What Do Ladyfish (Tenpounder) Eat? 10 Foods in their Diet

Written by August Buck
Published: December 29, 2021
Image Credit IrinaK/Shutterstock.com
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A reef or marine living fish, the ladyfish is a fun fish to catch. It is known by many other names, including the tenpounder, bonefish, skipjack, and more. It eats a surprising number of things, in a surprising way.

So, what do ladyfish eat? Ladyfish eat crabs, other fish, squid, and insects. They are strictly carnivorous, capable of eating their prey and swallowing it whole.

But how many different species of fish does the ladyfish usually eat? And can we as humans consume ladyfish after a long day fishing the high seas? Let’s dive in and learn more.

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What Does a Ladyfish (Tenpounder) Eat?

What Do Ladyfish Eat - Ladyfish Isolated
Ladyfish eat other fish, squid, and crustaceans

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A ladyfish eats other fish (including its own kind), crustaceans, squid, and ocean bugs. It is a carnivore and prefers eating fish over many other foods, which may surprise you given most fish prefer to eat insects and the like. 

These fish prefer to live close to shore, and in large schools. You can find them in brackish or disturbed water, hunting for other small fish and crustaceans. These fish go out into open water in order to spawn, and the larvae slowly drift back to the safety of the shoreline.

They are common in the waters surrounding New England, all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. They are silver and long, sometimes measuring as long as 90 centimeters (35 inches). These fish prefer lagoons and inlets, most likely for their own protection. 

A Complete List of 10 Foods Ladyfish (Tenpounder) Eat

What Do Ladyfish Eat - Group of tenpounders

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Ladyfish have been known to eat the following foods:

  • Crabs
  • Other crustaceans
  • Ocean invertebrates
  • Other ladyfish
  • Menhaden
  • Silversides
  • Other smaller fish
  • Ocean bugs
  • Small octopus
  • Small squid

Given their strictly carnivorous nature, ladyfish are capable of eating a wide variety of other sea creatures. They do not discriminate, and are technically cannibalistic in nature. They have been known to eat their own kind, either on purpose or without realizing it. 

Young ladyfish and ladyfish larvae feed on whatever nutrients they can that are floating in the water. As they age and get mouths and teeth, they often feed on smaller ocean insects and Crustaceans. It is only when they have reached adulthood that they eat other fish. 

Ladyfish are very much affected by cold water temperatures at any age. This is why they gather primarily off the coast of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. They prefer warmer waters, as cold water can kill them.

This may also be why they prefer to gather in protected lagoons or shallows. The less deep the water is, the warmer it must be! Ladyfish can also feel safe and protected in these areas, free to hunt without fear of being hunted.

How Does a Ladyfish Hunt?

Ladyfish hunt using their protected areas to their advantage. They likely choose these areas because of the populated prey species there, such as ocean floor dwelling crustaceans and small fish also seeking shelter.

These fish are quick swimmers, capable of ambushing smaller fish and other prey. They then catch the fish or crab in its mouth and swallow it whole. Even though they eat their food whole, they do indeed have rows of very small and very sharp teeth.

If you go fishing and catch a ladyfish, prepare to put up a fight. These fish are capable of thrashing and fighting against many hooks, and some ladyfish can weigh as much as 30 pounds, which means they put up quite a fight. It isn’t uncommon to have a ladyfish injure itself on the line. 

Speaking of catching ladyfish, let’s take a look at some other common predators of the ladyfish.

What Eats Ladyfish? Common Predators

What Do Ladyfish Eat - Ladyfish on LIne

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The ladyfish has many common predators in the ocean, such as:

Given the way ladyfish breed, their larvae are at risk while floating on the ocean waves. Many carnivorous zooplankton exist and feed on ladyfish babies without a second thought. However, ladyfish still remain a common fish, not on a threatened or endangered species list.

Sharks and dolphins frequently eat ladyfish, as do other ladyfish. If you are a smaller ladyfish, the chances of you getting eaten by one of your own is high. They don’t discriminate and don’t seem to mind eating their own kind!

Humans are also a primary predator of the ladyfish. Whether they are caught on purpose or through accidental means, humans are responsible for hunting tenpounders every single year. However, this does beg the question: can we even eat ladyfish?

Can Humans Eat Ladyfish?

Yes, ladyfish are edible for humans. However, this does not mean that they are necessarily easily eaten and cooked. Many anglers report that lady fish are tasty, but the main issue with this fish is the amount of scales and bones that it has.

Ladyfish are full of very small bones, according to many fishermen and angling websites. Their flesh is mild and tasty, but often the work is not worth the amount of meat you will get. You will even have to descale the fish which can take time, as these fish are covered in hundreds of small scales.

Given that a ladyfish puts up quite a fight during the angling and catching process, it is only natural to want to consume what you have caught. However, there is much debate regarding this in the fishing community. You may want to save your energy for something with a bit more meat on its bones.

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.