What is a Skate Fish – The Complete Breakdown of This Cool Fish

By Get Fishing •  Published: 06/20/23 •  6 min read

Skate fish are considered cartilaginous fish, meaning their bodies are made mostly out of cartilage rather than bone. “Skate” is often used as a common name for a number of different species within the family Rajidae. This fish is popular among some fishermen for its crab-like taste and texture.

What Is A Skate Fish

What is a Skate Fish?  

Skate Fish

Skates have a very distinct appearance and, at first glance, you might not think of them as a “fish.” However Skates are a type of fish, with a body composed mostly of cartilage instead of bone. Skates are closely related to sharks, sawfish, and rays. 

Why is it Called a Skate Fish ?

You may hear some fishermen call Skates “sea skates” or “skate wings” due to the shape of their bodies. With their “wings” and flat bodies, these fish can skate along through the water. 

What Type of Fish is a Skate Fish? 

Skates are part of the Rajidae, a group of fish with cartilage as the main structure for their bodies. Skates are also considered a red list fish due to their conservation status. They are slow to reproduce and Skates sold in stores may not come from sustainable or ethical means.

What Does A Skate Fish Look Like?

Aluetian Skate

These fish have a wonderfully distinct appearance, and if you haven’t seen one before, catching one might be shocking. The Rajidae family is diverse, with roughly 250 species. However all Skates have the same body shape: flat, with “wings” on either side of the body and a long tail. The wings extend the length of the body. Most skates also have stiff, rounded noses and mouths on the underside of their body. Skates are covered in placoid scales, which are rough and pointed. 

Skate Fish Habitat

Interestingly, Skates are usually caught as bycatch – accidentally, when anglers are fishing for other species. They aren’t picky about their habitat, but are usually found in the intertidal zone – where the ocean meets land and forms pools during high and low tide. Skates will also hang out around shelves and slopes. They prefer cooler waters, even tolerating polar temperatures in deeper water. 

Where Can I Find Skate Fish? 

These fish have a surprisingly large range and can be found throughout the world. In North America, they range north to south on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Where won’t you find Skates? They stay out of brackish waters they prefer to stay in saltwater habitats.  

What Do Skate Fish Eat? 

Favorite foods include clams, oysters, crabs, and shrimp. This makes sense for them as Skates live along the bottom of their environment, often burying themselves in sand and sediment. Skates are able to dine on invertebrates and molluscs thanks to grinding plates in their mouths that can break down shells.

How to Catch a Skate Fish? 

Skates are not picky fish and can be caught with almost any bait. Crab, clam, sandworm, and strips of feeder fish are most often successful. You can use any bottom bait rig to go after Skate – intentionally or not – just make sure you’re using a heavy enough weight to keep it there. The most common hook size used is a 12/0. 

How Big Do Skate Fish Get?

Winter Skate

You might be surprised to learn that Skates can reach up to 5 feet in length, making them a challenging catch if you find one big enough. However most Skates average 12-36 inches and 8-10 lbs.

How Fast Do Skate Fish Grow?

Due to their slow growth, Skates are a carefully watched group of species. They’re easily overfished and populations can drop drastically. Unfortunately, Skates also mature at a late age – meaning they may be caught before they’ve even had the chance to reproduce. 

What is the World Record Skate Fish?

According to the IGFA, the largest Skate caught on record weighed in at 214 lbs. This fish was caught in the UK in 1968.

What is the Lifespan of a Skate Fish? 

Skates live a surprisingly long time, reaching up to 50 years of age if they aren’t overfished. Due to their slow growth and development, Skates don’t usually reach reproductive maturity until age 10.  

Can You Eat Skate Fish?

Yes; Skate is edible and in some cultures, a well-loved food item. They were previously considered a “trash” fish by many fishermen due to their dietary habits. 

What Does Skate Fish Taste Like?

Skates have a sweet, delicate flavor to them. They’ve been compared to the nutty flavor of crabmeat, and a similar texture. 

Is Skate Fish Boney?

No – Skates have no bones, only cartilage. However, their body is shaped in such a way that the edible sections of flesh are in the wings. Skates are notoriously hard to fillet. 

Does Skate Taste Like Scallops?

Some famous chefs have likened the taste of Skates to Scallops, however many fishermen agree that the flavor is closer to that of crab. Either way, you can’t go wrong with their flaky, sweet flesh.

Is a Skate Fish the Same as Stingray?

bluntnose skate

No, Skates and Stingrays are two different species. The easiest way to tell them apart is to take a look at their tails. Skates have shorter, thicker, fleshier tails; Stingrays have whip-like, long tails. These fish also reproduce differently, with Skates laying egg sacks (known as a mermaid’s purse) and Rays birth live young.

Are Skate Fish Harmless?

Yes, Skates are harmless due to their lack of a stinging appendage. 

Do Skate Fish Sting?

No, unlike other rays, Skates do not have the ability to sting.

Is the Skate a Bottom Feeder fish?

Due to their diet, Skates are primary bottom feeders, feeding off of the ocean floor. They find their prey buried or attached to low outcroppings and underwater structures.


Whether you’re searching out Skate Fish intentionally or pull one up by accident, this is an exciting species to come face-to-face with. Hopefully this post has shown you that there’s more to the Skate than its surprising appearance. Happy fishing!