Spiny Dogfish by Bottom Trawl (USA)

Spiny Dogfish


Spiny Dogfish


Jan 01 - Dec 31

Bottom Trawl

Fish harvesters drag a large cone-shaped net along the seafloor to catch spiny dogfish. The net is sunk and held open by two “otter boards” that look like large, heavy steel or wooden doors. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push the boards outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path. The net is then hauled to the surface using hydraulic winches and a drum. A single tow can net thousands of fish along with incidental catch.

Harvesting Method

Bottom Trawl

Also known as “dragging,” bottom trawling uses a large net made of polyethylene to catch fish. Steel or wooden doors spread the net open. Floats are attached to the upper mouth of the net to keep it open vertically and weighted “bobbins” are attached to the lower mouth to sink the net. The bobbins’ design depends on the terrain, varying from small rubber discs for smooth sandy seafloors to large metal balls for rough ground. Known as “rock hoppers,” bobbins lift the net over obstacles on the seafloor.

Bottom Trawl

In New England, many different species are caught in bottom trawls. These include spiny dogfish, Atlantic cod, haddock, pollock, yellowtail flounder, witch flounder, winter flounder, windowpane flounder, American plaice, Atlantic halibut, redfish, ocean pout and white hake. Most trawlers are federally permitted to catch multiple groundfish species. Some trawlers also have state permits to catch allocations in state waters.

Conservation Measures

Bottom trawls disturb habitat when dragged along the seabed, and impacts vary by sediment type and the trawl gear used. Undersized and unwanted species (bycatch) are also unintentionally caught.

The Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission jointly manage the fishery in conjunction with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service. A number of measures address conservation in this fishery, including:


  • annual catch limits with quota divided into two annual catch periods
  • a permit authorizing participation in the fishery
  • adherence to more restrictive measures when state and federal regulations are not the same
  • limitation on the amount of fish in possession or landed for each fishing trip
  • restrictions on mesh sizes for nets to prevent the capture of small fish or incidental catch
  • requirement to maintain on board and submit vessel trip reports
  • closure of some fishing areas for conservation purposes

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks

Spiny Dogfish


FishWatch - Click for status


Jan 01 - Dec 31


The Mid-Atlantic and New England Fishery Management Councils, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission jointly manage the fishery in conjunction with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service.


For stock status, visit NOAA’s North East Fisheries Science Centre.

Quality and Handling

Spiny dogfish are hauled aboard and stored in ice or a mixture of ice and seawater. A group of trawlers operate as day-boats out of Point Judith, Rhode Island, although vessels can stay at sea for about a week. 


Food Info Spiny Dogfish


  • Colour: bright white
  • Texture: boneless, lean white meat with a firm texture and large flakes
  • Flavour: sweet, mild flavour, although stronger in flavour when not bled and stored properly
  • Perfect serve: Thanks to the absence of bones, this is an excellent source of protein for children (and adults) who don’t like the bones so often found in fish, no matter how carefully filleted. Lightly battered and fried, it is an excellent alternative to fish sticks, for example. Aside from its common use in traditional fish and chips, spiny dogfish is also firm enough to make excellent kebabs for the grill or a chunky fish stew with tomatoes, onions and herbs.