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Atlantic Stingray (Dasyatis sabina)

Species > Atlantic Stingray

Starting in May every year, we all must do the "stingray shuffle"
when we walk the surf on south Florida beaches.

atlantic stingraystingray swimming

Large schools of Atlantic stingray's move into shallow waters in Florida starting in May and stick around until October. You may have seen the signs on most beaches warning beach visitors to do the stingray shuffle when walking into the water. This is because the stingrays like to feed at the waters edge, so we all have to share the beach with this graceful species. If you happen to step on a ray, you might receive a painful sting from their venomous barb located near the base of their tail. This species is not aggressive but in defense they will sting.

Stingray pointers posterYou will see the tell tale tips the rays wings above the water surface on inshore bays and estuaries all summer long. It is quite a site seeing large schools swimming by. The Atlantic stingray has the ability to tolerate freshwater habitats and are often found in estuaries with brackish water flow. The St. Johns River system holds the only year round population of this species in North America. This ray species can have a wing span up to 2 feet wide. The Atlantic stingray feeds on worms, crustaceans, clams, star fish and small fishes. When feeding they will face the current which washes away any sediment.

The Atlantic stingray's main predators are sharks and grouper, and as you may have guessed, stingrays makes great bait. Stingray are not a regulated species so you are free to catch them for bait or food using a hook and line or a castnet. Once hooked, reel in the ray and grab them just behind the eyes and lift them out of the water. Stay clear of the whipping tail while you place the ray down and hold it still. Now n grab your long nose pliers and remove the protruding barb by grabbing the barb with your pliers, twist and firmly pull it off. Now you can either use the ray whole as shark bait or cut it up to attract smaller species. For shark bait you must use a huge J hook strung through the top side along the spine, point facing the head, on very heavy leader line. The hook should be about half the length of the ray body with the larger your hook and bait, the larger shark you will catch. Watch out when casting your ray near bridge piling, Goliath groupers are known to swallow small rays whole!

The Atlantic stingray wings are said to taste like scallops and in many countries the wing meat is cut into small circles and sold as scallop meat. First wash the ray well as it is very slippery making it hard to handle. The easiest way to fillet is to cut along the body on both sides removing the wings. For larger rays, you can cut along the edges of the wings until you are just above the bottom skin then glide your knife in a sawing action along the bottom side to fillet one side of the wing like you would with fish. After removing the outer skin (if they are small you can leave the skin on) either fillet and fry or cut the wings into small pieces and cook up in any recipe that calls for scallops. The ray meat freezes well. Watch this video showing how to fillet and fry small rays caught on Indian River Beach using a cast net.

For more information on the biological profile visit Florida Museum of Natural History