Silverfish (Carpenter fish) – A Strange Catch

Ryan Nienaber

Silverfish (Carpenter Fish) – A Strange Catch

Silverfish also called carpenter is an under rated table fish that is fast gaining popularity on the South African dinning room table – and it should as it ticks all the boxes if caught in the right manner.

Living on deeper rocks anything from 50-80m, they have become a staple in the Western Cape hand line fishery around Struisbaai and Gaansbaai.

Carpenter (silverfish) have a legal size limit of 35cm on traditional handline boats.  The benefit of hand line fishing is that if a fish is caught that is too small it can safely be released to grow and breed for the future.

Unlike industrial fishing methods such as trawlers that use big nets and have no size limits that indiscriminately take everything in their path. Hand line fishing has many benefits, such as more jobs generated per ton of fish harvested, no habitat or damage to the seabed, no ghost fishing, no by catch, does not lead to overfishing as it is very low intensive fishing method, the catch is highly selective and only the target species is caught,  promotes local ownership retaining cultural importance in the coastal communities and yields a better quality product as each fish is handled as an individual.

It is handling each fish as an individual that we where able to find this strange catch.

A carpenter (silverfish) that was black in colour. It is likely to be melanistic.  Basically the opposite to an albino, but instead of white the black pigment dominates.

Upon reaching out to the skipper that had this unusual catch it seems this is not the first.  But one of a handful that have been caught in a similar area.

It has me thinking about the resident nature of these fish and how important it is to look after our reefs and how we fish them.

This could be a localised gene that has not migrated far?  I’m no scientist but its always amazing how the ocean surprises us continuously.


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