The bay anchovy is a small but important saltwater fish found from the Gulf of Maine to Florida as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Bay anchovies are particularly abundant in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed where they are important as forage fish.
Bay anchovies are preyed upon by striped bass, bluefish, weakfish, speckled trout, white perch, Atlantic croakers, red drum, and other inshore species. They also provide food for crabs, birds, and other marine life.
During the warm season, bay anchovies are found in small creeks, coves, and shallow areas. They prefer areas with aquatic vegetation which provide refuge from predators.
During the fall season, bay anchovies move into deeper water, often congregating in incredible numbers along channel edges, tidal rips, and other areas. In areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, shoals of migrating anchovies sometimes number in the millions.
During these migrations bay anchovies are preyed on heavily by striped bass, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, weakfish, and other fish species. These fall feeding frenzies are often indicated by the presence of terns and gulls, which dive on anchovies as they reach the surface in their attempts to escape hungry fish.
Although bay anchovies are rarely used as bait, they are of tremendous importance to fishermen. A number of lures are used to mimic their movements. They also benefit anglers by attracting fish to the surface, where they can be caught easily.