Wreckfish

Wreckfish

  • Scientific name: Polyprion americanus
  • Also know as: Atlantic Wreckfish, Rock Bass, Sea Rock Perch, Wreck Bass, Stone Bass, Cherna
  • Size: Up to 6ft and 200lbs.
  • UK minimum size: N/a
  • UK shore caught record: No record stands. Qualifying weight set at 1lb.
  • IFFA world record: 190lb
  • IUCN status: DD (Data Deficient)
  • Distribution: Thought to have a sparse but widespread distribution throughout most of the 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. The 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. The anal fin is large and is directly underneath the second dorsal fin. The mouth is large with lower jaw protruding. Colour can be bluish to a silvery grey. The 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. They are found at depths down to several hundred metres. Wreckfish are thought to be solitary creatures which only gather into groups in order to spawn 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.

Diet

The wreckfish is an opportunistic predator. They will hunt fish, squid and cuttlefish which live in and around the rocky and heavy ground where wreckfish are present. They will also feed on other seabed-dwelling creatures such as crabs, lobsters and octopuses and will scavenge on dead fish.

Angling for Wreckfish

Wreckfish

A wreckfish caught by a fishing boat in the Azores.

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 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. The International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record for this species is 190lb. This wreckfish was caught by Terence Price at Ranfurny Bank, New Zealand in 2010.

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.

Wreckfish

Wreckfish are popular as food in many parts of the world.

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. It is thought that the expansion of deep-sea fishing operations over recent decades will have depleted wreckfish numbers, and stocks will have been reduced further by the fact that there very little regulation of wreckfish fishing, with only the USA and New Zealand putting any measures in place to protect wreckfish stocks. The slow-growing nature of the wreckfish means that it will take a long time for depleted stocks to recover, even if effective conservation measures are put in place.

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