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      Sand Eel {Ammodytes sp.}
 

Sand Lance 

(Ammodytes america)


 Size to 12" +          Life Span aprox. 10 yrs.

Inshore migration: November / December +



Appearance

Another of our most popular fly patterns.

The sand eel is a long eel like fish with a pointed nose and protruding lower jaw.  It has a soft dorsal fin that extends from just behind the head to the base of the tail, and an anal fin from the anus to the base of the tail.  Has a dark olive green back fading to light iridescent blue sides, and a white belly.  Also, the caudal fin has a reddish coloration.


Range

 Labrador to Delaware, but are found on both sides of the Northern Atlantic, and Pacific, and include many species.


Population and Occurrence

The most important, and numerous winter forage fish of our area when we have them, but they're also very cyclic.  We go through cycles of many years after having immense populations, that they almost seem to disappear.  They are definitely forage of the northern hemisphere with their southern boundary said to be between New Jersey, and Virginia, which could have something to do with their absence in past seasons. 


Seasonal Occurrence & Life Cycle

Swim in large populations

Sand Eels are ocean dwellers, that, as the name implies, live in areas where they have sand to bury in.  Stay relatively inactive on the bottom nocturnally, and rise in the water column to feed in daylight.  Staying mostly off shore in the summer, they move into the beach in late fall, and winter to breed.   Uniquely unlike our other forage fish that migrate into the surf from the estuary as juveniles, sand eels move toward the estuary from the ocean as mature breeders of 6'' to10'', or more.  But because of their need for sand, or at least a relative mix of it, they don't get much farther than our sandy surf, and inlets.  Their juveniles then grow up throughout our inshore, and offshore waters.  


Predator Prey Relationship

The Sand Eel is considered by some to be the most indispensable prey species of northern waters for all species of predators, from game, and commercial species, to sea birds, and marine mammals.

 

But here on our shores, as temperatures drop, and our once numerous forage begin to diminish, sand eel populations increase, becoming the last link in the chain right into January.  Outnumbering most other forage, up and down our shores, they become the primary prey species for all our most important game species, like Bluefish, Weakfish, and especially Striped Bass as they may last right through winter.


{There's even research indicating that the large breeders {6" +} may actually hibernate from the summer season to fall, while the smaller  {under 6"} juveniles continue feeding throughout the year.

  Their most vulnerable time of the day seems to be right at gray light, when they move to the surface, sometimes beaching themselves from feeding Striped Bass while burying themselves at night. 



Sand Lance 
(Ammodytes america)
 Size to 12" +          Life Span aprox. 10 yrs.
Inshore migration: November / December +
Appearance
Another of our most popular fly patterns.
The sand eel is a long eel like fish with a pointed nose and protruding lower jaw.  It has a soft dorsal fin that extends from just behind the head to the base of the tail, and an anal fin from the anus to the base of the tail.  Has a dark olive green back fading to light iridescent blue sides, and a white belly.  Also, the caudal fin has a reddish coloration.
Range
 Labrador to Delaware, but are found on both sides of the Northern Atlantic, and Pacific, and include many species.
Population and Occurrence
The most important, and numerous winter forage fish of our area when we have them, but they're also very cyclic.  We go through cycles of many years after having immense populations, that they almost seem to disappear.  They are definitely forage of the northern hemisphere with their southern boundary said to be between New Jersey, and Virginia, which could have something to do with their absence in past seasons. 
Seasonal Occurrence & Life Cycle
Swim in large populations
Sand Eels are ocean dwellers, that, as the name implies, live in areas where they have sand to bury in.  Stay relatively inactive on the bottom nocturnally, and rise in the water column to feed in daylight.  Staying mostly off shore in the summer, they move into the beach in late fall, and winter to breed.   Uniquely unlike our other forage fish that migrate into the surf from the estuary as juveniles, sand eels move toward the estuary from the ocean as mature breeders of 6'' to10'', or more.  But because of their need for sand, or at least a relative mix of it, they don't get much farther than our sandy surf, and inlets.  Their juveniles then grow up throughout our inshore, and offshore waters.  
Predator Prey Relationship
The Sand Eel is considered by some to be the most indispensable prey species of northern waters for all species of predators, from game, and commercial species, to sea birds, and marine mammals.
 
But here on our shores, as temperatures drop, and our once numerous forage begin to diminish, sand eel populations increase, becoming the last link in the chain right into January.  Outnumbering most other forage, up and down our shores, they become the primary prey species for all our most important game species, like Bluefish, Weakfish, and especially Striped Bass as they may last right through winter.
` Their most vulnerable time of the day seems to be right at gray light, when they move to the surface, sometimes beaching themselves from feeding Striped Bass.