Are you seeking some fast action saltwater fishing for a novice to intermediate level fisherman? If you have never tried scup fishing then you are in for a real treat. Scup or butter-fish are a blast to catch and offer non stop action if you can find a decent school. I have brought numerous first time fisherman scup fishing and they left the day feeling very satisfied with their virgin fishing experience. Scup for their size can put up quite a fight especially if you catch them on light action tackle. Scup can be caught from shore, but I have found that they are easier to catch from boat. It is truly amazing just how many scup you can catch within an hours time when you can locate a decent school. Almost as soon as you get the line back down to the bottom you can have another scup on the line. It can be like this for hours if you can find a feeding school.
Description of species:
Scup are a small species of fish that prefers warmer water. 60 degrees are warmer. They are a very bright pinkish color with fairly large scales. They have very sharp dorsal spikes so be careful while handling them. A small mouth and rear tail with a fat little body make them an interesting looking fish to look at. Once on the line they can be quite aggressive and can really make a light action rod bend a substantial amount. They generally only grow to about 3 to 4lbs but larger ounces have been caught. They feed on small organisms like worms, smaller fish and mussels.
Scup can be caught as far north as Massachusetts and as far south as the Carolinas. They can be found in rocky areas or shipwrecks such that they can find cover from predators (Bluefish, Striped bass, Tuna or Shark). I generally will not catch scup in areas of open water with flat bottom, rather I look for areas where I know the bottom is rocky and or has much underwater growth. They are a school fish so once you find one you will catch others. I have found scup in waters from 10 to 30 feet of water. In Rhode Island I have caught scup as farnorth as patience island all the way to the west wall in Narragansett. Some other popular fishing locations for scup would be Hope Island, Dutch Island, Jamestown, Prudence Island and wherever you can find some rocky bottom. Some other locations further south worth trying would be Newport, Block Island, Fishers Island, Long Island Sound, Breezy Point, Montauk point, The pier at Atlantic City,Assateague Island and Chesapeake Bay. They have been caught in depth of 100 feet or more by commercial fisherman and they are believed to head to deeper waters when the temperature begins to decrease.
Tactics and Tackle:
The setup that I use when fishing for scup is a small 1 to 2 ounce weight depending upon the depth of the water. I attach the weight to the bottom of the fishing line using a clinch knot. I then make a series of dropper loops above the weight about a foot apart. I will then attach some small pre-lined freshwater eagle claw fishing hooks to these dropper loops. I will bait with some clam-worms or fresh quahog, whichever I have accessible. I sometimes use the eagle claw hooks that are already painted red. For some reason I have very good luck with them. I sometimes even catch scup on the painted hooks even with no bait on the line. I believe that they are attracted to the red color of the hook. Another popular bait that I use are small strips of squid, but I have better luck with the clam worms as they have attendance to stay on longer. They have been reported to eat small crustaceans as well, but I have never caught a scup on anything other than a worm or piece of squid.
If I am having a difficult time trying to locate a school of scup I will cast my line in a variety of different directions and then perform a very, very slow retrieve. I just let the bait drag along the bottom until I find the fish or they find the bait, once I locate a school I try to maintain that position as best as possible. Unlike fluke I have found that scup fishing works best when anchored. I have used chum in the past by crushing up a bag of mussels to other shelfish and dropping it to the bottom near the boat.
If I have found a good spot, within seconds I will have the first scup on the line and the action won’t stop for hours. I have caught as many as four scup at a time by having 4 hooks on a single line.
A Word About Conservation:
Scup are a blast to fish for, but it is very easy to get carried away. They make a good eating fish, but can be a pain to clean, especially if you have caught a large number of them. I generally stop fishing for scup after I catch ten of them as their is only so much fish I can eat. Please be mindful of practicing good catch and release strategies or only catch what you can consume or use for bait. I have seen anglers catch way too many scup than what they can possibly make good use out of. Over the last century the scup population has definately made a substatial decrease according to other online sources. Please by mindfull as to the volume you catch.
I have found that the best way to cook scup is not to filet them as you loose much of the meat that way. I simply scale them and remove the heads and tails. Breading them and Frying them in some olive oil makes a very delicious fish dinner.