Onaga, or Ruby Snapper, is named after its bright red appearance and has large eyes that allow it to live in the deep sea. It is better known by its Japanese name than Hawaiian name, ‘Ula‘ula koa‘e, which roughly translate as “the red fish with the tail of the Koa‘e bird”. It is one of Hawai’I’s “deep seven” bottomfish species, and ranges from the Indian to Pacific Ocean. Onaga inhabits rocky bottoms of continental shelves and slopes between 600 and 1,000 feet deep. It grows up to 30 pounds and 3 feet.
Onaga have a vivid scarlet color and a long slender tail whose tips may be red or black. The fish’s iris is usually a brilliant red as well. This long-lived species is often served raw as sashimi. In Japanese culture, having Onaga during weddings and New Year’s represents good luck, due to its red color.
Onaga take a relatively long time to mature. They reach sexual maturity once they grow between 23 and 35 inches in length, or four years of age. Female Onaga begin maturing in June, with fully ripe eggs in July. Peak spawning activity for does not happen until October, lasting about a month. This is most likely due to increases in water temperature and length of day. Their pelagic eggs hatch 17 to 36 hours after spawning.
This fishery uses rods and reels to catch six species of snapper and one species of grouper that are called “bottomfish.”
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