Published On: Wed, Nov 5th, 2014

Anchovy – Engraulis australis – average length between 8 and 12 cm


The anchovy can be distinguished from the similar looking pilchard by its large undershot lower jaw and absence of spots on its flanks. It grows to an average length between 8 and 12 cm, although big ones can reach 15cm. The body is long and round in shape. The colour ranges from green to blue above and silver below.

Anchovy – Engraulis-australis

Anchovy is common around the North Island, and around Nelson and the West Coast of the South Island, and Fiordland, mostly in large surface schools. Anchovies are not mentioned by David H. Graham in his work at the Portabello Marine Research Station in Otago Harbour, near Dunedin, as this little baitfish is not found off the South Island’s east coast. The prominent baitfish species off Canterbury and Otago are pilchards and the laterally flattened sprat. More info on the anchovy in FishBase.

Anchovies, like pilchards, and sprats, swim in tightly packed schools for “protection” from predators. Sometimes these tightly packed schools will “huddle” together beneath commercial or recreational fishing boats as they attempt to escape predators. These tightly packed frightened fish are often described by New Zealand anglers as “meatballs.” Anchovies are preyed upon by kahawai, kingfish and numerous other fishes which tend to chase them into ever tighter schools. Sports anglers enjoy having these anchovy “meatballs” beneath their boats as they attract bigger fish to their baits and lures! At such times anglers also use a net to scoop up anchovies from the “meatball” to use later as fish bait.

 The dense schools or anchovies are also hunted by dolphins, sharks and seabirds (gannets and shearwaters), especially around the upper North Island. There is no commercial fishing for anchovies in New Zealand apart for perhaps some small-scale local fishing.

Spawning takes place between spring and autumn but peaks in high summer when the water is warmest.

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