Kalekale, or Lavender Snapper, is brown to bronze in color, looking very similar to their bottomfish cousin, the Opakapaka. In fact, Kalekale is often mislabeled as Opakapaka due to the high demand for the latter. Kalekale, however, can be distinguished by their lower jaw that slightly protrudes out from their body. Kalekale is one of Hawai’I’s “deep seven” bottomfish species, and ranges from the Indian to Pacific Ocean. It lives near underwater headlands and areas of high relief such as seamounts anywhere from 600 to 1,000 feet deep.
Kalekale can be distinguished by its protruding jaw, and the iris in their eyes and pectoral fins which both have an amber or orange red. In comparison, the Opakapaka has a yellow iris and yellow or brownish pectoral fins. Though not as highly sought after as Opakapaka, Kalekale can be easily substituted for Opakapaka in cooking.
Kalekale feed predominately on small fishes, shrimp, crab and other invertebrates. Kalekale reach sexual maturity at about 9 to 11 inches, or three years old. Like many of the other bottomfish, Kalekale reach peak spawning in the summer months, from July through September. Their pelagic eggs are released into the water column. The pelagic larvae swim freely for about 25 days until then move to deeper water before settling down on the ocean floor where they will spend the remainder of their adult life. Like many of the deep ocean snappers of Hawai‘i, Kalekale live near underwater headlands and areas of high relief such as seamounts anywhere from 600 to 1,000 feet deep.