Posted on October 19th, 2016
I got a text today from Mike Pitarra who was fishing with his family this afternoon that included a picture of a strange looking fish with the question that always comes with a photo of this fish…..”what is this?”
The stargazer. We don’t catch a lot of them in the back bays or beaches of Ocean City, but we do catch enough that I wanted to let you know a little about this bottom dweller. The stargazer is a muscular bottom feeder that buries itself in the sand to ambush unsuspecting baitfish a lot like a flounder. They also inhabit the same areas of the bay as flounder, hence the reason that we will catch them in Ocean City on minnows, mullet, small spot, Gulp and lots of other baits used for flounder fishing. There are two reasons to be really careful when handling a stargazer. 1. Stargazers are venomous. They have poisonous spines on the back behind their gill plate just above the pectoral fin. (White circles below) 2. Stargazers can pulse electric shock. Stargazers are one of only a few fish that are bioelectrogenic. Meaning that they can generate true electric impulses with their body. The spots to look out for on our stargazer are just behind the eyes on the top of the head. (Black circles below) Back in the late 90’s when I was a mate on the party boat Tortuga with Captain Dan Lampe we caught a stargazer and put this to the test. We put the positive and negative leads of our battery tester on the two spots on the back of the head. At first nothing, but when the fish shook it’s head and tail it pegged the needle on the volt meter. Needless to say, we didn’t touch it with bare hands, and you shouldn’t either. The best idea is to use a pair of pliers to remove the hook.
Bear at the Oceanic Pier in downtown Ocean City submitted this photo of Wayne from Delaware who caught this 17″ keeper tautog on the pier’s lively sand fleas.