The Maori name for Rough Skate is Waewae
This species of the skate is a common catch for surfcasters on sandy or muddy beaches all around New Zealand but is often caught in shallower water around the South Island. They are found out to about 100 metres.
It is brown on its top side with numerous small dark spots. Sometimes there are also matching large dark spots on each wing. The underside of the body is a much paler off-white colour. Their average length is around 70 cm.
The tail has rows of sharp prickly thorn-like spikes so picking up a skate by the tail is a very bad idea!
Skate are caught by trawlers and sold in fish shops and supermarkets as wings. They have firm white flesh and are very good for eating. However, most anglers are put off eating them because of the strange appearance of rough skate compared with other fish.
Skates lay their eggs in a horny case which is often found attached to seaweed by long tendrils. The eggs take several months to hatch with the young leaving the egg capsule at about 18 to 20cm in length. The discarded egg cases, blackened by the sun, are found washed up on beaches.
The late David H. Graham makes some interesting observations about skate in his book A Treasury of New Zealand Fishes. He said that so powerful are the jaws of skate that they are able to crush the jaws of shellfish with ease. Graham also relates the story of inserting the end of a broom handle into the mouths of skate 5 or 6 feet long caught in the trawl and lying in the cockpit of the launch, the handle was smashed to matchwood. Rough skate caught at Amberley Beach.
Graham also found the following species in skate stomachs: sprats, pipefish, seahorse, red cod, ahuru, common sole, lemon sole, and opal fish. All were crushed by the skate’s powerful jaws. He also found four species of crabs in their stomachs along with whalefeed (krill) and two species of worm.
Stingrays are superficially similar to skate but when you look closely at the two together they are quite different.
Video: Rough Skate caught and released in Picton Harbour.