The Atlantic butterfish is distinguished by its very thin, deep body, resembling a flounder on edge. It earned its buttery name from its high oil content. The butterfish is a small fish with the largest weighing in at just over one pound and a foot long. It ranges along the North American coast as far south as Florida and as far north as Newfoundland.
Butterfish have a leaden bluish back and pale sides with numerous irregular dark spots which fade after death. The belly is silvery. They have long pointed pectoral fins, a short head, blunt snout, small mouth and a deeply forked tail. It is an excellent pan fish rich in flavour.
Although little is know about the life of the butterfish, they typically travel in small bands or loose schools, and prefer inshore areas and sandy seafloors. They mature at two years old and begin to spawn in the Gulf of Maine in June. Females lay eggs that are buoyant, transparent and spherical. During the first summer young butterfish often live in the shelter of the large jellyfishes. The butterfish feeds on small fish, squid, Crustacea such as amphipods and shrimp, and annelid worms.
This fishery uses a large cone-shaped net that is dragged along the seafloor to catch fish. As the net is towed at low speed, hydrodynamic forces push two "otter boards" outwards opening the mouth of the net and capturing fish in its path.