Typical Size
6-8" (4-8 oz.)
Decent Size
9-11" (3/4-1 lb.)
Nice Size
12-14" (1-2 lbs.)
18.1" (4 lbs. 9 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

2 lbs.
Genus/Species Stenotomus chrysops
Common Names porgy, ironside, northern porgy, fair maiden
Hot Spots Sesuit Harbor, Buzzards Bay, Mass Maritime Academy
Best Time June- September
Best Baits seaworm, squid strips, clam, small jigs
Best Method Bottom fishing with bait

Scup is a small silvery marine species with a body shape very similar to the freshwater sunfish. The head is rather short with a small mouth and small, harmless teeth. Scales are large and firmly attached with iridescent purple tones. Some fish appear dull brownish-silver, while others are bright silver, and some display distinct longitudinal bands along the side. The colors are only slightly darker above than below. The dorsal fins are very similar to the freshwater sunfish with a longer spiny section followed by a smaller soft dorsal fin. These spines, along with a sharp gill cover, can inflict pain in unsuspecting fishermen.

Scup are an excellent ocean fish to introduce kids to.
Scup congregate in large schools and move into inshore waters in the spring. They prefer water temperature in the 60 degree range over rocky areas. During the summer, south shore anglers find them within 6 miles of the coastline along the southern-most portion of our area. Scup are highly aggressive fish and consume a wide variety of mussels, crabs, worms, periwinkles, starfish, sand dollars, and juvenile lobsters and fish.

Scup are not plentiful north of Cape Cod, but appear in large numbers on the south side of the Cape all the way to New Jersey, and then in lesser amounts all the way to Virginia. In the winter, scup move offshore into waters 200-300 feet deep. In the summer, they move inshore to waters 20-50 feet deep.

Spawning occurs in June when fish are at least 8 inches in length. Scup grow quickly early on with young-of-year fish caught in the fall at approximately 2-3". These fish return the following summer and are 4-5" in length. By the third year (8+") scup are considered mature and tagging studies indicate that this species may live up to 20 years, producing greater spawns each year.

Scup are a lot of fun on light tackle. They bite aggressively and put up a decent battle for their small size. They are also found in rather shallow water, making very light sinkers possible. You can fish for scup with many different kinds of bait. Seaworm is by far the most popular but squid strips and bits of clam can be just as productive. These feisty fish are a great way to get children interested in ocean fishing as they school in large numbers, are hard to spook, and greedily accept bait. The simple porgy rig with a 1 to 3 ounce sinker will catch numbers of scup.

You can also catch scup by jigging, but this is not nearly as popular. Jigging involves tying on a small, brightly-colored jig and casting it, then engaging the reel and bouncing and pitching the jig just off the bottom.

Fishing for scup is an important commercial and recreational pasttime. The commercial catch includes an offshore winter fishery using otter trawls and an inshore summer fishery using pots. The recreational catch is huge, accounting for at least half of the total landings of any given year. Party and charter boats from Cape Cod to New Jersey specifically target this species in the later spring, summer, and fall. Scup are a very good eating fish, though their tough skin and bony structure make preparation a bit of a time consuming process. The meat of the scup is firm, pinkish-gray, and sweet to the taste. Pan fried or baked on a grill are the most popular methods of cooking.