Tarakihi – Nemadactylus macropterus
The tarakihi is a thin-bodied fish that lives near the bottom. It is from the Morwong family of fishes which also includes Porae, Red Moki, Red morwong, Painted Moki, and Magpie morwong.
The tarakihi is generally silver/grey on top becoming white in colour underneath. It has a very distinctive black band across the shoulder which tends to fade after capture. The head and mouth of tarakihi are relatively small for the size of the fish. It has a distinctive forked tail.
The average length is about 35cm. Anglers often catch this species over foul ground. At times smaller tarakihi can be a nuisance as they will readily take baited hooks and flasher rigs intended for larger fish. They fight well for their size darting about when hooked on light lines – though smaller fish are not strong fighters.
Offshore reefs can produce very big tarakihi measuring up to 60cm in length. Such a large fish could be between 40 and 50 years old. It takes three or four years for tarakihi to reach a length of 25cm so they are quite slow-growing.
I have caught many tarakihis over the years, particularly when fishing the outer Marlborough Sounds and Cook Strait. This species is more common in the cooler waters south of the East Cape.
Tarakihi have soft mouths so it pays to use a net with bigger fish as the hook can easily pull out. As mentioned they will readily take flasher rigs or you can fish for them with baited hooks on short droppers. As their mouths are quite small, size 2/0 hooks are more than adequate for this species. You can catch tarakihi on just about any cut bait at all. They also will take squid and shellfish particularly tuatua. Most importantly be sure to keep your tarakihi baits small.
Tarakihi has firm white flesh and is excellent eating cooked by any method.
This species was for many years the most popular commercially caught and sold table fish in New Zealand.