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.
IdentificationAn oval fish, the butterfish has a very thinand deep body and a blunt head. The anal and the dorsal fins are equally long. Butterfish are silvery fish, with pale blue coloring on the back and the upper sides, which often have irregular dark spots and usually possess 17 to 25 large pores directly underneath the dorsal fin.
Size/AgeThe butterfish grows quickly, although it rarely exceeds more than 1 pound in weight or more than 12 inches in length. It is usually a short-lived fish, although it is thought to be capable of living longer than 4 years.
Life history/BehaviorSexual maturity is reached when butterﬁsh are 2 years old and close to 8 inches in length. Spawning occurs once a year from May through August in offshore waters. The eggs ﬂoat freely until they hatch within 2 days; juveniles enter coves or estuaries to conceal them selves in floating weeds and among jellyﬁsh tentacles for protection from predators.
Food and feeding habitsFeeding primarily on jellyfish, butterfish are one of very few fish that eat such low-nutrition foods. Their diet also consists of assorted small worms, crustaceans, squid, shrimp, and ﬁsh.
Other NamesAmerican butterfish, Atlantic butterﬁsh, dollarﬁsh, pumpkin scad, sheepshead; French: stromaté fossette; Spanish: palometa pintada.
|Butterfish, ready to bake|