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What is a Redfish?

By Bethney Foster
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Redfish can refer to several types of fish, but is most often used to describe the red snapper and the red roughy. The red snapper is a reef-dwelling fish found in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of the eastern United States to as far south as Brazil, and in the Gulf of Mexico. The red roughy is a deep-sea species found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The red snapper lives in waters as deep as 300 feet (100 m). A light red in color, the fish is darker on its back. Scientifically called Lantanas capechanus, the red snapper lives in schools along the ocean bottoms, inhabiting rocks, wrecks, and reefs.

The red snapper spawns in the summer in the Gulf of Mexico and from late summer to early autumn off the Florida coast. The red snapper can weigh as much as 35 pounds (16 kg), though less than 20 pounds (9 kg) is more common. The average length of the fish is about 24 inches (60 cm).

Also commonly called the sow snapper and chicken snapper, this particular type of redfish can have a lifespan of more than 40 years. The fish are carnivores, having needle-like teeth. They feed upon squid, octopus, and other small marine animals.

A game fish, the red snapper is also fished commercially. The United States has imposed some limits on the number of red snapper that can be caught. Populations of the red snapper are not considered to be threatened, however, as of 2011.

The second fish most commonly referred to as a redfish is the red roughy or orange roughy. This species is also commonly known a deep-sea perch and is scientifically named Hoplostethus atlanticus. A member of the Trachichthyidae family, these types of fish are known as slimeheads.

The red roughy can live to be nearly 150 years old. Slow to mature, the fish doesn’t breed until it is at least 20 years old. When mature, it weighs about 8 pounds (3.5 kg).

Red roughy has a white meat and is fished in the summer months, during its spawning season. This type of redfish is harvested using bottom-trawling gear, which raises concerns about bycatch, which refers to fish caught accidentally by fishing gear, and damage to ocean floors. The fish is listed as threatened, and most conservation organizations advise against eating it because of its population status.

Redfish may also be used to refer to some species of rockfish and to some species of alfonsinos. The term may be used to describe Centroberyx affinis, Sebastes mentella, and Oncorhynchus nerka. Other species of snappers are also sometimes called redfish.

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Discussion Comments
By anon278649 — On Jul 08, 2012

I'm from Alabama and what we call a "red fish " is actually a red drum.

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