The warmouth is a member of the Centrarchidae family of sunfish and has white, flaky ﬂesh.
The lake whitefish is a larger and more widespread fish than are the mountain and the round whiteﬁsh, and it is more highly regarded among anglers. A member of the Salmonidae family, the lake whiteﬁsh is a valuable commercial freshwater ﬁsh in Canada, although its numbers have declined due to environmental factors and overfishing, especially in the Great Lakes. The ﬂesh—prepared fresh, smoked, and frozen—is considered superb in ﬂavor, and its roe is made into an excellent caviar.
IdentificationA slender, elongated species, the lake whiteﬁsh is silvery to white with an olive to pale greenish-brown back that is dark brown to midnight blue or black in some inland lake specimens; it also has white ﬁns and a dark-edged tail. The mouth is subterminal and the snout protrudes beyond it, with a double ﬂap of skin between the nostrils. The tail is deeply forked, and an adipose fin is present.
A member of the Salmonidae family, the mountain whiteﬁsh provides an important winter ﬁshery in certain areas, especially where steelhead are absent.
IdentificationPossessing an adipose fin and an axillary process, the mountain whiteﬁsh is long, slender, and nearly cylindrical, although not quite as cylindrical as the round whiteﬁsh. It is nevertheless among the species referred to as “round whitefish” and can be distinguished from the lake whiteﬁsh, which is more laterally compressed than is the mountain whitefish.
A member of the Salmonidae family, the round whiteﬁsh seldom exceeds 2 pounds and is sought to a limited degree by anglers.
IdentificationThe round whitefish is mostly silvery and has a dark brown to almost bronze coloring, with a greenish tint on the back. It has black-edged scales, particularly on the back. The lower ﬁns are an amber color, becoming slightly more orange during spawning, and the adipose ﬁn is usually brown spotted. Young ﬁsh have two or more rows of black spots on the sides that may merge with a row of black spots on the back.
A member of the Scombridae family of tuna and mackerel, the albacore is an excellent light-tackle gameﬁsh. It is called true albacore in some places, not to be confused with false albacore or little tunny.
IdentificationThe albacore has long pectoral ﬁns that reach to a point beyond the anal ﬁn, as well as small ﬁnlets on both the back and the belly that extend from the anal ﬁn to the tail. The albacore is colored dark blue, shading to greenish-blue near the tail, and is silvery white on the belly. A metallic or iridescent cast covers the entire body. The dorsal ﬁnlets are yellowish, except for the white trailing edge of the tail, and the anal ﬁnlets are silvery or dusky.
A small herring, the alewife is important as forage for gameﬁsh in many inland waters and along the Atlantic coast. It is used commercially in pet food and as ﬁsh meal and fertilizer, and it has been a signiﬁcant factor in the restoration of trout and salmon ﬁsheries in the Great Lakes.
IdentificationSmall and silvery gray with a greenish to bluish back tinge, the alewife usually has one small dark shoulder spot and sometimes other small dusky spots. It has large eyes with well-developed adipose eyelids. The alewife can be distinguished from other herring by its lower jaw, which projects noticeably beyond the upper jaw.
The greater amberjack is the largest of the jacks, the most important amberjack to anglers, and, like most of its brethren, a strong ﬁghter. It is high on the list of tropical marine fish suspected of causing ciguatera poisoning, although this problem may be isolated to certain areas.
IdentificationThis fish is greenish-blue to almost purple or brown above the lateral line and silver below the lateral line. A dark olive-brown diagonal stripe extends from the mouth across both eyes to about the ﬁrst dorsal fin. A broad amber stripe runs horizontally along the sides. The ﬁns may also have a yellow cast.
The lesser amberjack is the smallest amberjack, seldom encountered by, and relatively unknown to, anglers.
IdentificationThe lesser amberjack has an olive-green or brownish back above the lateral line and is silver below the lateral line. A dark olive-brown diagonal stripe extends from the mouth across both eyes to about the first dorsal fin. It is very similar in appearance to the greater amberjack but has a deeper body proﬁle, proportionately larger eyes, and eight spines in the first dorsal fin.
Similar in appearance, these anchovies differ mostly in range, although the northern anchovy can be slightly longer. The northern anchovy is one of the most important forage ﬁsh in the Paciﬁc and is used as bait for tuna and other large gamefish. A minor percentage of northern anchovies harvested are processed for human consumption, marketed in pickled or salted forms. The striped anchovy is also an important forage ﬁsh for game species, although it is too small and fragile to be used often for bait.
IdentificationAnchovies are silvery fish that look like miniature herring. They have overhanging snouts and long lower jaws that extend behind the eyes. The striped anchovy has a ribbonlike stripe along each side and some yellow about the head. Anchovy species are difﬁcult to differentiate, but the ﬁn rays and the pattern of pigmentation on the striped anchovy distinguish it; it has 14 to 17 dorsal ﬁn rays, 15 to 18 pectoral ﬁn rays, and 20 to 24 anal ﬁn rays, as well as melanophores outlining all its dorsal scales.
IdentificationThe queen angelfish has a moderately large body that is deep and compressed. It can be distinguished from its nearest relatives, butterﬂyﬁsh, by its stout spines, its blunter snout, and the spines on the gill cover. It has 14 dorsal spines, and the spine at the angle of the preopercle is relatively long.
An excellent gameﬁsh, the great barracuda leads a list of marine ﬁsh that cause ciguatera when eaten, although small fish are apparently not poisonous. Not every barracuda causes ciguatera, but there is no safe or reliable way of recognizing toxic ﬁsh.
IdentificationThe great barracuda is long and slender, with a large, pointed head and large eyes. The dorsal ﬁns are widely separated, and the first dorsal fin has five spines, whereas the second has 10 soft rays. In a large underslung jaw, the great barracuda has large, pointed canine teeth.
The Paciﬁc barracuda is the best known of the four types of barracuda found in Paciﬁc waters and is one of California’s most prized resources.
IdentificationThe Paciﬁc barracuda is slim-bodied, with a tapered head, a long thin snout, and large canine teeth in a lower jaw that projects beyond the upper jaw. It also has a forked tail, large eyes, and short, widely separated dorsal ﬁns with ﬁve dorsal spines and 10 dorsal rays. The anal ﬁns have two spines, followed usually by nine rays. Grayish-black on the back with a blue tinge, shading to silvery white on the sides and the belly, it has a yellowish tail that lacks the black blotches on the sides of the body that are characteristic of other barracuda. Large females have a charcoalblack edge on the pelvic and the anal ﬁns, whereas the male ﬁns are edged in yellow or olive.
One of a large number of sea bass found in the eastern Paciﬁc, the kelp bass is one of the most popular sportﬁsh in Southern California, as a mainstay of party boat trips to the northern Baja. Because it is a powerful ﬁghter and an excellent food ﬁsh, it is highly sought by anglers. Its popularity and nonmigratory status put kelp bass populations at risk from overﬁshing.
IdentificationA hardy ﬁsh with the characteristic elongated and compressed bass shape, the kelp bass has a notch between its spiny and its dorsal fins. The longest spines in the first dorsal fin are longer than any of the rays in the second dorsal fin. It is brown to olive green, with pale blotches on the back and lighter coloring on the belly.
An excellent sportfish that attains large sizes, the striped bass is a member of the temperate bass family (often erroneously placed with the sea bass family). It has been considered one of the most valuable and popular fish in North America since the early 1600s, originally for its commercial importance and culinary quality and in more recent times for its recreational significance.
IdentificationA large fish with a large mouth, the striped bass is more streamlined than its close relative the white bass. It has a long body and a long head, a somewhat laterally compressed body form, and a protruding lower jaw. Of the two noticeably separate dorsal fins, the first one has 7 to 12 stiff spines, usually 9, which make this ﬁn quite a bit higher than the second; the second dorsal ﬁn has one sharp spine and 8 to 14, ordinarily 12, soft rays. The striped bass also has a forked tail and small eyes.
Members of the Ogcocephalidae family, batﬁsh are mostly small fish comprising nearly 60 similar species. These peculiar-looking ﬁsh employ the energy-saving tactic of luring, instead of hunting for, their food. This method is valuable in deep-sea environments, where food is scarce and thinly distributed.
IdentificationThe head and the trunk of the batfish are broad and ﬂattened, having either a disk or a triangular shape, and its body is covered with broad spines. The long pectoral and rodlike pelvic fins enable the batﬁsh to “walk” on the sea bottom. There is a protuberance, the rostrum, on the front of the head between the eyes, which can be long or short. Under the rostrum hangs a small tentacle that acts like a lure.
The only member of the Pomatomidae family, the blueﬁsh is an extremely voracious and cannibalistic saltwater ﬁsh.
IdentificationThe body shape is fairly long, stout, and compressed, with a ﬂat-sided belly. The mouth is large and has extremely sharp, ﬂattened, and triangular teeth. The ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn is low and short, the second dorsal ﬁn is long, and the anal ﬁn has two spines and 25 to 27 soft rays.
A member of the surgeonfish family that has distinctive coloration and is occasionally encountered by anglers, the blue tang is sometimes used as an aquarium fish and is also marketed fresh.
IdentificationThe oval, deep-bodied, and compressed blue tang is more circular than are other surgeonfish. Its coloring is almost entirely blue, ranging from powdery to deep purple, and it has many dark or light blue horizontal stripes running down the sides and blending into the background.
Abundant off the central and the southern coasts of California, the bocaccio is one of the most commercially important rockﬁsh in that region. It is also a well-known gameﬁsh in its range and a good eating ﬁsh, with soft and juicy white meat.
IdentificationAlthough its elongate and compressed body form is less bulky than that of most ﬁsh in the scorpionﬁsh family, the bocaccio has a large mouth. The upper jaw extends farther back than the eyes; the lower jaw extends past the upper one considerably. The ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn has spines and is deeply notched, and there are usually nine soft rays in the anal ﬁn.
Although the boneﬁsh was previously thought to be the only member of the Albulidae family, there are now ﬁve recognized species. The boneﬁsh is the only signiﬁcant sportﬁsh among them, however, and is one of the most coveted of all saltwater gameﬁsh.
In keeping with its scientific name, which means “white fox,” it is indeed a wary, elusive creature, one that usually must be stalked with stealth and that bolts with startling speed when hooked or alarmed.
A relative of tuna, the Atlantic bonito has a reputation as a tough ﬁghter and a tasty ﬁsh, making it highly popular with anglers.
IdentificationThe Atlantic bonito has a completely scaled body (some types of bonito have only partially scaled bodies), a noticeably curved lateral line, and six to eight ﬁnlets on the back and the belly between the anal ﬁn and the tail. The caudal peduncle has a lateral keel on either side, with two smaller keels above and below the main keel. It doesn’t have a swim bladder or teeth on its tongue.
The Pacific bonito is an important gamefish, valued more for sport than for food, as is the Atlantic bonito.
IdentificationSimilar in size and pigmentation to the Atlantic bonito, the Pacific bonito is distinguished from most other bonito by the lack of teeth on its tongue and the possession of a straight intestine without a fold in the middle.
Numerous members of the Sparidae family that are found in temperate and tropical waters are referred to as sea bream, or seabream. They are related to porgies, have moderate to important signiﬁcance commercially (depending on abundance and geography), and are commonly caught by inshore anglers. These ﬁsh are tough, dogged fighters that are commendable on appropriate light tackle, and they rate as excellent table fare. The more commonly distributed and popular species are noted here.
The sea bream (Archosargus rhomboidalis) appears in the western Atlantic Ocean from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico to Argentina, including the Caribbean and the West Indies. Its bluish back is streaked with gold, the belly is silvery, and there is a black spot on each side just above the pectoral fins.
The Atlantic and the Paciﬁc bumper are two of the smaller members of the jack family. Both species have not been greatly studied, and there is some speculation that they may be the same.
IdentificationAlthough the bumper doesn’t have a high back, it has an extended belly and a very thin body. With an overall silvery coloring, it has greenish tints on the back and yellow highlights on the sides and the belly. It also has a yellowish tail. There is a black spot on each gill cover and a black saddle on the base of the tail.
The fatty and oily quality of the meat of the butterfish does not detract from its reputation as an excellent food fish. It is sold fresh, smoked, and frozen and may be prepared in many ways; the meat is white, tender, and moist and contains few bones. The fat content of the ﬂesh varies greatly over time, at its minimum in August and its maximum in November.
Despite its culinary significance, the butterfish’s importance to anglers is as a live or a dead bait for larger saltwater gamefish and as natural forage for assorted species. The shape of the butterfish resembles that of some members of the jack family.
A member of the smelt family, the capelin is an important food ﬁsh for cod, pollock, salmon, seabirds, and whales. It has commercial value; females are prized for their roe, and the meat is used as animal feed and ﬁsh meal. Like other smelt in ﬂavor and texture, it is an excellent table ﬁsh, marketed canned and frozen and prepared by frying and dry salting.
IdentificationThe capelin has a large mouth with a lower jaw that extends below each eye. Males have larger and deeper bodies than do females; also, the male has an anal ﬁn with a strongly convex base, whereas the female has a straight anal ﬁn base. Both sexes possess a single dorsal ﬁn and extremely small scales. The body is mostly silver, and the upper back is a darker bluish-green.
|Gafftopsail Catfish (Bagre marinus)|
This sea catfish is a common catch by both commercial fishermen and recreational anglers in the Gulf Coast, especially between April and August. Its dark, tender, lean meat is popular as table fare and has a moderate flavor. Identification. The gafftopsail catfish has a steel-blue dorsal fin, silvery ventral fins, and a robust body, with a depressed broad head, featuring a few ﬂattened barbels. The dorsal and the pectoral fins have greatly elongated spines.
Size/AgeMature gafftopsails grow to 36 inches and 10 pounds. Average small ﬁsh weigh less than a pound to 1.5 pounds and are 17 inches long. The maximum age is unknown.
A member of the Kyphosidae family of sea chub, the Bermuda chub is a commonly encountered species, although not one that is aggressively sought by anglers. It is often caught in clear-water harbors and around reefs. Most individuals are reportedly good table fare, but their ﬂesh spoils quickly and should be eaten soon after capture.
IdentificationThe Bermuda chub has an ovate profile, with a short head and a small mouth. A yellow stripe, bordered in white, runs from the edge of the mouth to the edge of the gill cover. The body is compressed and generally steel or blue-gray with muted yellowish stripes. The ﬁns are dusky, the tail forked, and the scales are usually edged with blue. It may occasionally have white spots or blotches. A less common, very similar, but larger-growing relative is the yellow chub (K. incisor).
The only member of the Rachycentridae family, and with no known relatives, the cobia is in a class by itself and a popular food and sportﬁsh for inshore anglers in areas where it is prominent.
IdentificationThe body of a cobia is elongated, with a broad, depressed head. The ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn consists of 8 to 10 short, depressible spines that are not connected by a membrane. Both the second dorsal ﬁn and the anal ﬁn each have 1 to 2 spines and 20 to 30 soft rays. The adult cobia is dark brown with a whitish underside and is marked on the sides by silver or bronze lines. A cobia’s shape is comparable to that of a shark, with a powerful tail ﬁn and the elevated anterior portion of the second dorsal ﬁn. It can be distinguished from the similar remora (Remora remora) by the absence of a suction pad on the head.
The Atlantic cod has historically been one of the world’s important natural resources, and the waters of the North Atlantic once teemed with this fish. Today, the commercial catch of cod is far below historic levels, and cod are generally in a collapsed or near-collapsed condition.
IdentificationThe Atlantic cod has three dark dorsal ﬁns and two dark anal ﬁns, none of which contain any spines. The body is heavy and tapered, with a prominent chin barbel, a large mouth, and many small teeth. Its snout is rounded on top, and the tail is almost squared. There is a characteristic pale lateral line. The coloring is highly variable on the back and the sides (ranging from brownish or sandy to gray, yellow, reddish, greenish, or any combination of these colors), gray-white on the underside, and with numerous light spots covering the body.
Extremely similar to Atlantic cod, and a member of the Gadidae family, the Pacifi`c cod is an excellent food fish and a good sportfish. It is harvested commercially for fish sticks and fillets and is usually sold frozen. In British Columbia, it is the most important trawl-caught bottom fish, with millions of pounds landed there alone.
IdentificationCharacteristic of the cod family, the Pacific cod has three separate and distinct dorsal ﬁns, two anal ﬁns, and one large barbel under the chin. Its body is heavy and elongated, with small scales, a large mouth, and soft rays. Its coloring ranges from gray to brown on the back, lightening on the sides and the belly. Numerous brown spots speckle the sides and the back. All the fins are dusky, and the unpaired ﬁns are edged with white on their outer margins.
The coney is a member of the Serranidae family of grouper.
IdentificationBecause the coney experiences numerous color phases, it is inadvisable to try to identify this ﬁsh by color. These phases range from the common phase, in which the fish is reddish brown; to a bicolor period, in which the upper body is dark and the lower body is pale; to a bright yellow phase. The body is covered with small blue to pale spots, although the spots are uncommon in the bright-yellow phase. There are often two black spots present at the tip of the jaw and two more at the base of the tail, as well as a margin of white around the tail and the soft dorsal ﬁn. The tail is rounded, and there are nine spines in the dorsal ﬁn.
The California corbina belongs to the Sciaenidae (croaker and drum) family and is a member of the whiting group. Because it lacks a swim bladder, it cannot make the croaking or drumming noises characteristic of the croaker family.
IdentificationThe body of the California corbina is elongated and slightly compressed, with a ﬂattened belly. Its head is long and the mouth is small, the upper jaw scarcely reaching a point below the front of each eye. The ﬁrst dorsal fin is short and high, the second long and low. Coloring is uniformly gray, with incandescent reﬂections and with wavy diagonal lines on the sides.
Members of the Sciaenidae family (drum and croaker), corvina inhabit the Paciﬁc Ocean and are known for the noises they make. These ﬁsh are often called corbina, as well as corvina, and both words appear in the Spanish and the Portuguese languages for common names applied to various drum and croaker.
They are typically referred to as croaker by some anglers and as weakﬁsh by others, and they inhabit tropical and temperate seas. Almost all are inshore bottom-feeding ﬁsh, usually found over sandy bottoms, either in schools or in small groups.
Corvina primarily inhabit the Gulf of California and waters south of the gulf; they are likely to inhabit the surf line and to hug the near shoreline, feeding on crustaceans, worms, and small ﬁsh. They generally have a silver sandy coloration that blends with this environment. Most, if not all, are good to eat.
The Atlantic croaker is a member of the Sciaenidae family (drum and croaker) and one of the most frequently caught estuarine and near-shore marine ﬁsh along the eastern coast of the United States. The common name “croaker” is derived from the voluntary deep croaking noises made when the ﬁsh raps a muscle against its swim bladder.
IdentificationThe Atlantic croaker has a small, elongated body with a short, high ﬁrst dorsal ﬁn and a long, low second dorsal ﬁn. There are 6 to 10 tiny barbels on the chin. The middle rays of the caudal ﬁns are longer than those above and below, creating a wedgelike appearance. Its coloring is greenish above and white below, with brownish-black spots and a silver iridescence covering the body. There are dark, wavy lines on the sides. During spawning, the Atlantic croaker takes on a bronze hue (thus the nickname “golden cracker”), and its pelvic fins turn yellow.
A member of the Sciaenidae (drum and croaker) family, the spotfin croaker is a small species caught by bay, surf, and pier anglers and highly valued as table fare.
IdentificationThe body of the spotﬁn croaker is elongate but heavy forward. The upper proﬁle of the head is steep and slightly curved and abruptly rounded at the very blunt snout. The mouth is subterminal, being underneath the head. The color is silvery gray, with a bluish luster above and white below. There are dark wavy lines on the sides and a large black spot at the base of the pectoral ﬁn.
A member of the Sciaenidae family, the white croaker is a small North American Paciﬁc coast ﬁsh. The common name “croaker” is derived from the voluntary deep croaking noises made when the ﬁsh raps a muscle against the swim bladder, which acts as an ampliﬁer. The resultant distinctive drumming noise can be heard from a far distance.
Although the ﬂesh is edible, the white croaker is considered a nuisance, being easily hooked on most any type of live bait. Like its cousin the queenﬁsh (Seriphus politus; see: Queenﬁsh), many white croaker are caught accidentally by anglers.
The yellowfin croaker is a member of the family Sciaenidae (drum and croaker), known for the drumlike noises it makes when it raps a muscle against its swim bladder. The resulting distinctive drumming sound is amplified by the swim bladder and can be heard at some distance.
The sciaenids are one of the most important food fish in the world because nearly all species are good to eat and are harvested commercially. Found along the Pacific coast, the yellowfin croaker is a popular catch for light-tackle surf anglers.
Cutlassﬁsh are members of the family Trichiuridae, encompassing nearly 20 species. They are swift swimmers that generally dwell on the bottom. Used as bait for larger gameﬁsh in the United States, cutlassﬁsh are a valued food and a commercial species in many other countries, especially Japan, where they may be used for sashimi. They are also marketed salted/dried and frozen.
IdentificationCharacterized by their long, compressed bodies that taper to pointed tails, cutlassﬁsh are also commonly known as ribbonfish. Their heads are spear-shaped, and the ﬁsh have sharp, arrowlike teeth in large mouths. Their coloring is silvery, the jaws edged with black.
The spiny dogﬁsh is the most prominent member of the Squalidae family of dogﬁsh sharks. Some live in relatively shallow water close to shore; others inhabit great depths. They vary widely in length, and one of their chief anatomical characteristics is the lack of an anal ﬁn.
IdentificationThe body of the spiny dogﬁsh is elongate and slender. The head is pointed. The color is slate gray to brownish on top, sometimes with white spots, and fading to white below. It has spines at the beginning of both dorsal ﬁns; these spines are mildly poisonous and provide a defense for the spiny dogﬁsh.
The common dolphin is the larger of the two very similar species in the family Coryphaenidae, both of which are cosmopolitan in warm seas. This ﬁsh is one of the top offshore gameﬁsh among anglers and is an excellent, hard-ﬁghting species that puts on an acrobatic show once hooked.
IdentificationThe body is slender and streamlined, tapering sharply from head to tail. Large males, called bulls, have high, vertical foreheads, while the female’s forehead is rounded. The anal ﬁn has 25 to 31 soft rays and is long, stretching over half of the length of the body. The dorsal ﬁn has 55 to 66 soft rays. Its caudal ﬁn is deeply forked; there are no spines in any of the ﬁns; and the mouth has bands of ﬁne teeth.
The pompano dolphin is the smaller of the two Coryphaenidae family species and is often confused with the females and the young of its larger relative the common dolphin (C. hippurus). Like its relative, it is caught commercially and by anglers, and it is an excellent food ﬁsh. The pompano dolphin is usually presented in fish markets and restaurants under its Hawaiian name, mahimahi. This species, and its relative, are often referred to as “dolphin-ﬁsh” to distinguish them from the so-called dolphin of the porpoise family, which is an unrelated mammal and not sought by anglers.
IdentificationThis species is almost identical to the common dolphin in coloring and general shape, although it has greater body depth behind the head than the common dolphin has and a squarish, rather than rounded, tooth patch on the tongue. There are fewer dorsal rays on the pompano dolphin—48 to 55, versus the common dolphin’s 55 to 65.
The black drum is the largest member of the Sciaenidae family (drum and croaker). The common term “drum” refers to the loud and distinctive “drumming” noise that occurs when the fish raps a muscle against the swim bladder. This voluntary noise is assumed to be associated with locating and attracting mates, and it can sometimes be heard from a good distance, even by people above the water.
IdentificationThe black drum has a short, deep, and stocky body, with a high, arched back and a slightly concave tail. The lower jaw sports numerous barbels, or short whiskers. There are large pavementlike teeth in the throat, and the mouth is low. The dorsal ﬁns have 11 spines, 20 to 22 dorsal rays, and 41 to 45 scales along the lateral line, which runs all the way to the end of the tail. Coloring is silvery with a brassy sheen and blackish ﬁns, turning to dark gray after death.
Commonly known as a channel bass and a redﬁsh, the red drum is second only to the black drum (see: Drum, Black) in size among members of the drum family, Sciaenidae, but probably ﬁrst in the hearts of anglers. The common term “drum” refers to the loud and distinctive “drumming” noise that occurs when the ﬁsh raps a muscle against the swim bladder. The noise is voluntary and is assumed to be associated with locating and attracting mates, and it can sometimes be heard from a good distance, even by people above the water.
IdentificationThe red drum is similar in appearance to the black drum, although its maximum size is smaller and it is more streamlined. The body is elongate, with a subterminal mouth and a blunt nose. On adults the tail is squared, and on juveniles it is rounded. There are no chin barbels, which also distinguishes it from the black drum. Its coloring is coppery red to bronze on the back, and silver and white on the sides and the belly. One black dot (also called an eyespot) or many are found at the base of the tail.
Conger eels are widely distributed members of the small Congridae family of marine eels that inhabit temperate and tropical waters.
IdentificationConger are distinguished from moray eels by having pectoral ﬁns (morays have none) and by the dark or black margin on their dorsal and anal ﬁns. Conger eels are scaleless, and their dorsal ﬁns originate over the tips of the pectorals. They grow much larger than American eels, with which they are sometimes confused in inshore environs.
The Muraenidae family of morays is the most infamous group within the order Anguilliformes, which are jawed ﬁsh called eels. They constitute a family of more than 80 species, occurring in greatest abundance in tropical and subtropical waters.
The typical moray’s body is flattened from side to side, pectoral ﬁns are lacking, and the scaleless skin is thick and leathery. The dorsal and the anal fins are low, sometimes almost hidden by the wrinkled skin around them. The gill opening is small and round, and the teeth are large. Most morays are large, reaching a length of 5 to 6 feet. Some are as long as 10 feet.
Snake eels in the Ophichthidae family have long, cylindrical, snakelike bodies and can move backward extremely effectively. Their tails are stiff and sharp, rather than broad and flat, as with morays. The snake eel’s tail is used like an awl to burrow tail-first into sand or mud.
The nostrils are located in two short, stout barbels on top of the nose, which the eel uses to probe into crevices and cavities as it searches for food. Compared to morays and most other eels, snake eels are docile creatures, commonly seen crawling over the bottom like snakes.
The eulachon is a member of the smelt family, Osmeridae. It is one of the largest members of this family of small Pacific coast fish and has been important to the Chinook Indians. High in oil content (15 percent of its body weight), eulachon used to be dried and ﬁtted with wicks for use as candles.
Like other smelt, the eulachon is important as forage food for Pacific salmon, as well as for marine mammals and birds. It is also harvested or caught commercially and is a highly esteemed seafood by Native Americans from California to Alaska. Although some are hard-salted, these surf smelt are too delicate to be preserved and are generally smoked.
The gulf ﬂounder is a member of the Bothidae family of left-eyed ﬂounder and is an excellent table ﬁsh. It is one of the smaller ﬁsh in a large group of important sport and commercial ﬂounder. Because of its size, the gulf ﬂounder is of minor economic signiﬁcance, and it is mixed in commercial and sport catches with summer flounder and southern ﬂounder.
IdentificationThe gulf flounder has the familiar olive-brown background of its relatives, the summer and the southern ﬂounder, but it has three characteristic ocellated spots forming a triangle on its eye side. One spot is above the lateral line, one below, and one on the middle, although these spots can become obscure in larger ﬁsh.
The southern flounder is thought to be the largest Gulf of Mexico flatfish. A member of the Bothidae family of left-eyed flounder, it is a highly desired food ﬁsh, and considerable numbers are harvested by trawlers.
IdentificationThe southern flounder resembles the summer flounder in appearance. Its coloring is light to dark olive-brown, and it is marked with diffused dark blotches and spots, instead of distinct ocelli (spots ringed with distinct lighter areas). These spots often disappear in large ﬁsh.
The starry flounder is a smaller and less common member of the Pacific coast Pleuronectidae family of right-eyed flounder. Flounder and other flatfish are known for their unique appearance, having both eyes on either the left or the right side of the head, although the starry ﬂounder can be either left-eyed or right-eyed.
It is a popular sportfish because of its willingness to bite and its strong fighting qualities. Although the starry flounder has tasty flesh, it is important mainly as a sportfish, having only moderate commercial value. Processing is difficult due to its rough skin, and it must be deep-skinned to remove its unappealing, dark fat layer.