Forkbeard - Phycis Phycis
Latin: Phycis Phycis
Italian: Mostella, Musdea
Spanish: La Brótola de Roca, La Locha de Roca
Croatian: Tabinja Mrkulja, Babinja, Tabina
Forkbeard photo with permission by Miro Andric, Croatia's Undersea World.
About: Forkbeard, Phycis Phycis, is a species of fish of the cod family (Gadidae). The body is elongated and slightly laterally flattened. The eyes are large and round. It is brownish-red in color dorsally, becoming paler ventrally. Vertical fins are gray-brownish, darker at the edges. First dorsal fin is short with a rounded tip and the second fin almost reaches the tail.
It got its name due to fork-shaped tentacles/antennas that are used in darkness to 'feel' the bottom.
It grows up to 64 cm in length and up to 3.5 kg in weight, but on average, it is much smaller fish - around 0.30 kg.
Omega-3 rich large liver occupies most of the stomach. It spawns in winter. It feeds on small crustaceans and worms and even small fish. It will also feed on carcases of other dead fish.
Note: it is rather sensitive fish and when caught, Forkbeard dies quickly.
Habitat: It can be found in East Atlantic, around coasts of Portugal to Azores and in Mediterranean Sea.
It occupies various sea beds, but prefers rocky bottoms and reefs with holes and caves, where it hides during the day and search for food during the night.
It can be found between 5 and 360m (there are some claims that it can be found even up to 650m), but mostly between 30 and 60m.
Fishing period: It can be caught all year long, but better in the autumn and early winter.
It will bite even during the day, if bait lands near its hideout, but much better during the night, during it feeding time.
Forkbeard photo from Wikipedia
Fishing rigs and tackle: It is often caught in fish traps baited with chunks of sardines and other small fish. Also, it will gladly grab longline hooks baited with shrimps, prawns, chunks of fish, small fish and similar - it is not very picky.
It can be also caught on rod and reel or suitable handline rig, during night fishing on suitable locations.
When hooked, it provides almost no resistance and many fishermen believed that they have lost their catch until the fish is in the boat :)
Rarely, it can be caught in shallows with speargun very early in the morning and late in the evening, or during the night, with lights.
Note: night spearfishing with lights is often forbidden in many countries, since most of the fish 'freeze' when illuminated with strong lights. Personally, it is far from being 'sport' fishing!
Cuisine: Forkbeard is one of the most underestimated fishes I had privilege to eat. White, tender, great tasting meat melts in the mouth. But, it must be fresh! So, if you found one on local fish market during the summer, be sure that fish is fresh and prepare it as soon as possible.
It can be prepared as part of fish stew, it can be boiled, or barbequed. Smaller specimen can be fried.
Always add some lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and garlic - aroma and fragrance are fantastic.