Marine - Species


SC Species Regulations for Spot

Saltwater Fishing License required.

50 per person per day aggregate bag limit

Bag limit applies to hook and line only

SC Marine Gamefish Tagging

Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus)

General Description
Body silver or bluish above and somewhat golden on belly; 12 – 15 oblique dark streaks extend below lateral line. Mouth small and inferior, lacking barbels on chin. A single dark spot, similar in size to the eyes, is located behind the upper portion of the gill cover.

Average Size
8 inches, 0.5 pounds;
South Carolina State Record: 1 pound, 1 ounce;
maximum age: approx. 5 years.


Adults: Inhabit estuaries, tidal creeks, and shallow coastal waters; generally over muddy or sand-mud bottoms; also over oyster reefs and along beaches.

Juveniles: Utilize lower salinity tidal creeks; yearlings progress to deeper water of lower estuaries and inlets; most common over mud or detritus-laden bottoms and seagrass beds.

Reproductive Cycle

  • Both sexes mature by 2 years of age; approx. size at maturity: 7 – 8 inches.
  • Spawn October – March over outer continental shelf. Adults congregate near inlets and beaches during fall prior to offshore and southerly spawning migrations.
  • Larval develop offshore, utilizing currents to reach nearshore waters where they metamorphose into bottom dwellers near estuarine inlets; enter estuaries December – April.

Foraging Habits

  • Feed on locally available invertebrates including polychaete worms, amphiods, copepods, small mollusks and detritus; adults gulp sediments and sort out invertebrate prey; juveniles graze on bottom-dwelling invertebrates. Larvae consume zooplankton.

Availability/Vulnerability to Harvest

  • One of the most abundant species in estuarine and nearshore coastal waters of the southeast U.S., spot historically supported important commercial and recreational fisheries. Commercial harvest has declined greatly in South Carolina since 1980 but remains significant across the southeast U.S. and northward along the Atlantic coast.
  • Abundance in estuaries is primarily temperature-dependent; tolerate wide salinity and temperature fluctuations but move offshore as water cools during fall. Harvested by recreational anglers spring through fall; commercially during the fall run offshore.
  • Conservation concerns: degradation and loss of estuarine habitat; pollution and compromised water quality; potential for significant recreational harvest; potential for significant commercial harvest and mortality as by-catch in southeast U.S. shrimp trawl fishery.

Abundance of Species

Spot Abundance Graph - Click Graph for larger image

The abundance of spot in DNR's trammel net survey has been variable over the years, which is fairly typical in short-lived species where population size is influenced by recruitment success.
More Information.


Fishery Status

Spot Recreational Fishery Graph - Select image to view larger graph

Recreational total catch showed a general declining trend from 1986 through 1999. Spotted seatrout are susceptible to over-wintering mortality during colder than average winters. This can result in decreased catches the following year and was responsible for drops in catch that occurred in 1990, 2001, and 2011. One other notable trend is the increase in fish released alive from 2003-2012. The most severe winter kill occurred in 2000-2001 and it took almost five years for recreational catches to reach the 10 year average catch (607,641 fish per year).

There are no commercial landings of spotted seatrout in South Carolina due to their starus a s a gamefish since the 1980's. More Information.

Literature Cited

Dawson CE. 1958. A study of the biology and life history of the spot, Leiostomus xanthurus Lacépède, with special reference to South Carolina. Contributions from Bears Bluff Laboratories no. 28, Wadmalaw Island, SC. 48 pp.

Fischer W. 1978. FAO identification sheets for fisheries purposes: western central Atlantic (fishing area 31) volume 1 – 7. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Goldstein RJ. 2000. Coastal fishing in the Carolinas: from surf, pier, and jetty. John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem, NC. 243 pp.

Hales LS, MJ Van Den Avyle. 1989. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (South Atlantic) – spot. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biological Report 82(11.91). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers TR EL-82-4. 24 pp.

Maier P. 2005. Spot. In: Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Columbia, SC. Available: Accessed: December, 2009.

Mercer LP. 1987. Fishery management plan for spot (Leiostomus xanthurus). Special Scientific Report no. 49., North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, Morehead City, NC. 81 pp.

Moore CJ, M Barkley. 2005. South Carolina’s guide to saltwater fishes. South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Special Publication. Columbia, SC. 132 pp.

Music JL. 1974. Observations on the spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) in Georgia’s estuarine and close inshore ocean waters. Contribution Series Number 28, Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources. 29 pp.

Parker JC. 1971. The biology of the spot, Leiostomus xanthurus Lacépède, and Atlantic croaker, Micropogon undulatus (Linnaeus), in two Gulf of Mexico nursery areas. Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. 182 pp.

Phillips JM, MT Huish, JH Kerby, DP Moran. 1989. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (mid-Atlantic) – spot. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Biol. Rep. 82(11.98). U.S. Army Corps of Engineers TR EL-82-4. 13 pp.

Warlen SM, AJ Chester. 1985. Age, growth, and distribution of larval spot, Leiostomus xanthurus, off North Carolina. Fish Bull 83: 587-600.