Also Known As
About the Species
- According to the 2017 operational assessment, witch flounder is overfished and it is unknown whether overfishing is occurring.
- Witch flounder is a right-eyed species of flounder.
- Witch flounder have a relatively small head, small mouth, and narrow body.
- Witch flounder are covered in smooth scales.
- Witch flounder have approximately 12 indentations on the underside (blind side) of their head.
- The top side (eyed side) of a witch flounder is generally grayish-brown in color, while the bottom side is white and covered with tiny dark dots. The top side pectoral fin is dusky or even black with a narrow light distal border.
- Relative to other flatfish in the region, witch flounder are slow-growing, late-maturing, and long-lived.
- Witch flounder can grow up to 25 inches long.
- Witch flounder typically spawn in cold water during March – November, with peak spawning occurring during the summer months.
- Witch flounder living near the northern end of the species’ range typically spawn later in the year than those living farther south.
- Witch flounder spawn on or near the bottom of the ocean, and the fertilized eggs float and develop higher in the water column.
- When witch flounder first hatch, their eyes are symmetrical, with an eye on each side of their head. As the fish grows, it flattens out and the left eye moves over to the right side of its head. After this metamorphosis, the juvenile settles to the ocean bottom.
- Witch flounder do not complete metamorphosis until they are between 4 and 12 months old.
- Adult witch flounder primarily feed on polychaete worms, but they also prey on other bottom-dwelling invertebrates such as sea cucumbers, small crustaceans, and small mollusks.
Where They Live
- Witch flounder are found on the Eastern and Western sides of the North Atlantic.
- Along the western side of the North Atlantic, witch flounder are distributed in deep, cold waters from Labrador to North Carolina.
- We manage a single stock of witch flounder in U.S. waters.
- NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage the fishery.
- Witch flounder, along with other groundfish in New England waters, is managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes:
- Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.
- Separate management measures for recreational vessels.
- Time/Area Closures to protect spawning fish and habitat.
- Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish.
- Annual catch limits, based on best available science.
- An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
Witch flounder is managed under the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery Management Plan (FMP) along with 12 other species of groundfish. Collectively, these 13 species are referred to as the Northeast multispecies complex.
Learn more about the Northeast multispecies complex and its management
More Information About Witch Flounder (Citations)
These citations were used to generate the information found on the witch flounder species page.