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Massachusetts

Saltwater Fishing

Species Profile - Scup

Scup

A party boat staple, scup are easy and fun to catch. Scup are very good eating though be careful of the many bones.

Location: South side of Cape Cod and along coast to Rhode Island

Season: May-October

Baits and Lures: Clams, strips of squid, seaworms.

Methods and Tackle: Light- to medium-weight tackle, drift-fishing, jetties, piers, bridges.

Mass. Saltwater Fishing Derby Minimum Weights: Adult 2 lb. Junior 1 lb.

If you’re looking for something new to catch and eat, try scup! This seafood recommendation may come as a surprise to the many anglers who have caught and released these plentiful and voracious feeders without realizing that scup are quite tasty and easy to prepare.

With a shiny, silvery color and tall disc-like body, the scup is a commonly caught species in areas like Nantucket Sound, Vineyard Sound, and Buzzards Bay.

Large schools of scup can be found starting in early May, when Massachusetts coastal waters reach 45 degrees. Scup are a lot of fun to catch, and if you come upon a large school the action can be fast and furious as you drop and reel to your heart's content. Take caution when handling scup during hook removal, as they have very sharp dorsal spines.

In Southern New England, scup spawn from May to August, peaking in June. By age 2–3 (when they are roughly 6 inches), most scup are sexually mature. Females release an average of 7,000 eggs per annual spawn, which often takes place over sandy or weedy areas. Fertilized eggs float for about 40 hours before they hatch, and larvae begin feeding on copepods and other plankton within several days. As larvae mature, they settle to the sea floor and develop into juveniles. These juveniles will remain in shallow water estuaries through the summer and early fall. Each year, as many as 80% of all juvenile scup are eaten by larger predators such as striped bass, bluefish, and black sea bass. Adult scup feed on bottom invertebrates like crabs, annelid worms, clams, mussels, jellyfish, and sand dollars. Scup can live up to at least 14 years, weigh up to 5 pounds, and grow up to 18 inches, although most of the catch in Massachusetts consists of fish less than 6 years old, 3 pounds in weight, and 14 inches in length. The current state record scup is 5 pounds 14 ounces!

Scup are targeted by both commercial and recreational fishermen, and they are regulated by both interstate and federal fishery management plans. Overall, the management plans allocate 78% of the annual allowed harvest to the commercial fishery, and 22% to the recreational fishery. The commercial fishery is managed by a quota system, minimum fish size, and gear restrictions. The recreational fishery is managed by regional possession limits, minimum sizes, and season lengths designed to achieve the harvest limit. There are also special regulations for the charter and party boat fisheries.

The scup stock is managed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and is in great shape with the estimate of spawning stock biomass being almost double the target value. This is good news for this important species that is targeted not only by anglers but also by other predatory fish that feed on the smaller scup as prey.

So go on, get out there on the water and catch up this tasty species. You can catch them from shore, private boat, charterboat, or headboat. As with any species, be familiar with the regulations and have a measuring device ready to quickly check if you have keepers, should you wish to take some home.

Fileting a scup takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it the meat is a cinch to cook. A very sharp filet knife and a sturdy cutting surface are a must, and watching a few video tutorials of fileting a scup will help ensure you get as much meat as possible from your catch. Baked, broiled, grilled, or pan fried, scup is a light and sweet fish that cooks quickly and is a delicious addition to your weekly meal plan!