Redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus Richardson 1845

Other Names: Pearl Fish, Picarel, Red Baitfish, Red Herring, Redbait Fish, Southern Rover

Redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus. Source: Rudie H. Kuiter / Aquatic Photographics. License: All rights reserved

Body slender, silvery or olive-grey to dark blue above, rosy pink on sides and pinkish white below, with pinkish fins - covered in small rough (ctenoid) scales.
Redbait are important prey species for seabirds, seals and tunas in southern Australia.

Cite this page as:
Emmelichthys nitidus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 07 Dec 2022,

Redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus Richardson 1845

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Recorded in Australia from off Sydney, NSW, to southern WA, and east and west coasts of Tasmania. Elsewhere, temperate, southern circumglobal - New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and nearby oceanic islands, seamounts and seamount chains. Found in shallow offshore waters at 20–200 m.

Redbait form pelagic schools according to size and by depth, with smaller fish being captured in shallower water. 


Meristic features: Dorsal fin XIII–XIV, 9–11; Anal fin III, 9–10; Caudal fin 17; Pectoral fin 20–23; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line 87–98; Gill rakers 37–43.

Body slender (depth 18-22% SL), elongate, slightly compressed; caudal peduncle very shallow just prior to caudal fin. Head moderately small (25-30% SL); eyes large (26-40% HL); mouth of moderate size, oblique, highly distensible, maxillae broad; few minute conical teeth at front of lower jaw, upper jaw usually toothless; no teeth on vomer, tongue or palatines. 

Scales small, ctenoid, covering body and head including maxillae, but not preorbital and top of snout; lateral line nearly straight. 

Dorsal fin with first nine or ten spines connected by membrane, followed by two or three short isolated spines, last connected to origin of short based soft dorsal fin, anterior spines longer than proceeding spines and soft rays; anal fin similar to and opposite soft portion of dorsal, last dorsal and anal fin rays prolonged; caudal fin forked. Pectoral fins of moderate size, rounded at tip. Pelvic fins moderately small.


Feed mostly on large planktonic crustaceans, especially krill.


Fished commercially throughout its range, for human consumption, bait and for fish meal. Targeted commercially in a mid-water trawl fishery off Tasmania.


Heemstra & Randall (1977) recognised two subspecies Emmelichthys nitidus nitidus from the eastern Atlantic to east of New Zealand and Emmelichthys nitidus cyanescens (Guichenot, 1848) from the Eastern Pacific.

Species Citation

Emmelichthys nitidus Richardson, 1845, Zool. Voyage Erebus Terror  2: 47. Type locality: Western Australia.

Redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus Richardson 1845


Andrew, T.G., Hecht, T., Heemstra, P.C. & Lutjeharms, J.R.E. 1995. Fishes of the Tristan da Cunha group and Gough Island, south Atlantic Ocean. Ichthyological Bulletin of the J.L.B. Smith Institute, Grahamstown 63: 1-43 figs 1-34 pls 1-2

Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Emmelichthyidae, Gerreidae, Sparidae, Sciaenidae, Mullidae. pp. 585-592 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Heemstra, P.C. & Randall, J.E. 1977. A revision of the Emmelichthyidae (Pisces : Perciformes). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 28: 361-396 figs 1-5

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Family Emmelichthyidae. pp. 595-597, figs 527-528 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.

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs.

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.

Oyarzún, C. & Arriaza, M. 1993. Emmelichthys nitidus nitidus Richardson, 1845 and Emmelichthys nitidus cyanescens (Guichenot, 1848), (Perciformes; Emmelichthyidae). Are they really different subspecies? Revista de Biologia Marina 28: 341-348.
Pollard, J. (ed.) 1980. G.P. Whitley's Handbook of Australian Fishes. North Sydney : Jack Pollard Publishing Pty Ltd 629 pp.

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.

Roschin, E.A. 1985. Some biological properties of redbait, Emmelichthys nitidus (Emmelichthyidae), from a seamount in the notal zone of the Indian Ocean. Journal of Ichthyology 25: 44-50.

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs.

Welsford, D.C. & J.M. Lyle. 2003. Redbait (Emmelichthys nitidus): a synopsis of fishery and biological data. Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute Technical Report 20: 35 pp. PDF

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37345001

Depth:11-600 m

Fishing:Commercial fish

Habitat:Pelagic offshore

Max Size:36 cm TL

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