Spiny Dogfish Where They’re Not Supposed to Be

It’s been brought to the attention of myself and others in my lab that spiny dogfish have been turning up in North Carolina waters south of Cape Hatteras in the past couple weeks.  According to the conventional wisdom they should all have been heading north to summer off of New England about a month ago.  I was fishing down at Atlantic Beach just a week or so ago and saw no spinies, but plenty of people were pulling up smooth dogfish.  However, call-ins and the fishing reports have been mentioning spiny dogfish showing up in apparently considerable numbers. 

If any intrepid readers happen to catch any spiny dogfish in the Beaufort/Morehead City/Atlantic Beach area please let me know as a comment in this post.  Photographic evidence would be appreciated, and can be sent to [email protected].  Just as a refresher, here’s how you identify a spiny dogfish:

Image from Maryland DNR
Spiny dogfish can be easily told from other small sharks by the spines present on both dorsal fins.  Other helpful features include the lack of an anal fin and the generally dusky coloration with scattered white spots.  
Smooth dogfish will be much lighter colored, have an anal fin, and lack dorsal fin spines.  Sharpnose sharks can be very similarly-colored, but again will have an anal fin and lack dorsal spines.  These are really the only species in the area that might get visually confused with spiny dogfish.
It’ll be another couple days before I can get back down there and try to catch any dogfish for myself, so any sightings would be appreciated.


  1. kate The kid · May 8, 2010

    we went to shackelford island yesterday (may 8th) and saw many dead spiny dogfish (some more recent, but within ~24 hrs) on the beach (yes, they were *spiny* dogfish) probably about a dozen, majority female, a few males all less than 1 m, but about the same size. they were seen on both the ocean- and sound-sides. i assumed that they were fishing bycatch, but then on the sound-side, we witnessed a dogfish almost beaching itself with a small wave (maybe eating small bait fish, which i did not see). it was able to work its way back to the water, but it maybe that the others were unable to do so. this was ~1400, nearing high tide with big rollers coming through the inlet and a south wind…just wanted to let you know.

  2. Kevin Zelnio · May 8, 2010

    I'll keep a lookout. Do you want a tissue sample for DNA?

  3. Chuck · May 8, 2010

    Thanks Kevin. For now size and sex data will do, and if you can supply a photo of the dogfish, that would be helpful as well. I may have a fishing expedition organized in the next couple days, so I can let you know when I'll be down there if you want to join in.

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