Scup have lean and flaky flesh, but also contain many bones, which makes them difficult to fillet. As a result, scup are generally sold and cooked whole, after they’ve been scaled and dressed. In fact, scup is often referred to as a “pan fish,” because its small size is excellent for pan frying or sautéing whole.
Scup are primarily found in the northwest Atlantic from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to South Carolina. Scup have large migrations, moving from coastal waters in summer to offshore waters in winter. Scup reach sexual maturity between two to three years of age and spawn once a year between May and August. Fisheries management for Scup is effective throughout its range and subsequently Scup abundance is very high. Scup are caught using several fishing methods, but the main method is bottom (otter) trawl, which can have a substantial impact on the sea floor.
The commercial scup fishery is one of the oldest in the U.S., with statistics dating back to 1800. The fishery began using trawls in 1929, and scup catches increased dramatically. By 1996, scup in the Atlantic were overfished. Today there is evidence of a population rebound. Most trawling has adverse, long-lasting effects on the seafloor and rocky habitats. However, scup trawling occurs primarily in sand and mud habitats, which are more resilient than deep-water, rocky bottoms.