Atlantic Needlefish

One of the more interesting predators along our seawall is the Atlantic needlefish.  These streamlined, long-jawed fish dart about a barnacle-encrusted rock pile at a bend in the wall, snaring small fish with their numerous sharp teeth; young needlefish, tiny replicas of the adults, hunt in schools, feeding on a host of marine invertebrates.  The needlefish themselves are potential prey for larger fish, inshore sharks and dolphins.

Found along the western coast of the Atlantic Ocean, from Maine to Brazil, these distinctive fish favor shallow, calm, brackish waters near mangroves, marinas, piers and seawalls.  Tolerant of freshwater, many travel up coastal rivers and some have been found as far inland as the Tennessee River watershed (having traversed canals from Gulf Coast streams).  Spawning occurs in May or June, the eggs harboring tendrils that attach to aquatic vegetation.

While Atlantic needlefish are officially listed as gamefish (adults may reach 2-3 feet in length), they are more often caught accidentally and are generally used as bait.  Some of us, not inclined to drown worms for recreation, simply enjoy watching these "saltwater gar" as they zoom about the shallows of Sarasota Bay.