Beaked Salmon, Gonorynchus greyi (Richardson 1845)

Other Names: Beaked Sandfish, Ratfish, Sand Eel, Sand Fish, Sandfish, Shark Whiting

A Beaked Salmon, Gonorynchus greyi. Source: John E. Randall / FishBase via EOL. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


The peculiar Beaked Salmon is a long sandy-coloured cylindrical fish with a large black blotch on the dorsal, anal and caudal fins. The species has a pointed snout, a small protrusible mouth on the underside of the head preceded by a long hair-like barbel. The dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are small and rounded, and positioned far back on the body.

When threatened, Beaked Salmon often escape by diving head first into the sandy bottom. 

Video of a Beaked Salmon filmed at night

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Gonorynchus greyi in Fishes of Australia, accessed 28 May 2024,

Beaked Salmon, Gonorynchus greyi (Richardson 1845)

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Widespread in Australia, mostly in the temperate waters of the southern half from off Fraser Island (Queensland) to Shark Bay (Western Australia). Also at Lord Howe and Norfolk islands in the Tasman Sea, and recently recorded from the Northern Territory. Found elsewhere in the South Pacific from Australia to off Chile.

Beaked Salmon inhabit sandy bottoms in coastal bays, deeper channels in estuaries and in deeper offshore waters. Juveniles are pelagic in the open ocean.


Dorsal fin 12-13; Anal fin 10; Caudal fin 19; Pectoral fin 10; Pelvic fin 9; Lateral line scales 172-178.

Body very shallow (7-13% SL), elongate, thick, rectangular in cross section, tapering to shallow caudal peduncle. Head small (20-22% SL), conical; eyes moderately small (20-24% HL); mouth very small (upper jaw length 12-19% HL), situated on underside of snout, protrusible downwards and forward; lips fleshy and papillose, fringe on upper, lower with long cirri, mouth preceded by single, medial, narrow barbel; teeth absent from jaws, small patches of conical teeth on roof and floor of mouth just in front of gill arches.

Scales tiny, ctenoid, firmly attached, covering all of head, and body; lateral line straight.

Single small dorsal fin with short base located posteriorly, anterior rays much longer than those posteriorly; anal fin with very short base situated close to caudal fin; caudal fin forked. Pectoral and ventral fins with prominent fleshy axial processes; pectoral fin moderately large, situated on ventral profile of side immediately behind gill opening; ventral fin located posteriorly, arising below and slightly in front of dorsal-fin origin, not reaching anus.


To a maximum total length of 50 cm.


Sandy coloured, underside pale; juveniles with a line of fine dark spots along centre of each side, adults uniform except for fins; most fins with black blotches, one just below tip of dorsal, another at tip of anal, caudal with blotch at tip of lower lobe and broad band near tip of upper, tips of pectoral and pelvics blackish in large individuals.


Canivore - feeds by probing the sandy bottom with its tube-like mouth in search of invertebrate prey.


The eggs and larvae are pelagic and the larvae have been described (Bruce 1998).


A commercial species with firm white flesh that is reportedly good eating.

Species Citation

Rynchana greyi Richardson, 1845, Zool. Voy. Erebus Terror 2: 44, fig., pl. 29(1-6).
Type locality: Western Australia and Port Nicholson, Cook's Strait, New Zealand.


Dianne J. Bray


Australian Faunal Directory

Beaked Salmon, Gonorynchus greyi (Richardson 1845)


Bruce, B.D. 1998. Gonorhynchidae: beaked salmon. p. 60-63. In F.J. Neira, A.G. Miskiewicz & T. Trnski (eds.) Larvae of temperate Australian fishes: laboratory guide for larval fish identification. University of Western Australia Press. 474 pp.

Coleman, N. 1980. Australian Sea Fishes South of 30ºS. Lane Cove, NSW : Doubleday Australia Pty Ltd 309 pp.

Francis, M.P. 1991. Additions to the fish faunas of Lord Howe, Norfolk and Kermadec Islands, Southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 45(2): 204-220.

Francis, M. 1993. Checklist of the coastal fishes of Lord Howe, Norfolk, and Kermadec Islands, southwest Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 47(2): 136-170 figs 1-2

Gomon, M.F. 1994. Families Halosauridae, Notacanthidae, Clupeidae, Engraulidae, Gonorynchidae, Plotosidae, Salmonidae. pp. 215-231 figs 192-206 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Family Gonorynchidae: Beaked Sandfishes. pp. 195 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Grande, T. 1999. Revision of the genus Gonorynchus Scopoli, 1777 (Teleostei: Ostariophysi). Copeia 1999(2): 453-469.

Gray, C.A. 1993. Horizontal and vertical trends in the distribution of larval fishes in coastal waters off central New South Wales, Australia. Marine Biology 116: 649-666.

Gray, C.A., N.M. Otway, F.A. Laurenson, A.G. Miskiewicz & R.L. Pethebridge. 1992. Distribution and abundance of marine fish larvae in relation to effluent plumes from sewage outfalls and depth of water. Mar. Biol. 113: 549-559.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Checklist of the fishes of Western Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum, Supplement 63: 9-50.

Hutchins, J.B. & Swainston, R. 1986. Sea Fishes of Southern Australia. Complete field guide for anglers and divers. Perth : Swainston Publishing 180 pp.

Johnson, J.W. 1999. Annotated checklist of the fishes of Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 43(2): 709-762.

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 2000. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Gary Allen. Pp. 437.

Larson, H.K., R.S. Williams & M.P. Hammer. 2013. An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Zootaxa 3696(1): 1-293.

May, J.L. & Maxwell, J.G.H. 1986. Field Guide to Trawl Fish from Temperate Waters of Australia. Hobart : CSIRO Division of Marine Research 492 pp.

Ogilby, J.D. 1911. On the genus Gonorhynchus (Gronovius). Annals of the Queensland Museum 10: 30-35. (described as Gonorhynchus parvimanus)

Richardson, J. 1845. Ichthyology. 17-52 pls 7-8 (parts), 11-30 in Richardson, J. & Gray, J.E. (eds). The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror under the Command of Captain Sir James Clark Ross, R.N., F.R.S., during the years 1839–43. London : E.W. Janson Vol. 2 139 pls 1-60.

Roberts, C.D. & T.C. Grande. 1999. The sandfish, Gonorynchus forsteri (Gonorynchidae), from bathyal depths off New Caledonia, with notes on New Zealand specimens. pp. 195-205. In B. Séret & J.-Y. Sire [eds]. Proceedings 5th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference, Noumea, 1997.

Smith, K.A. 2000. Active and passive dispersal of Centroberyx affinis (Berycidae) and Gonorynchus greyi (Gonorynchidae) larvae on the Sydney shelf. Marine and Freshwater Research 51(3): 229-234.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37141001

Depth:0-200 m

Fishing:Commercial fish

Habitat:Sandy bottoms

Max Size:50 cm TL

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Species Maps

CAAB distribution map