People love fish, but how much do they really know about what they’re eating? We’re not referring to mercury levels, or environmental concerns regarding method of capture, but to ordinary aspects such as appearance and behavior.
For example, how many people know what a mahi-mahi looks like in the flesh? Where does it live and what are some of its peculiarities? With this in mind we present a short list of popular (or obscure) ocean fish that many have savored with a cold beer or glass of wine, with a photograph and a few factoids.
5 tasty fish you love to eat, but how well do you know them?
Wahoo (also called ono; pictured above and below)
Belongs to the mackerel family and said by many to be the fastest fish in the sea; can swim in bursts to 60 mph. Body is long and slender, like that of an oversized barracuda. Teeth are abundant and razor-sharp. Found in tropical and sub-tropical waters. Can weigh more than 150 pounds and measure to 8 feet. Commercially caught via longline gear. Recreationally caught via trolled lures.
When hooked, the wahoo’s sizzling burst of speed is a sight to behold. Dangerous to anglers, though, because of their teeth and because they’ve been known to leap into boats at high speed. Serious injuries have been incurred thanks to leaping wahoo. Can live 10-plus years, and a female wahoo can lay up to 6 million eggs per spawning. Delicate and flaky on the plate, typically itemized as ono (Hawaiian).
Real name is Patagonian toothfish, but that name is not marketable. Chileans were first to market toothfish in the U.S., as Chilean seabass, even though it’s not a bass and is caught in deep, frigid waters throughout the Antarctic. Described as the perfect fish of its firm, white flesh. The result of its booming global popularity in the mid-1990s was severe overexploitation. Its discovery, and the many shenanigans that went into play because of skyrocketing demand, is the subject of a fascinating book by G. Bruce Knight, “Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish.”
The fishery is carefully managed and there’s more control over illegal fishing these days, but it remains an embattled fishery. The U.S. imports about 20% of the worldwide catch. Toothfish reside in depths to about 8,000 feet. They can grow to 200 pounds and live nearly 50 years. They feed largely on squid and prawns.
Mahi-mahi in Hawaii, dorado in Mexico, dolphinfish in Florida. Few fish are as colorful; its iridescent blue-green hues change rapidly when it’s pursuing prey or fighting on a hook. Large males boast blunt, hatchet-shaped heads. These slender fish grow extremely fast, and can reach weights of nearly 100 pounds, but only live about four years.
They love to congregate out under floating objects, such as kelp paddies. Hundreds, perhaps thousands might gather beneath a dead whale, becoming an angler’s dream as long as the whale’s stench isn’t too overwhelming. Mariners adrift for long periods invariably attract mahi-mahi as traveling companions. Mahi-mahi are commercially caught via long-line gear and drift nets. Recreationally caught by anglers who love them for their beauty and acrobatics. Flesh is firm and mildly sweet, and best-served fresh.
Not a cod, belonging to the greenling family. Unique to the west coast of North America, common in cooler waters in rocky areas, residing at depths of 30 to 300 feet. Voracious predators with long, sharp teeth. Can weigh 80 pounds or more and measure 5 feet. Females lay the eggs–between 60,000 and 500,000 eggs–but males guard the nest until the juveniles hatch. This is believed to be due to the fact that so many natural predators would love to get to the eggs. These include rockfish, sculpin, cod, urchins and starfish. Oddly, the male lingcod will ward off fish predators with lunging attacks, but will let starfish and urchins feed on the eggs. States the Monterey Bay Aquarium: “While guarding eggs, lingcod have been known to attack humans.”
A lingcod’s flesh is sometimes tinged with green but cooks up white and firm.
Also called moonfish because of their oval shape and silvery-red bodies, which are polka-dotted. Fins and outer edges are a bight vermillion. Opah roam tropical and sub-tropical seas and are largely solitary except during spawning periods. Deep-water denizens most of the time; found as deep as 2,400 feet. There is no directed fishery for opah, but they’re caught in large enough numbers, indiscriminately by long-line fishermen, to make them available to consumers. Caught very infrequently by sport fishermen. Two weeks ago anglers aboard a San Diego-based tuna-fishing boat experienced a super-rare quintuple opah hookup, and landed three of five fish, including a 181-pounder that might qualify as a sportfishing world record. The opah’s flesh is rich and fatty, a chef’s delight. In Japanese cuisine, opah is often served as sashimi or sushi.
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