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Fish Facts  »  Lady Fish


It is an elongate, slender, and robust fish with a large, deeply forked caudal fin. The body is rough with small, thin, silvery scales. The lateral line runs straight down the length of the fish. The head of the ladyfish is small and pointed with a large terminal mouth. The caudal lobes of the ladyfish are long and slender. Dorsally, the ladyfish is silvery blue to greenish while ventrally and laterally they appear silver in color. The dorsal and caudal fins are dusky yellowish to silvery and the pectoral and pelvic fins are speckled and pale.


This species is typically found in brackish water lagoons and bays, as well as mangroves, tolerating a wide range of salinities. Occasionally this fish is found several miles offshore. The ladyfish prefers open water areas in channels with moderate currents, and shallow bars and eddies at bends in rivers. It lives to depths of 160 feet (50 m). As a thermophilic fish, the ladyfish has been reported in cold-related fish kills in Florida. It can tolerate low temperatures for short periods of time. Collections of this fish have been successful at temperatures ranging from 52-95°F (11-35°C).


Larvae do not forage, but instead absorb nutrients directly from the water. As the larvae grow, they feed primarily on zooplankton as well as insects and small fishes. This is followed by a dietary switch to small fish and crustaceans as the larvae grow into juvenile fish. Adult ladyfish are strictly carnivorous, feeding on small bony fish, including members of its own species, menhaden, and silversides, as well as invertebrates including crustaceans. This fish swallows its prey whole.


When hooked, the ladyfish yields good sport to the light-tackle angler. This species is known for their behaviors of skipping along the water surface and jumping after being hooked. Although ladyfish is marketed fresh, salted and frozen, it is considered as having little value as food due to the meat being bony and dry. There is no commercial fishery for this fish.


The ladyfish grows to a maximum length of 3 feet (1 m) and weight of about 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms).


The ladyfish occurs in the western North Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, and south to Brazil. The ladyfish is also found in the waters surrounding Bermuda. It is most commonly observed south of North Carolina. The ladyfish has been observed in the western Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.


Florida Museum of Natural History

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