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Learn about American dab

The American dab, also known as the American plaice, is a popular Atlantic fish that is often used in fish and chips. Read on to learn more about this fish.

Appearance

  • As adults, American dabs generally reach sizes between 12 and 24 inches long. Females grow faster and larger than males. They weigh an average of half a pound when 12 inches long, and 6 pounds when 24 inches long.
  • They range from red to grey-brown on the top and white or off-white on the side that faces the ground. 
  • The American dab is a right-eyed flounder, with a small head, pointed face, and large mouth. When they are born, their eyes are on either side of their head, but as they grow and settle to the bottom, one eye moves to the other side. They also have a single dorsal fin that runs along the entire body.
American dab

American dab facts

  • Species name: Hippoglossoides platessoides
  • As larvae, American dabs eat planktonic plants and copepods. After settling to the bottom, juvenile American dabs mainly eat small crustaceans and worms.
  • Adults eat:
    • Echinoderms
    • Crustaceans
    • Mollusks
    • Worms
    • Small fish
  • Predators for the American dab include:
    • Monkfish
    • Atlantic cod
    • White hake
    • Spiny dogfish
    • Sea raven
    • Thorny skate
  • Females usually mature when they are 3 to 4 years old. Females can produce over 1,000,000 eggs in a single year. Larger females produce more eggs than smaller females.
  • Eggs float to the surface when released, and the young float near the surface when they hatch as larvae. The left eye starts to migrate to the other side of the head when the fish is about 0.80 inches in length. The larvae settle to the ocean floor when they are 3 to 4 months of age and about 1.5 inches long.
  • The American dab stays on the bottom of the ocean, rising in the water column only to swim over hard bottom areas. They generally reside between 120 and 600 feet, but sometimes have been caught over 2000 feet deep. 
  • The commercial fishery for American dab is open all year and commercial fishing is done using otter trawls and gillnets. 
  • The Division of Marine Fisheries manages the American dab fishery within 3 miles of shore. Past 3 miles the fishery is regulated by NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council.
  • American dabs live on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. American dabs are mainly found north of Cape Cod and their range extends into the Arctic Ocean. In European waters, they range from England to Iceland. 
American dab distribution

Additional Resources for American dab facts

Angling tips

  • American dab do not bite baited hooks at the same rate as other flounders. They are a sluggish fish in comparison to their relatives.
  • If a food source is relatively available where the dabs are found, they will not be as attracted to the clam and herring bait usually presented to them.
  • American dab has white meat with a subtle flavor. It is usually filleted, battered, and pan fried, often as the protein in an opened faced sandwich. It is also used in fish and chips.

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