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Northern Kingfish

Menticirrhus saxatilis


  • Lower half of body silver; upper half of body silver to bronze
  • Dark, well-defined bars present along the body of the fish; bars on the shoulder form a distinct “V” shape
  • Dark horizontal stripe behind the pectoral fins; stripe extends onto the lower half of the caudal fin
  • First dorsal fin elongated and with dark tip
  • Single barbel on lower jaw

Similar Species

Southern kingfish, M. americanus (markings diffuse or poorly defined, no “V” on shoulder, first dorsal fin not elongated); and Gulf kingfish, M. littoralis (no bars or markings on body, caudal fin has blackish tip)


Common up to 18 inches long and up to three pounds


Shallow coastal waters near hard or sandy bottom; common in surf zones and estuaries. May migrate offshore in deeper water during winter.


Bottom dwelling fish that feeds on small shrimps, crabs, marine worms and small fish.


Spawn from April to August at the bottom of bays and sounds.

Additional Information

Kingfish are often referred to as “whiting”.

Average lifespan three to four years.

Recreational Regulations: Unregulated

Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles