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List of all types of fish

There are so many different types of fish that it’s difficult to list them all. The following listing covers species of fresh fish that are available nationwide or in many areas of the country.

Keep in mind, names of fish often vary with the region. For instance, various types of North American flounder are locally called “sole”—French sole, Pacific sole, sand sole, lemon sole, even Dover and English sole—even though no North American fish is truly a sole. Some flounders are given market names like sanddab, fluke, plaice, or turbot.

This list is broken into “fatty fish” (over 5 percent fat by weight) and lean fish (under 5 percent). These designations are for fish caught in the wild. Generally speaking, their farm-raised counterparts are higher in fat.

Types of fatty fish

  • Anchovies: Anchovies are small saltwater fish of the herring family. Rarely eaten fresh, they are usually sold in cans or jars and are used as a seasoning. Anchovies are a classic ingredient in salade Niçoise and Caesar salad, and are also a popular pizza topping. The tiny fillets are heavily salted and packed in oil. Whole anchovies are also sold in bulk, packed in salt. Puréed anchovies go into tubes of anchovy paste, a convenient flavoring.
  • Butterfish: Called butterfish in the eastern United States, and Pacific or California pompano in the West, this small silvery saltwater fish is usually sold whole, drawn, or dressed. Suitable for broiling, baking, or pan-frying, it has a delicate flavor and soft, rather dark flesh that firms and lightens when cooked.
  • Carp: This freshwater fish is a favorite with two diverse ethnic groups: Chinese cooks like to poach or steam it whole, while Eastern European Jews use it for making gefilte fish and also serve it poached, with a sweet-and-sour sauce. The flesh of carp is somewhat coarse, and parts of the fish can be tough. It is also a difficult fish to skin and bone, so you may prefer to buy fillets. It’s commonly sold dressed or split lengthwise. Try this fish baked, broiled, steamed, or poached.
  • Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish): Chilean sea bass is not actually a member of the sea bass family. With its snow-white flesh, firm, rich texture, and melt-in-your-mouth flavor, Chilean sea bass has become extremely popular. Originally found off the southern coast of Chile to the Antarctic, it’s now caught throughout most of the southern hemisphere.
  • Eel: While they resemble snakes, eel are actually true fish, with tiny scales and gills. They are freshwater fish and have rich, firm, sweet-tasting flesh. Fresh eel are occasionally available, though they are more reliably found smoked. Have your fish dealer skin them for you because their skin is very tough and difficult to remove.
  • Herring: This huge family of fish has over 100 varieties. Small young herring are commonly sold as sardines. Fresh herring is occasionally available but you’re more likely to find it smoked and salted, or pickled.
  • Mackerel: Mackerel is the common name for members of the family Scombridae, which includes many species of open-sea fishes, including the bonito and tuna. Mackerel is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids; some varieties have a stronger, oilier flavor than other fish.
  • Pompano: Sometimes called Florida pompano, this silvery fish is caught in the Atlantic off the southern US coast. Overfishing has limited the supply so that pompano these days is fairly expensive. You can buy whole fresh or frozen pompano. Its rather oily, firm, white meat has a delicate flavor and is best cooked by broiling, grilling, or baking in parchment.
  • Sablefish: Though it is commonly called “black cod, ” this northern Pacific fish is not a cod, nor is it a butterfish, another name often applied to sablefish fillets. A high fat content gives it a soft texture and a rich taste that is surprisingly mild. Fillets, fresh or frozen, are the most common form found in stores, but sablefish is also sold whole—weighing about 3 to 15 pounds—or cut into steaks. The fish is excellent broiled, though baking, poaching, and steaming are also suitable cooking methods. It is also available smoked.
  • Salmon: Succulent, delicious, and nutritious, salmon is one of America’s most popular fish. Salmon is usually sold in filets or cut into steaks, depending on the size and variety. It’s excellent poached, steamed, roasted, or grilled. You can also buy canned salmon to eat as you would canned tuna fish.
  • Sardines The word “sardine” actually refers to more than 20 varied species of small, slender, soft-boned saltwater fish found worldwide and ranging in size from 3 to 6 inches. Sardines as we know them in the United States, however, are actually members of the herring family. Fresh sardines are occasionally available, but sardines are more commonly found salted, smoked, or canned in oil, tomato sauce, or mustard sauce. Some are packed whole, while others are skinned, boned, and sold as fillets.
  • Shad: This member of the herring family is famous for its tasty roe as well as its rich flesh. Shad is one of the fattiest of all fish. Like salmon, shad is a fish that lives most of its life in salt water, but spawns in fresh water. Shad is at its best in the spring, when it enters inland waters on both the Atlantic and Pacific Northwest coasts to spawn. Females bear large sacs of roe weighing up to 3/4 pound each, which are considered a great delicacy. This fish has rich, sweet flesh but is very bony—360 bones, to be exact. It’s best to buy fillets if you are not familiar with this fish, as it is difficult to bone. Sometimes the roe is sold with the fish, and sometimes it is marketed separately. Because of its high fat content, shad remains moist and delicious when baked or broiled.
  • Whitefish: The term “whitefish” is sometimes loosely used to describe various white-fleshed fish, but true whitefish is a freshwater species related to trout and abundant in the Great Lakes. It has particularly sweet, moist, delicate flesh and is a favorite for smoking. Whitefish for market average around 4 pounds and are sold dressed and in fillets. This fish can be baked, broiled, or poached. Just leave the skin on fillets to hold them together while cooking.
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