The average size of the butterfish (Peprilus triacanthus) is between 6 to 9 inches long. The longest are 12 inches. The 6 inch fish weigh about 1 ¾ ounces and the 8 inch weigh 4 ounces. The foot long butterfish will weigh a pound. The heaviest butterfish is 1 ¼ lbs.
The fish is from the genus Peprilus and is in the Stromateidae family. The fish is also known as the skipjack, dollarfish, harvestfish, sheepshead and shiner. The butterfish is related to the Chilean sea bass, sablefish and the black cod.
Specimens are invariably deep bodied. The sideways are somewhat flat and the noses are blunt and circular. The teeth are not very strong and the mouth is quite small. These two features are common regardless of the size of the butterfish.
The butterfish does not have any ventral fins. There is one long dorsal fin. The fish also has small cycloid scales and long pectoral fins. The tail fin is forked. In many cases the tail fin is the same length as the dorsal fin.
The 45 ray dorsal fin is near the pectoral tail. It tapers, while the anal fin narrows uniformly at the back. The spine is oriented forwards and near the front of the dorsal fin. The spine is short however, and can hardly be seen. Three more short spines are present and are into the skin.
The caudal peduncle is thin and short. The butterfish does not have longitudinal keels. The scales are not just small; they are quickly removed when the fish is held.
The butterfish has a blue color, while the belly is silver. There are also spots scattered around its body. The sides are a pale color.
The fish is located around the Carolina waters to the Nova Scotia
coast. It is also found east of Newfoundland and along the Florida coast.
The fish travels in small groups, while other schools are more loosely gathered. Whatever the size of the butterfish, majority of them prefer to linger in the sandy bottoms. The fish can also be seen swimming near the shore.
During the winter season the butterfish swim 200 to 300 m deep (100 to 115 fathoms). During the summer the fish don’t go any deeper than 30 m.
The butterfish feeds on annelids, crustaceans and several types of small fish.
The spawning of the American butterfish occurs in the Gulf of Maine around summer. Studies indicate the spawning takes place in the sea and goes back to the coast upon completion.
The incubation does not take more than 48 hours at 18 C (65 F). At birth they measure 2 mm but will grow 4 inches by the fall. Maturity is reached in two years.
While the size of the butterfish is known, there are still a lot of things about the species that remain a mystery. Even though the fish is regarded as a very important food source, there is a lot that remains to be studied.