AKA: angelfish

Description: This medium-sized fish is commonly found from Massachusetts to Brazil. Adults have flat, spade-shaped bodies with pointed dorsal and anal fins and a blunt snout. Adults are silver-gray with three to six prominent black vertical bands on each side of the body. Juvenile fish are usually black.

Size: Atlantic spadefish grow to 36 inches and 20 pounds.

Sometimes confused with: sheepshead, black drum

Habitat: Preferring warm water, Atlantic spadefish are found inshore during the summer, but move offshore in temperate areas during the winter. They are found inshore and nearshore near reefs, wrecks, buoys and pilings.

Eating habits: Atlantic spadefish feed on benthic invertebrates such as crustaceans, mollusks and other marine life such as algae or jellyfish. Feeding occurs throughout the day, but peaks around midday.

Life cycle: Spawning occurs in open water at the surface during the summer near buoys. The
fish travel in large schools with juveniles often swimming at an angle or parallel to the surface to disguise themselves as debris.

Fishing tips: Anglers land Atlantic spadefish using tiny hooks baited with pieces of shrimp or jellyfish. Divers can catch spadefish with spears. Fishermen occasionally snag them with unbaited treble hooks around the pilings of ocean piers.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

No award given for this species.


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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