This report was produced in response to a petition received from WildEarth Guardians on July 15,…
About the Species
The commercial monkfish fishery in the U.S. operates from Maine to North Carolina out to the continental margin. Trawl gear is primarily used in northern waters, and gillnet gear in southern waters. Because it is common for monkfish to be caught in conjunction with groundfish, you will see a lot of the information on this site also relates to the northeast multispecies (groundfish) fishery. The monkfish fishery is managed using a days-at-sea and trip limit management system. There is no known directed recreational fishery for monkfish. The market for monkfish is for human consumption. U.S. wild-caught monkfish is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations. Implementing regulations are found at 50 CFR part 648 subpart F.
Above target population levels.
At recommended levels.
Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitat affected by some kinds of trawl gear.
Regulations limit possession of bycatch species and require modified fishing gear to reduce bycatch.
- According to the 2013 stock assessment, monkfish are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing in both the northern and southern areas.
- Monkfish have mottled dark brown to olive-green skin on top and whitish skin underneath.
- They are described as tadpole-like in appearance, with a body that is mostly a broad head with a large mouth and a narrow, tapering body.
- Female monkfish grow larger and live longer than male monkfish. Females live to at least 13 years and grow to more than 4½ feet long, while males only live about 7 years and grow to almost 3 feet long.
- Males and females are able to reproduce when they reach about 14 inches and 16 inches long, respectively.
- Monkfish spawn from February to October.
- Females release large egg veils that can contain more than 1 million eggs.
- These egg veils float near the surface along with the prevailing currents for 1 to 3 weeks (depending on temperature) until the veil disintegrates and the larvae hatch.
- Monkfish migrate seasonally to spawn and feed.
- They travel by slowly swimming or by using the sturdy base of their pectoral fins to walk.
- Scientists speculate that their wing-like pectoral fins may be used to ride currents.
- Monkfish are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever prey is most available at the time.
- Larvae feed on zooplankton (tiny floating animals). Juveniles mostly eat small fish, shrimp, and squid.
- Adults mainly eat fish, including other monkfish, but also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, seabirds, and diving ducks.
- Monkfish ambush their prey—they use a modified spine on their head as a fishing pole and bait to lure small fish toward their mouths.
- When the prey comes near, the monkfish takes a large gulp, which sucks the prey into its mouth and traps it behind rows of back-pointing teeth.
- Large monkfish have few predators.
- Predacious fish such as swordfish, sharks, and thorny skate prey on small monkfish.
Where They Live
- Monkfish are found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean from the Grand Banks and northern Gulf of St. Lawrence south to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
- They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and depths, from inshore waters down to nearly 3,000 feet.
- Monkfish migrate seasonally to spawn and feed.
- NOAA Fisheries and the New England and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils manage the monkfish fishery.
- The New England Fishery Management Council has the lead for developing measures in the monkfish fishery management plan.
- Managed under the Monkfish Fishery Management Plan:
- The monkfish fishery in U.S. waters is divided into two management areas north and south of Georges Bank to accommodate differences in monkfish fishing practices.
- Both areas are managed under the same plan.
- The Northern Fishery Management Area covers the Gulf of Maine and the northern part of Georges Bank. The Southern Fishery Management Area extends from the southern flank of Georges Bank through the Mid-Atlantic Bight to North Carolina.
- Management measures include annual catch limits, limited access permits, size limits, landing limits, and measures to reduce bycatch and impacts on habitat.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
There are currently no recreational possession restrictions for monkfish caught in federal waters. Recreational anglers must still comply with minimum fish size regulations in place for the fishery (Currently for monkfish: 17 inches, whole fish; 11 inches, tail only).
Recreational anglers will need to get a general recreational fishing license either through your state or through NMFS to fish recreationally for marine species. Visit our permit office or recreational fishing page for more information.
Reporting a Recreational Catch
This is not applicable for the monkfish fishery. Visit the Greater Atlantic Region's recreational fishing page for more information about recreational reporting in general.
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Reporting A Commercial Catch
Commercial Gear Information