and other critters to stay out of their neighborhood. They even try to put up a fight out of the water. Good news is, they don't pose any immediate danger to humans, they are all bark and no bite! 

Skillet Fish

“The first time I picked up a skillet fish it attached to my hand, which was a little terrifying, but I grew to enjoy finding them among the oyster cages and they are now my favorite critter. The Skillet Fish is the most resilient and interesting critter found among oyster reefs in Maryland. ” - Emily Rieck/CBF Oyster Intern

Skilltetfish_vimsPhoto by- Virginia Institute of Marine Science 

A skillet fish's most unique feature is its sucker! How many fish can top that? Evolution modified its pelvic fin into a sucker, what a stand out feature. If you have every tried to remove one from a fish tank or your dock they are tricky and determined to stay put.  Its almost cheetah-print like pattern is beautiful. This pattern allows the skillet fish to camouflage itself in shallow water, to hide and survive in the reef. 

Skilletfish_disk_vimsPhoto by- Virginia Institute of Marine Science

American Eel

 “Let’s be honest, the American eel is the most patriotic fish on the oyster reef.” –Ray McClain/ Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer, CBF

Illustration by- MD Department of Natural Resources, 
Duanne Raver

What is so great about the American eel? Well, besides having “America” right in its name, this slippery fish lives a quite mysterious life. The American eel is one of the few fish species that is catadromous (living in fresh water but migrating to saltwater to breed). While the eel lives in the more freshwater areas of Chesapeake Bay, every January this mysterious creature will swim out to the saltwater of the Sargasso Sea to spawn at depths near 6,000 feet. If that is not cool enough, this fish can breathe through its skin!

--Meghan Hoffman with contribution by Emily Rieck, Carmera Thomas, and Ray McClain 


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