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Bottomfish Identification: Flatfish

Starry Flounder
Platichthys stellatus

Commonly caught off the outer Washington coast, and occasionally within Puget Sound, by recreational harvesters.

Description: This species belongs to the right-eyed flounder family, but can also be left-eyed.  It has an oval body shape and a slender, pointed head. The eyed side is olive to dark brown or almost black and the blind side is white or creamy white. Unpaired fins are white to yellow to orange, with distinct black bars. This species has a caudal fin that is nearly square or slightly rounded. Starry flounder have a lateral line with a slight curve over the pectoral fin and lack an accessory dorsal branch. They have a small mouth, and a maxillary that extends below the anterior part of the lower eye. The eyes are small with the lower eye anterior to the upper eye and a flat space between them. The anal spine is strong. This flounder has scattered rough tubercles (star-like scales) on both the eyed and blind sides.

Maximum Size: To 91 cm (36 in) in length, and 9 kg (19.8 lbs) in weight.

Maximum Age: 24 years for males and 17 years for females.

Range/Habitat: They range from the Seas of Japan and Okhotsk up to the Rom Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands south to Los Angeles Harbor, California. They are most commonly found on mud, sand, or gravel bottoms from 0 to 375 m (1,230 ft).  Starry flounder are most common above 146 m (479 ft). They are usually found near shore and often enter brackish or fresh water.


  • Kramer, D. E., & Josey, T. (1995). Guide to Northeast Pacific flatfishes: families Bothidae, Cynoglossidae and Pleuronectidae. Sea Grant.
  • Orcutt, H. G. (1949). The life history of the starry flounder, Platichtys stellatus (Pallas) (Doctoral dissertation, Stanford Univ.).

Photos: S. Axtell