Head Pores - Oculoscapular canal with pores B",D(small),F,G,H' occacionally one more or less in the lateral canal; preopercle canal with 2 pores
Scales - 44-54 in lateral serise, scales on sides extending forward almost to pectoral axil, absent on dorsum below anterior half of spinous dorsal fin; scales largely cycloid excepting some weakly ctenoid scales along lateral midline of body and caudal peduncle and large ctenoid patch under appressed pectoral fin (Birdsong 81)
Fins - D1 - VII, spine 2-6 filamentous in males, 3-5 the longest, sometimes reaching midway soft dorsal, spines of female little produced; D2 - 16-17(15-18); pectoral - 21-22(19-24); anal - 17(16-18)
Head - Nuchal crest absent in both sexes
Color - Males: live color pattern - The pigmentation is virtually unchanged by preservation except for a general darkening of the fish and the loss of pearlescence in some areas. Except for a bluish cast to the soft dorsal fin distal margin and the caudal fin upper margin of some males, no bright colors are present in life. Body above midline marked with numerous, irregular dusky-brown blotches: body pale below midline; nape and dorsum along fin bases with 8-9 dark blotches; a pearlescent vertical bar on body beneath pectoral fin, followed posteriorly by a poorly defined dark bar; dorsal edge of pectoral base dark; head dusky with two pearlescent stripes below eye, one originating midway the maxilla, the other near the posterior tip and both running to near posterodorsal margin of opercle where they meet (lower stripe sometimes terminates at preopercular margin). Spimous dorsal fin dusky with paler median band and dark blotches on base of membranes over corresponding blotches on body dorsum; spinous dorsal filament becoming pale distally. Soft dorsal fin with 4-5 dark basal blotches over corresponding blotches on body; basal blotches surrounded above and between by opaque white area. Then in order a median longitudinal row of more or less well defined dark blotches (one on each interradial membrane), a hyaline band and a dark (black anteriorly) distal margin. Anal fin dusky with a dark margin. Caudal fin dusky with a darker margin and hyaline submarginal band. Pectoral fins pale, mottled along base. Pelvic fins dusky pale.
Females: pigmented as the male with the following exceptions: body blotches better defined and highly contrasted; belly and lower sides more darkley pigmented anterior to third anal-fin element in large females. Spinous dorsal fin with 2-3 dark blotches along base over corresponding blotches on body dorsum and 2 rows or irregular dark blotches (one medial, one distal) on interradial membranes. Soft dorsal fin with four to five dark blotches along base over corresponding blotches on body dorsum, three irregular rows of spots on interradial membranes and a dusky distal margin. Anal fin with dusky base and faint submarginal dusky band in large indivuduals. Pectoral fins darkley pigmented with hyaline distal margin. Caudal fin with 4-5 irregular, diagonal rows of dark spots in upper half, dusky lower half and dusky posterior distal margin. (Birdsong 81)
Distribution - Chesapeake Bay to Florida and Gulf of Mexico to Texas
Habitat - Muddy estuaries with vegetation, sometimes moves well into fresh water