Queenfish: Are They Any Good To Eat? (If So, Which Ones?)

The name “queenfish” evokes images of grandeur, a ruler of the seas. Surely such a fish must be delectable, right?

Well, the answer is yes and no… and it depends on which queenfish you’re talking about eating!

Let’s learn about the ins and outs of eating the many fish called queenfish.

Which Queen Fish are We Talking About, Here?

Many online articles give such different descriptions to queenfish that it seems impossible for them all to be talking about the same fish.

That’s because they aren’t!

There are actually three separate fish species that go by this common name!

The herring croaker (Seriphus politus) lives along the North American Pacific coast, the needlescaled queenfish (Scomberoides tol) lives in tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific, and the southern hake (Merluccius australis) lives in frigid waters near Antarctica.

Frustratingly enough, all three of these fish are called queenfish! So let’s see how each stacks up against the rest from a culinary standpoint.

The Herring Croaker (Queenfish)

A member of the drum family sciaenidae, the herring croaker gets its name because of its small size. While a select few individuals have been reported to reach upwards of a foot long, the vast majority of these puny fish measure under nine inches!

One of the most common fish caught at Southern California piers, they are often used for bait to snag larger things for a fisherman to eat.

Large halibut and sand bass are both known to devour these little morsels if they’re large enough to take the bait!

But if you do decide to eat one instead of releasing or rehooking it, you may be in for some disappointment.

Related: Mullet vs Croaker: Differences & Confusion, Explained!

Eating Herring Croaker Queenfish

This queenfish is said to have dry, mushy flesh that has a distinct muddy taste. Part of this taste comes from the bottomfeeding habit that herring croakers adopt. 

Even if you liked their taste, good luck getting any reasonably sized fillets from a herring croaker. Their small size means you’ll need a cooler full of these guys to make a meal! That’s a lot of work for meat that admittedly isn’t too great.

As a result of this rather unappetizing taste, queenfish are most often tossed back.

If you’re fishing near the Los Angeles area, it’s even more important not to eat these fish, as they can accumulate chemicals from the urban waste entering the water supply. Not the best fish to eat!

The Needlescaled Queenfish

Across the Pacific on the Australian coast, the Needlescaled queenfish is one of the premiere tropical game fish where it lives. A member of the jack family carangidae, this smooth and silvery fish fights like a truck and will readily take flies in the surf.

Needlescaled Queenfish
Needlescaled queenfish (Scomberoides tol)

Eating Needlescaled Queenfish

Growing up to 2 feet long, needlescaled queenfish will definitely give you more ‘bang for your buck’ than the Californian herring croaker when it comes to the quantity of meat. Even better, their flesh is said to be quite tasty, too!

The defining feature of this fish’s meat is its firmness. It won’t fall apart into flakes when cooked like many other fish fillets will, so it’s ideal for grilling and searing. 

It is often shunned on the plate in favor of other gamefish due to the dry texture of its meat, but this fish is said to pack some amazing nutty flavor into that dry flesh!

The addition of some sauce can remedy this moisture crisis and result in a fabulous fish dinner.

The Southern Hake Queenfish

Saving the best eating for last, the southern hake is a member of the hake family merlucciidae and lives in the cold waters off of coastlines in the subpolar south.

Two distinct populations exist off of the coastlines of South America and New Zealand, where they are important commercial fish.

Eating Southern Hake Queenfish

This commercial importance may clue you into the fact that these fish are renowned for their taste! Growing up to 14 inches long, each fish can net you some respectable fillets when caught.

Southern hake flesh is said to be just about as tasty as a fish can be! Light, tender, sweet with a bit of oceanic salinity- what’s not to love?

Southern hake (Merluccius australis)

The skeletal structure of this fish also means that bones are few and far between, making them easier to process as well.

Of the three queenfish we’ve discussed in this article, the southern hake is the only one widely sold on the global seafood market. This should give you an inkling of the wider world’s opinion on which of these is the best tasting!

You May Also Like: What Is The Best Tasting Fish? FULL Species List Ranked!

Why the Queenly Confusion!? 

Many articles already written on this topic post details from more than one of these species together as if they are writing about a single fish. That’s the danger of common names! But how did it get like this?

Even though you may know any given fish (and most other plants and animals) by a single name, most actually have many! Names fall into two categories- scientific names and common names. 

A plant or animal species only ever has one accepted scientific name, written in Latin. This is how scientists around the world make sure they’re all on the same page when talking about an organism.

Common names are trickier, however- they’re just whatever names people in a given region give to an organism. People across different areas may call the same animal by totally different names!

This is pretty common in other fish as well- the freshwater drum is called “sheephead” and “gaspergoo” in various regions of the US, and bluegill and other sunfish are often called “bream” in local areas as well.

Not only can common names change across a single species, but different species can have the same name, too!

This is what has happened over the years with our three queenfish…several different people from across the world all independently liked the name and it stuck every time!


Names like “kingfish,” “perch,” “bream,” and yes, “queenfish” are nearly meaningless by themselves since so many different fish are called by them.

But thankfully all of our ‘big three’ had other names and prefixes unique to them.

That’s good for your taste buds, too, as these fish could not taste more different from one another. It’s important to know which is which when it comes to taste!

Regardless of which queenfish is on your plate, enjoy your fresh-caught meal! It might just be royally good.

Thanks for reading!

Additional Reading: Is Abalone Good To Eat, And How’s It Taste?

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