Pacific Sand Lance (Ammodytes personatus) are energy-rich schooling fish that are thought to be important drivers of marine food webs in Alaska (USA) and British Columbia (Canada). Despite a number of studies characterizing their distribution and habitat use in Alaska and British Columbia, surprisingly little is known about population attributes in the Salish Sea. We compiled and analyzed 15,192 records collected from 1630 sites, primarily by beach seine or tow net in nearshore shallow areas between 1970 and 2009, to determine Sand Lance spatial and seasonal distribution in the inland waters of Washington State. Sand Lance were present along 78% of the shoreline that was sampled and were captured during every month of the year. The maximum number captured in individual nets increased between May and August. Fork length ranged from 1.7 to 19.0 cm and average fork length did not vary by month. The shortest minimum fork lengths were documented during April through July, likely representing annual recruits, but size at maturity is not known for the local population. Their widespread distribution throughout the region and peak abundance during summer suggests that they are an important potential prey source and could be a driver of marine food webs in this region.
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Vol. 96 • No. 3