The yellowtail scad are a common species of fish in Australia’s southern waters. They can be recognised by their silvery colour, tinged with green or brown dorsally, a distinct yellow tail and a characteristic dark spot on the operculum. They have a streamlined elongate body shape, prominent enlarged scales known as scutes along the lateral line and a deeply forked tail. Yellowtail scad grow to a maximum length of 50 centimetres, but are most commonly around 30 centimetres.
They form large schools of similar sized fish close to shore in protected coastal bays and estuaries, along reef slopes to deeper waters to depths of 500 metres. They also occur offshore on islands. Yellow tail scad feed on zooplankton, and are an important prey item for large pelagic fish species including kingfish, samson fish, tuna and also grey nurse sharks. They are known to inhabit waters from southern Queensland to Coral Bay, WA.
Other common names include: Yellowtail, yellowtail mackerel, yellowtail horse mackerel
Occurrence at the Busselton Jetty
The yellowtail scad is the most abundant fish species observed from the waters of the Busselton Jetty. They form spectacular dense glittering schools of thousands of individuals moving as one past the windows. They are often seen feeding, where the school will disperse as they gulp mouthfuls of water, sifting out the microscopic zooplankton. Yellowtail scad are an important component of the diet for several local species, including the pied and snake-necked cormorants, samson fish, amberjacks, and yellowtail kingfish.
Image by: S. Teede