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Eli’s Fish Facts – Northern Kingfish

Menticirrhus saxatilis

CURB had two exciting catches last summer of the northern kingfish, who haven’t been seen in our seine net since 2013. They’re a very recognizable species, with dark and irregular bars on the tops of their bodies, and one barbel under their chins. Kingfish live in the benthic zone of brackish waters, which means they mostly populate the bottoms of rivers, in the coastal shallows. They’re a schooling fish and are generally seen in the estuary from April-October, and scientists presume they overwinter in deeper, warmer waters.

Northern kingfish can grow to be up to 18 inches, much of which happens in the first year of their lives! Their eggs mature quickly as well – after spawning and fertilization, kingfish eggs hatch in about 2 days, floating in the water column. They are voracious eaters, preferring shrimp, but also eating mollusks and crustaceans, and smaller fish, mostly finding their prey by smell and touch (thanks to the whisker-like barbel on their chin). Kingfish live on average only two to three years, but their populations are steady around the Hudson River Estuary and the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, CURB now has one on display, so you can visit this striking fish the next time you’re at Beczak!