Drawing of a squeteague.
Drawing of a squeteague.
Courtesy: NMFS

Squeteague (Cynoscion regalis)

Alternate common name: Weakfish.
Color: Dark olive green above, paler below, back and sides appear iridescent with hints of purple, lavender, green, gold, or copper. Sides are marked with small black, dark green, or bronze spots above the lateral line.
Size: 14 to 26 inches long.
Habitat: Shallow waters, open water, along sandy shores, and salt marsh creeks.
Seasonal appearance: April to October.

Description

The squeteague, a sea trout, is one of the most easily identifiable fish in Narragansett Bay. Squeteague look similar to bluefish in fin shape and color. Its anal fin is short, and the first of two dorsal fins is higher than the second. The body is streamlined and slightly flattened, resembling freshwater trout in shape. Its snout is slightly pointed, with a fairly large mouth. Squeteague have two large canine teeth in the upper jaw, and the lower jaw protrudes slightly. The squeteague is sometimes referred to as a "weakfish" because of the ease with which a hook tears from its mouth.

The kingfish Menticirrhus saxatilis, a similar species to the squeteague, is common in the Bay. The kingfish is usually smaller, with dark bars on the side, a longer dorsal fin, and a barbel on the chin.

Life History and Behavior

Squeteague move near the surface in schools of hundreds of fish. They are fast swimming and active predators, feeding on schools of Atlantic menhaden, killifish, other small fish, crabs, mollusks, and worms. Bluefish and striped bass prey on squeteague.

Squeteague belong to a family of fish called drums. Most male drums can produce a croaking or drumming sound. An important behavioral signal used during spawning, squeteague create this sound by contracting abdominal muscles against the swim bladder. Unlike the squeteague, kingfish do not make drumming sounds. Most species of drum have a sensory chin barbel used for bottom feeding. This barbel is absent from drum species that inhabit the pelagic zone, such as the squeteague.

Fishery Note The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission manages the squeteague fishery to address the conservation and management needs of coastal populations.

Special Notes


Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.