Game Fishing > Drum Family, Sciaenidae > Lafayette


LafayetteThe Lafayette, spot, or goody, as it is variously called, was described by Lacepede, in 1802, from South Carolina. He named it xanthuyus, meaning "yellow tail," under the impression that its caudal fin was yellow, which, however, it is not. Its range extends from Cape Cod to Texas, though it is most abundant from New Jersey to Florida. It is found throughout its range in brackish-water bays and bayous, and is somewhat similar in appearance to the croaker.

It has a short, deep body; the back in front of the dorsal fin is compressed to a sharp edge or "razor-back"; the outline of the back is arched, highest over the shoulder, with a steep profile from thence to the snout; the depth of the body is more than a third of its length. The head is not so long as the depth of the body; the snout is blunt and prominent; the mouth is small. There are few or no teeth in the lower jaw, while those in the upper jaw are quite small. The throat is well armed with molars and brushlike teeth. There are two dorsal fins, slightly connected; the caudal fin is forked.

It is bluish or dusky above, with silvery sides and white belly; when fresh from the water it is very iridescent. It has about fifteen narrow, dark, wavy bands extending obliquely downward and forward, from the back to below the lateral line; the fins are olivaceou and plain; it has a very prominent and distinct round black spot just above the base of the pectoral fin, which has given rise to the name spot in some localities.

Like the croaker, the Lafayette resorts to grassy and weedy situations in the brackish­water bays, estuaries, and tributaries. In Florida it is present all the year, but does not enter northern waters until summer and autumn, when it is often found in company with the croaker or white-perch. It feeds on shrimps and other small crustaceans and small mollusks. It spawns in southern waters in the fall. Although but a small fish, growing to eight or ten inches in length, and usually to but six inches, it is a great favorite as a pan-fish, as when perfectly fresh it is a delicious tidbit of most excellent flavor.

The same tackle recommended for the croaker is well adapted for the spot, though the hooks should be smaller. It is found in the same situations as the croaker, and often in shallow water, or about the piling of bridges and wharves, wherever shrimps abound. My method, many years ago, was to use a light cane rod, ten or twelve feet in length, and a fine line of about the same length, very small hooks, about number 8, with bait of shrimp, cut clam, oyster, sandworm, or earthworm.

I used no float, but held the rod elevated sufficiently to keep the bait from touching the bottom, thus maintaining a taut line, so that the slightest nibble of the fish could be felt, when I would endeavor to hook it at once, for it is as well versed in bait-stealing as the cunner.

It is only necessary to refer to the many names by which this little fish is known in various regions to prove its popularity. Some of these are the spot, goody, Cape May goody, and Lafayette of northern waters, the roach and chub of Carolina, and the chopa blanca (white bream) and besugo (sea-bream) of the Portuguese and Spanish fishermen. It appeared in unusually large numbers in northern waters about the time that Lafayette visited the U.S. in 1834, hence one of its numerous names.