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Alive in Salem Sound | Rainbow Smelt

Open Water

This is often the area that most people think of when they think of the sound, and of course it's where some of the most obvious marine residents live – fish! This offshore realm is called the "water column" or the "pelagic" region of the sea. Many species of fish and marine mammals can be found swimming through the waters of the sound and in the deeper waters just outside of the sound, including both seasonal and migrating species such as seals and stripers, and year-round residents such as tautog, flounder and eels.

Additionally, many shellfish such as lobsters and shrimp spend either much of their early larval life, or all of their adult life, cruising these waters looking for food. Unusual creatures, such as jellyfish and the larvae of many sea creatures can make the
water column teem with life at different times of year. Most of what lives here may not even be visible to us at all, such as the countless number of single-celled algae that float freely near the surface making their living from the energy of the sun's rays and in turn forming the start of the food web.



A small group of squid quickly glide along over the sea bottom
Photo by Andrew J. Martinez



Striped Bass (Morone saxailis) is a migratory diadromous fish found throughout Salem Sound. These fish range from 1 foot to a record breaking 6 feet long. This sport species is the most avidly pursued sport species in Massachusetts as well the entire east coast. The Striped bass found in Salem Sound will spend there winters in the Chesapeake Bay area then start their migration north around April. In the 19th century there was a major depletions in Striped bass populations. For the thirty years post 1897, there were no reports north of Boston of any Striped bass being caught. By the early 20’s populations had started to recover. Between the early 80’s and mid 90’s population stock abundances escalated from 5 million to 41 million (DMF).With this recent stock abundance observed amongst Striped bass, recent studys have targeted Striped bass overwhelming commercially important species such as lobsters and river herring (alewife and blueback herring).



Atlantic Coast Striped Bass Abundance

Mass Division of Marine Fisheries


Learn about the importance of the water column from NOAA’s NMFS Ecology of the Northeast Continental Shelf Toward an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management, courtesy of Michael Fogarty (1mb PDF)