- Scientific name: Polyprion americanus
- Also know as: Atlantic Wreckfish, Rock Bass, Sea Rock Perch, Wreck Bass, Stone Bass, Cherna
- Size: Up to 6ft and 230lbs.
- UK minimum size: N/a
- UK shore caught record: No record stands. Qualifying weight set at 1lb.
- IUCN status
- Global: DD (Data Deficient)
- Europe: NT (Near Threatened)
- Distribution: Thought to have a sparse but widespread distribution throughout most of UK’s waters. In Europe this species is found from the coasts of Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Also found along the eastern coast of the USA and Canada, South America, most of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
- Feeds on: Aggressive predator which feeds by hunting all types of fish, squid and cuttlefish, as well as crabs and lobsters.
- Description: Large and powerfully built fish. First dorsal fin has ten to twelve spines and second dorsal fin has a similar number of softer rays. Bony ridge is present on gill covers. Anal fin is large and is directly underneath the second dorsal fin. Mouth is large with lower jaw protruding. Colour can be bluish to silvery grey. Underside is paler and fins are often dark brown or black.
Looking somewhat like a the older, tougher big brother of the European bass that is more common to UK anglers, the wreckfish is a deep-water species. It can be found around all of the UK and Ireland but it is an uncommon species which is rarely encountered by anglers (currently no shore caught record stands). As well as being found around the UK the wreckfish is found throughout European waters, especially in the Mediterranean with its range extending along most of the western coast of Africa. It is also found off the coast of North and South America, with smaller populations in the waters of New Zealand and Australia.
Habitat and Life Cycle
Wreckfish live and feed around structures such as caves, heavy rocky and broken ground, natural reefs and shipwrecks – hence the name of this species. Once mature they are a deeper water species, found at depths of around 200 to 600 metres. They are thought to be a solitary creatures which only gather with other wreckfish to breed in the summer months. Juveniles will form together into shoals for protection in numbers and will swim and hunt small fish in mid-water, switching to the bottom-dwelling solitary adult lifestyle when they reach around 50-75 cm in length. It is thought that wreckfish can live for up to ninety years.
With its aggressive and powerful appearance and large size there is no surprise that the wreckfish is a hunter. They feed predominantly on bottom dwelling fish, squid and cuttlefish. However, their diet is by no means limited to these species and they will also take crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters, as well as octopuses, if these species present themselves as a source of food.
Angling for Wreckfish
As stated there is no British shore caught record for the wreckfish, with the qualifying weight set at 1lb. There is, however, a boat caught UK record for this species, with a relatively small wreckfish of 11lb 14oz being caught in 2001 by Patrick Banks in 2001, fishing over a wreck in the middle of the English Channel. Off the coasts of North and South America, Australia and New Zealand (where wreckfish are more common) this species is an important sport fish. They are usually caught by anglers drifting boats over wrecks or reefs using large hooks, wire traces and big pirks or fish deadbaits.
Commercial Value and Stock Levels
While wreckfish are not sold in the UK they do have commercial value elsewhere in the world and the flesh is considered good to eat. Large wreckfish can be cut into steaks, while smaller fish can be filleted or baked whole. In some parts of the world (such as America, Canada and South America) wreckfish can be bought in frozen form from supermarkets or grocery stores or fresh from fish counters. Wreckfish are caught in trawlers nets or by long lines and gill nets, or occasionally by small-scale fisheries which use rod and line.
Since wreckfish are a deep-water species which lives offshore it is very difficult to establish stock levels. The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) do not have enough information to accurately assess wreckfish numbers, and therefore class this species as Data Deficient on a global level, but the assessment of wreckfish in European waters classed the species as Near Threatened with a declining population trend. It is thought that the expansion of deep sea fishing operations over recent decades will have depleted wreckfish numbers, and stocks will have been hit further by the fact that there very little regulation of wreckfish fishing throughout the world’s fisheries, with only the USA and New Zealand putting any measures in place to protect wreckfish stocks. The slow growing nature of the wreckfish mean that it will take a long time for depleted stocks to recover, even if effective conservation measures are put in place.