Species Profile: Butterfish

Source: NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Distribution  and Biology

The butterfish, Peprilus triacanthus, is a small, bony fish weighing up to 0.5 kg, with a thin oval body. Butterfish are short-lived and grow rapidly. Few live to more than 3 years of age, and most are sexually mature at age 1. Butterfish range from Florida to Newfoundland, but are primarily found from Cape Hatteras to the Gulf of Maine.

Butterfish are sensitive to and migrate in response to seasonal changes in water temperature. During summer, butterfish move northward and inshore to feed and spawn. Spawning occurs during June to August, and peaks progressively later at higher latitudes. During winter, butterfish move southward and offshore to avoid cold waters. Butterfish are semi-pelagic, and form loose schools that feed upon small squid, and crustaceans. Butterfish have a high natural mortality rate and are preyed upon by many species of fish, marine mammals, and seabirds.