Ladyfish occur in the western North Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Typically found in brackish water lagoons and bays, ladyfish are tolerant of a wide range of salinities. Occasionally found several miles offshore, ladyfish prefer open water areas in channels with moderate currents and eddies at river bends. This species is cold intolerate preferring temperature in the mid-fifties and higher.
This small cousin of the tarpon rarely exceeds much over three feet and fifteen pounds. They are long, spindle shaped fish that is oval in cross-section. Their eyes are large. Ladyfish have a small pointed head, a deeply forked tail, and no teeth and are covered with small scales. Their color is silvery blue to greenish with silver sides. This species is known to live at least six years.
Ladyfish spawn offshore during the winter months.. Spawning takes place at sea, The larvae that migrate inland entering brackish waters. The larvae are highly compressed, ribbon-like, and transparent, much like eels. After initial growth, they shrink and revert to adult form.
Ladyfish tend to form large schools, feeding primarily small fish, such as glass minnows, silversides, menhaden, and mullet. Crustaceans, especially shrimp, round out their diet. rounding out the rest of their diet.
Ladyfish in Texas
Body elongate, round, only slightly compressed; color bluish on back, silvery with slight yellow tinge on sides and below; mouth large, somewhat oblique, posterior end of upper jaw reaching past eye; gular plate present (bony plate on throat); 1 dorsal fin set midway on body; fins with yellow tinges; pelvic fins originate under dorsal fin.
Tarpon have an elongate, whip-like last dorsal fin ray (absent in ladyfish), bonefish have a small subterminal mouth
Gulf and bay, more common in the bays
100 cm (3 1/3 ft), common to 60 cm (23 1/2 in)