Game Fishing > Sheepshead Family, Sparidae > Scup


ScupAnother fish of the Sparidae family is the scup, or porgy, which was first described by Linnaeus, in 1766, from specimens sent to him from South Carolina by Dr. Garden. He named it chrysops or "golden eye." The names scup and porgy are derived from the Indian name scuppaug. The porgy is mentioned, like the cunner, in deference to the rising generation of anglers, to whom it is fair game on the summer excursions to the seashore.

It is confined to the Atlantic coast from Cape Cod to South Carolina, being especially abundant in northern waters. A kindred species, the fair maid (Stenotomus aculeatus), is common from Cape Hatteras southward, there taking the place of the northern scup.

The porgy is a short, deep, and compressed fish, rather elliptical in outline, its depth being nearly half of its length, and with the back elevated over the nape. Its head is of moderate size, with a steep profile, depressed in front of the small eye. The mouth is rather small and the snout short. Its incisor teeth are very narrow and rather conical or pointed, resembling canines; there are two rows of molar teeth in the upper jaw.

The color is brownish on the top of the head and back with greenish and golden reflections, and bright and silvery below; the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are dusky or mottled, and the pectoral fin yellowish.

The scup appears along the shores of the East Coast about the first of May, sometimes earlier, and continues until late in the fall, when it retires to its winter quarters in the depths of the sea. It is a bottom fish, feeding on crustaceans and small mollusks, and is found wherever they abound on the outer shoals. It usually spawns in June; the eggs are quite small, measuring about twenty-five to the inch; they are buoyant or floating, and hatch in four or five days.

When perfectly fresh it is an excellent pan-fish, its flesh being firm, white, flaky, and of a fine, sweet flavor, but owing to its abundance is not properly appreciated. It grows to a foot or more in length, weighing a pound or two, though its usual maximum length is ten inches, and weight half a pound. Very rarely the oldest fish sometimes reach a length of fifteen to eighteen inches, weighing from two to four pounds.

The scup is usually taken by hand-line and clam bait on the fishing banks; but fishing from small boats anchored over the shoals, with suitable tackle, is more sportsmanlike. It is a very free-biting fish, but is not possessed of much gameness, though the pleasure of angling for it is much enhanced by the employment of light tackle.

A trout bait-rod is quite in order for the scup, though a light natural cane rod about ten feet long, fitted with reel seat and guides, will answer a good purpose. A small multiplying reel is not essential, though it is an advantage in accommodating the line to different depths; and then a larger fish than the scup may be hooked. The line should be of small size, Sproat hooks numbers 6 to 8 on gut snells, with leader three feet long, connected to the line by a swivel-sinker, and of a weight adapted to the strength of the tide. A float may be used in shallow water to keep the bait from the bottom when clam or shrimp is used.

In localities where tautog, sea-bass, or weakfish are likely to be met with, a heavier rod, like the Little Giant, or a light striped-bass rod, may be of an advantage to one not accustomed to lighter rods, and the hook may be a trifle larger.