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What is a Ladyfish?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A ladyfish is a fish in the genus Elops. Other common names for these fish include skipjacks, tenpounders, and Jack-Rashes. They are found primarily in the subtropical and tropical regions of the western Atlantic Ocean, although specimens have been recorded in other regions of the world. These fish are especially common in the Gulf of Mexico.

Ladyfish have elongated silvery-blue to greenish bodies. Their rear or caudal fins are deeply forked, and they have protruding jaws with deep mouths that stretch behind their oversized eyes. These lean fish are very muscular and they tend to travel in large schools that will congregate around prey species.

During spawning season, which falls mainly in the fall, ladyfish spawn offshore. When they initially hatch, the larvae are transparent and look like small ribbons. They drift in the water, absorbing nutrients as they travel and eventually winding up in brackish inshore waters, where they mature into adults. Adult ladyfish prefer brackish to fresh water and consume crustaceans and smaller fish, including some of their relatives. They are vulnerable to predators like alligators and some larger fish.

There are not very many commercial uses for ladyfish. They are too bony for most people to enjoy eating and while they can be ground into fishmeal when they are trapped as a bycatch, most fisheries do not make a point of pursuing these fish. Some sport fishers will attempt to land the fish because they can provide an athletic challenge by fighting the hook. Record setting fish have measured up to three feet (one meter) long.

People who are learning to fish may search for ladyfish because they are a readily available species and they provide some opportunities to learn basic fishing techniques without running the risk of losing a more valuable catch. Some fishing tours can take people to seek out ladyfish by request.

These fish tend to prefer shallow water habitats with sandy bottoms. People interested in popular prey species like perch and shrimp can sometimes locate their prey by seeking out schools of ladyfish. People who eat these fish species tend to use them to make fishcakes, as this allows them to shred the meat to remove all of the bones so that the fish can be eaten safely. The flesh can be mixed with other fish species to make fishcakes. The shredded flesh freezes well and can be stored in sturdy freezer bags or vacuum containers for several months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Ladyfish and where can it be found?

Ladyfish, known scientifically as Elops saurus, is a slender, silvery game fish commonly found in the warm coastal waters of the western Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. They inhabit both inshore and nearshore environments, often frequenting estuaries, bays, and lagoons, where they can be seen leaping out of the water.

How can you identify a Ladyfish?

A Ladyfish can be identified by its elongated body, small head, and large mouth with prominent teeth. It has a silvery sheen and a deeply forked tail, which is characteristic of the species. Typically, they grow to about 2 to 3 feet in length, making them a noticeable presence in their habitats.

What does the Ladyfish eat?

Ladyfish are voracious predators that feed primarily on small fish and crustaceans. Their diet includes baitfish such as menhaden and mullet, as well as shrimp and other small invertebrates. They are known for their aggressive feeding behavior, often chasing prey in shallow waters.

Is the Ladyfish good for eating?

While Ladyfish are caught for sport due to their fighting ability, they are not commonly eaten due to their bony structure and the soft texture of their flesh. Most anglers release them after capture, although in some cultures, they are dried or smoked for consumption.

What is the significance of Ladyfish in fishing?

Ladyfish are highly regarded by sport fishermen for their acrobatic jumps and vigorous fight when hooked, providing an exciting challenge. They are often targeted with light tackle and artificial lures. Despite not being prized for their meat, their role as a game fish makes them a valuable species for recreational fisheries.

Are Ladyfish under any threat or conservation concerns?

Currently, Ladyfish are not considered to be under significant threat, and they do not appear on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, like many coastal species, they could be impacted by habitat loss, water pollution, and overfishing. Conservation measures are important to ensure the sustainability of their populations and the ecosystems they inhabit.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Read more
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