A feisty fish good for smoking

NATURAL WORLD

PAUL GAY
Last updated 12:27 18/02/2014
Southland Times photo
This streamlined fish is a juvenile kahawai. The spots on its back distinguish it from the yellow-eyed mullet which is a fish of similar shape and colouring.

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Kahawai are found in coastal waters around New Zealand but are more common in warmer northern localities.

They are often seen in rivermouths and estuaries where they feed on small fish and crustaceans. In the natural food chain they are preyed on by larger predators such as dolphins and orcas. Their fighting qualities make them an exciting catch for recreational anglers.

When mature they can reach an average length of about 60 centimetres. At this size they are an important commercial species. A big specimen can weigh 6 kilograms.

Kahawai form shoals of similar-sized fish. In the open sea, shoals of mature kahawai can contain many hundreds of fish and as they feed on smaller fish there is often what is described as a "feeding frenzy" with fish leaping out of the water in all directions. This usually attracts flocks of seabirds such as gulls, shags and terns that circle above the shoal and dive for a feed.

While kahawai are not usually preferred as a fish for frying, when smoked their flesh is thought by many to be delicious.

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- The Southland Times

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