Ladyfish (Elops saurus)

Ladyfish (Elops saurus)

Ladyfish are members of the small Elopidae family. They occur worldwide and are related to tarpon (see). They are similar in appearance to tarpon, although far smaller. Ladyfish are excellent light-tackle sportfish, commonly found in schools prowling shallow nearshore and brackish waters.

There are at least six species of ladyfish in the genus Elops, all of which are similar in average size, behavior, and characteristics. In the western Atlantic, the ladyfish (E. saurus) ranges from Cape Cod and Bermuda to the northern Gulf of Mexico and southern Brazil, although it is most common in Florida and the Caribbean. It is also known as tenpounder, as ubarana in Portuguese, and as malacho in Spanish.

In the eastern Pacific, the Pacific ladyfish (E. affinis) occurs from Southern California to Peru, although it is rare in northern Baja California. It is also known as machete, and as chiro and malacho del Pacifico in Spanish.


The ladyfish has an elongated, slender silvery body, with a blue-green back and small scales. It looks very much like a juvenile tarpon, although it can be distinguished from a tarpon by the lack of an elongated last ray on the dorsal fin. Its head is small and pointed, the mouth is terminal, and the tail is deeply forked.


Some species of ladyfish may reach weights from 15 pounds to 24 pounds and a length of 3 feet; such specimens are extremely rare, and in general these fish most commonly weigh 2 to 3 pounds. The all-tackle world record is a 6-pounder.

Life history

These fish form large schools close to shore, although they are known to spawn offshore. Their ribbon-like larvae are very similar to those of bonefish and tarpon.

Food and feeding habits

Adults feed predominantly on fish and crustaceans. Ladyfish schools are often seen pursuing bait at the surface.


Ladyfish are inshore species that prefer bays and estuaries, lagoons, mangrove areas, tidal pools, and canals. They occasionally enter freshwater and are rarely found on coral reefs.