Q: In a feature on New Zealand that you ran in 1996, you talked about a "kahawai" as a good light-tackle game fish. I'd like to know more about these fish, including where outside of New Zealand they're found and what kind of fish they are. - Siegfried Rotfeder, New York, New York
A: Besides the New Zealand coast, which they inhabit in great numbers, kahawai (Arripis trutta and A. truttaceous) are found off southern Australia's coasts, both east and west. These popular, small game fish, called "Australian salmon," actually bear more resemblance to our bluefish in habits, size and fight.
The popularity of kawahai, a voracious inshore/nearshore schooling species, accounts for its recognition by IGFA as line-class species. While kahawai are commonly 5 to 10 pounds, the IGFA all-tackle record is just under 20 pounds. Light and fly tackle offer the most excitement from its unpredictable and often aerial fight.
The kahawai can be likened to bluefish in its edibility; however, anglers typically rate the rather dark, strong flesh as fair to poor, though commercial fisheries target kahawai. In Australia, some are marketed for consumption but the majority are used for rock lobster bait. Kahawai are highly valued as a bait fish, alive or rigged and trolled, for New Zealand marlin. Despite apparent similarities, kahawai bear no relationship to bluefish. In fact, they're in their own family, Arripidae.
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