cutlassfish - ribbonfish
Atlantic Cutlassfish | credit: NOAA


The Atlantic cutlassfish or ribbonfish is an odd looking saltwater fish that sometimes occurs in good numbers off the Mid Atlantic Coast.

They are most common in coastal waters from North Carolina to Virginia Beach. Anglers sometimes encounter this odd-looking fish as far north as New York.

Ribbonfish are long and slender, with bluish to silver skin. Their mouth is large and armed with numerous sharp teeth. Ribbonfish can reach lengths of 5 feet or more.

Juvenile ribbonfish are usually found near the sea floor during the day. At night they move to the surface to feed on small prey. Adults often travel in schools which may appear on the surface to feed on baitfish.

In areas where they are plentiful, ribbonfish are sometimes targeted by anglers. They readily take casted or trolled lures, especially flashy spoons or other lures that resemble baitfish. They take cut baits or live-lined fish such as small spot, finger mullet, peanut bunker, or other available baits.

Ribbonfish sometimes visit coastal piers, especially at night. Anglers target them with gotcha style plugs, flashy spoons, or other lures. Pier fishermen also use live or cut baits when ribbonfish are present.

Because their sharp teeth can cut the line, ribbonfish can be a challenge to fish for. When fishing live baits, anglers sometimes use fine wire rigs that are familiar to king mackerel fishermen.

Ribbonfish are edible, yielding mild, white meat. They are usually filleted and if desired, skinned. After the fillets are removed from the body, the rib bones can be easily cut out.


Related Information

Saltwater Fishing

Fish Species