Starry Flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

Starry Flounder (Platichthys stellatus)

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.

Identification

The starry flounder belongs to the right-eyed family of flatfish, but, as noted, it can also be left-eyed. Its head is pointed, and it has a small mouth. The anal spine is strong. The caudal fin is square or slightly rounded. Its coloring is olive to dark brown or almost black on the upper side and creamy white on the blind side. The unpaired fins, its outstanding feature, are white to yellow to orange with black bars. There are patches of rough, shiny, starlike scales scattered over the eyed side of the body, which give rise to its name.


Size

The average size is 12 to 14 inches, although it can grow to 3 feet and 20 pounds. Females grow faster than males and attain larger sizes.

Spawning behavior

Spawning occurs in the late winter and the early spring in California waters less than 25 fathoms deep.

Food

Adult starry flounder consume a variety of items, including crabs, clams, shrimp, and sand dollars. Large individuals also eat some fish, such as sardines, sanddabs, and surfperch.

Other Names

rough jacket, great flounder, California flounder, diamond back, emerywheel, emery flounder, grindstone, sandpaper flounder; Japanese: numagarei.

Distribution

The starry flounder ranges from central California to Alaska, and south from the Bering Sea to Japan and Korea. This is one of the most numerous fish of central Northern California backwaters, particularly in San Francisco Bay.

Habitat

It is usually found near shore over mud, sand, or gravel bottoms. Often entering brackish or fresh-water, the starry flounder is most abundant in shallow water but can be found in depths of at least 900 feet. Juveniles are often intertidal.
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