Nemadactylus macropterus (Scientific name)
Maori Name: Tarakihi
Market Names New Zealand: Tarakihi, Ocean Bream
Australia: Morwong Japan: Shimakurodai, Tarakii
Size Limit (length)
Daily Bag Limits
Auckland and Kermadec FMA 20
Central FMA 20
Challenger FMA 20
South-East FMA 15/30
Southland and Sub-Antarctic FMA 15/30
Tarakihi belong to the Cheilodactylidae family and are common around New Zealand. They are about the same size as common, pan-sized snapper but rather more slender.
They can easily be distinguished by the extreme length of one of the rays of the pectoral fins that extends back beyond the vent. It also has a distinctive black band between the head and the dorsal fin.
The dorsal fin has 17-18 spines with 25-28 soft rays and the anal fin has three spines with eight to nine rays.
The colouring is mostly a silvery-grey with a blue-green sheen, shading to silver and white on the belly. This fish has a large v- shaped tail and its mouth is small and somewhat turned down.
Tarakihi are highly regarded by both commercial and recreational fishermen and for many years were New Zealand’s second most important commercial catch. Tarakihi is from the morwong family of fishes which includes porae, red moki, painted moki and red morwong. They are caught around New Zealand throughout the entire year, but mostly found south of East Cape and around the South Island. They are associated with shallow reefs as juveniles, but adults tend to school over open seafloors in deeper waters of 50 to 250m. They are rarely seen in waters above 15-20m, with the exception of the South Island, where they can be found in the 5 to 10 metre range.
Other species that resemble the tarakihi are the king tarakihi and the porae. The king tarakihi is slightly larger and doesn’t have that prominent dark band and the porae is distinguished from the tarakihi by its even more prominent lips.
HABITAT & FEEDING
Tarakihi are schooling fish, usually found on weed lines or reef edges over sandy/muddy ground.
They are most often caught in clear patches adjacent to foul and reef in water up to 100mdeep. They prefer clearer waters and will vacate reefs affected by freshwater run-off or dirty water after a storm. They are often found in the same areas as hapuka, which prey on them. They feed on a wide range of crustaceans, invertebrates and occasionally small fishes including small crabs, shrimp, worms, brittle stars and other shellfish that they suck up from the mud.
Spawning takes place in summer-autumn in several areas. The Cape Runaway-East Cape, Kaikoura-Pegasus Bay and Jackson Bay are three known areas. Tarakihi may migrate long distances; - fish tagged in Kaikoura have been recaptured as far away as Whangarei, Kaipara and Timaru.
Juveniles (around one year old) are found on the southwest coast of the North Island, and around Tasman Bay, Kaikoura, Pegasus Bay, Canterbury Bight, Otago and the Chatham Islands in the south.
Tarakihi makes for good eating, especially when smoked. It is one of the most popular eating fish in New Zealand with their medium to firm white flesh which is suitable for most cooking methods.