Records | Description | Similar Species | Predators/Prey | Life History | Habitat | Geographic Distribution | Recreational Fishing | Commercial Fishing | Management | Angling Tips | Food Quality
Monkfish species

Species contact: Dr. Michael Armstrong

Scientific name: Lophius americanus
Common names: American angler, goosefish, monkfish

 

Records

Massachusetts State Record: None
IGFA International All-Tackle World Record: 51 pounds, 4 ounces. Caught on Stellwagen Bank

 

Description

Size: Monkfish can grow to lengths of 2 to 4 feet and weighing roughly 50 pounds.
Color: Monkfish are a muddy brown color, mottled with lighter and darker brown speckles. The underside is pale brown to white.
Body: Monkfish are dorso-ventrally flattened, meaning their height is very small, but their width is large. They have a large, wide head, tapering to the caudal fin. The mouth faces upwards and is wide and large, the eyes are small and located on the top of the head and directed upwards. Monkfish lack visible operculae. There are 3 dorsal spines, the first of which has a leaf-like tip used to lure prey close to the mouth. The monkfish has 2 dorsal fins behind the spines: the first is small and spiny while the second is larger and soft-rayed. The pectoral fins are large while the pelvic fins are smaller and anterior to the pectoral fins. The caudal fin is square. All fins except the dorsal fins are thick and fleshy. Monkfish are scaleless and slippery to touch.

Monkfish drawing

 

Similar Species

Mediterranean angler, Blackbellied angler

 

Predators/Prey

Prey: These angler fish are ambush opportunistic feeders. Larvae monkfish feed on zooplankton while juveniles eat small fish, shrimp, and squid. Adult monkfish may feed on other monkfish, but also eat crabs, lobsters, squid, octopus, and even seabirds.
Predators: Large monkfish have very few predators. Swordfish, sharks, and thorny skates are known to eat smaller monkfish.

 

Life History

Monkfish spawn February through October. Females release egg veils which can contain more than 1 million eggs. These veils float near the surface for 1 to 3 weeks when the veil dissolves and the eggs hatch. The newly hatched monkfish are zooplankton for several weeks until they grow large enough – roughly 3 inches long – to settle on the sea floor.

 

Habitat

Monkfish have planktonic larvae which floats to the seafloor. They are known to inhabit muddy areas where they can partially bury themselves, prepping for ambush. These fish are found close to shore as well as offshore, in shallow waters and down to over 1,200 feet deep.

 

Geographic Distribution

Monkfish are found in the western North Atlantic from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and the northern side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, south to North Carolina. They have also been seen of the coast of Barbados and in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico.

Monkfish map

 

Recreational Fishing

Bottom jigging

See the recreational regulations here.

 

Monkfish 3

Commercial Fishing

There is a commercial fishery for monkfish in the United States. Mainly, these fish are harvested through gillnets and trawls.

 

Management

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries set regulations required by the New England Fishery Management Council

 

Angling Tips

While not many anglers target them, there is a fishery for monkfish in Massachusetts waters. Bottom jigging is the typical way in which these fish are caught.

 

Food Quality

Mainly harvested for their tail meat and liver. Asian markets look for the entire fish. The tail meat is firm, dense, and relatively boneless. The texture of the meat is similar to a lobster tail.

Keep in mind when preparing that raw monkfish is off-white to light gray. It is covered by a blue-gray membrane that should be removed before cooking. If not removed, the membrane will shrink around the meat, making it tough.