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What is a Rainbow Runner?

Niki Acker
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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The rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulata, also called the Hawaiian salmon, rainbow yellowtail, or Spanish jack, is a marine fish of the family Carangidae. It is the only member of the Elagatis genus. The rainbow runner, native to tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, is both a game fish and table fish.

The rainbow runner is most closely related to amberjack fish, of the genus Seriola. The fish was first described in 1825, when it was thought to be a member of the Seriola genus. The Elagatis genus was created by English zoologist Edward Bennett in 1840. The rainbow runner gets its common name from its striking colors, dark blue or green on top, fading to white underneath, with two light blue horizontal stripes flanking a yellow or light green stripe on each side. The largest rainbow runner on record weighed 101.85 pounds (46.2 kg), but the largest possible length of the species is disputed.

The rainbow runner is a carnivorous fish feeding mostly on small fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. They are also one of the few fish species to eat insects that land on the surface of the open ocean. Rainbow runners live in schools that can contain up to several hundred fish. Like salmon, they are very migratory.

Rainbow runners are usually caught as bycatch in other fishing operations, such as tuna and shark fishing, and then sold. They are not typically the target of commercial fishing. Though rainbow runners are said to have a fair to excellent flavor, they do not usually sell well because the species is not as well known as other edible fish. They may be sold fresh, frozen, or salted.

Rainbow runners are sometimes recreationally fished, and the species is also sometimes used as bait for larger fish including tuna and billfish. Archeological evidence suggests that some prehistoric groups living in Micronesia fished for rainbow runners as food. They most likely trolled, or pulled, bait behind canoes.

All Things Nature 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.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a All Things Nature editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
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Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a All Things Nature editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide...
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