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Butter sole fish identification, Habitats, Fishing methods, fish characteristics

The butter sole, Isopsetta isolepsis, is a demersal small flounder is rather common off the coast of California that lives on soft, silty bottoms in temperate waters at depths of range 66 - 1,394 ft (20 - 425 m). Its native habitat is the northeastern Pacific, from the Bering Sea and the Aleutian Islands, along the coasts of Alaska, Canada and the USA as far south as Ventura, California. It grows up to 22 in (55 cm) in length, and can live for up to 11 years.
Butter-Sole Butter sole, Isopsetta isolepis, also known as Scalyfin sole, Bellingham Sole, Skidegate Sole, is an edible flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae, distributed from southern California to Alaska, on eastern Pacific from Bristol Bay in the southeastern Bering Sea and Amchitka Island (Aleutian Islands) to Ventura, California, USA, Puget Sound to Point Concepcion, in rather deep water.

The Butter sole is a right-eyed flounder with an oval-shaped body. Body elliptical, much compressed, moderately deep, depth is a half of a length, the curvature very regular, caudal peduncle moderate. The eyes are small, and close together. Space between eyes is narrow, broad, and flattish, with several series of scales.
The dorsal and anal fins have bright yellow edges; dorsal accessory branch present and extends past gill cover; the caudal fin is rounded and forms a broad v-shape. Dorsal fins origin above eye. Pectoral fins are small bluntly pointed; anal fin with small sharp strong spine. The lateral line slightly curves around the pectoral fin; the depth of arch is less than 1/5th of the length, and then proceeds to caudal peduncle. A second lateral line is located below first one-third of dorsal fin. Head is moderate, 1/4th of a body length, strongly compressed, the profile little depressed above the eye. The mouth is small, terminal; narrow gape; asymmetrical; maxillary extends to point below anterior edge of lower eye. Jaws with about 11+14 blunt small teeth on eyed side and strongest 9+24 conical, close set, but not forming a cutting edge, in 1 somewhat irregular series, or partly in 2 series on blind side; snout round and pointed. Lower pharyngeals each with two rows of bluntish teeth. Flounder Anatomy
The scales on the eyed side are rough, extend onto fin rays. On the blind side the scales are more or less ctenoid, sometimes smooth. Scales on cheeks are similar to those on body, rather large, weakly ctenoid, and closely imbricated; most of the opercle, the preopercle, interopercle, and subopercle on blind side naked. Accessory branch nearly as long as head; fins rather low, mostly covered with ctenoid scales.

Key characters

Right-eyed. Body shape oval. Dorsal origin above eye. Caudal rounded. Pectoral small, bluntly pointed. 2 lateral lines. The dorsal and anal fins have bright yellow edges.
  • 78-92 dorsal soft rays
  • 5869 anal soft rays
  • 3942 (10+32) Vertebrae
  • 88 Scales on lateral line
  • Max. Length: 22 in (55 cm)
  • Butter Sole Anatomy

    Its eyed side is light to dark brown or grayish brown, with yellow or green irregular blotches; its underside is white. Dorsal and anal fins edged with bright lemon yellow.
        It much resembles Pacific sand sole, Psettichthys melanostictus , but its small mouth and blunt dentition indicate a real similarity with the small-mouthed flounders, among which it is here placed. It is similar to Rock sole, Lepidopsetta bilineata, which has higher arch in lateral line and shorter accessory dorsal branch.

    The Butter sole is common in shallow water on soft, silty substrate bottom in shallow waters in summer and deeper waters in winter. Typically they found in waters with a depth of 66 - 1,394 ft (20 - 425 m). Spawning adults exhibit north-south migrations.
        Adult feed on Benthic organisms such as Polychaete Palps, Juvenile bivalves, Glam siphons, Harpacticoid copepods, Amphipods, Cumaceans, and Juvenile decapods, chaetopod marine worms, crabs, mollusks, and forage fish like young herring, shrimps, and sand dollars. Juvenile feed on Worms, Crabs, Small Clams, and some Fish.

    The Butter sole spawn in late winter-spring from February to late April. Spawning adults exhibit north-south migrations. They are pelagic spawners. Female butter sole may have from 350,000 to 1,000,000 eggs depending on the size. Eggs are without oil globule in yolk.

    A tasty food fish, sometimes marketed. Also used for mink food. Butter soles are really flounders. They differ in taste but have been preferred by many over the costlier true sole. This species has recreational and commercial value. Although most butter sole in the bay are less than 30cm, larger specimens can be located in the channels.
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