Odax Pullus (Scientific name)
Butterfish, or Odax Pullus as they are referred to scientifically, are probably the most common fish speared by new spearo’s. They are also referred to as greenbone because of their bright green bones and are a slender fish with a pointed snout. They are a great fish to help master one’s stalking and hunting skills. They are relatively easy to shoot and taste great! The most dominant characteristic which helps identify the butterfish are their wavy ’mohawk’- like pectoral and anal fins that help them blend into the kelp grounds in which they live. Their long dorsal fin begins just behind the head and becomes increasingly wider as it draws to the posterior end. Butterfish start out as a golden brown colour with a white stripe which runs along their lateral line. They change colour as they grow - young fish being yellow-brown with a line of white dashes down each side from the snout. Adult females are brown with a pale band down each side, and males are grey-brown / green with conspicuous blue patterning on the head, flanks, and fins giving the fish an overall blue-grey appearance. The male butterfish are usually more blue in colour than the female butterfish and also have longer dorsal and anal fin tips. Butterfish usually range in length from 30cm to 50cm long, but can grow up to 70cm - especially further down south where the waters are colder.
Butterfish are found throughout New Zealand but are more abundant and bigger in size further down south of the country. They live in shallower water usually 5-10m deep, heavy with kelp growth. Some butterfish enjoy sheltered kelp beds - while others have been commonly found in kelp-covered tidal zones. The butterfish are herbivores which graze on red, green and brown algae, particularly kelp, which they clip with their beak-like mouths, then grind with their jaws. They are almost always found in groups of one male and several females. Greenbone are one of the first species you will see as you enter the water in shallow, rocky, kelp-covered coast. Large boulders with kelp beds on the top and sides in deeper water can also house butterfish.
Butterfish / greenbone are pelagic spawners which begin life as females and then reverse sex as they mature. Mating occurs several times between females and territorial males in the area - normally between late winter and early spring. It has also been noted that whilst breeding, both male and female butterfish have a blue stripe along the lower jaw and face.
Butterfish / greenbone are of excellent eating quality. They have clean white, creamy fillets with few and easily-removed bones. They can be adapted to a variety of cooking methods but are best suited to frying or baking /steaming. The butterfish does not boast any sort of distinct flavour; it is more subtle than the common snapper, John Dory or gurnard which opens it up to a variety of basting ingredients, herbs and spices. Saying that - you can’t go past a good old beer-battered piece of fish with a squeeze of fresh lemon!