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What is a Rainbow Runner?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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The rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulata, also called the Hawaiian salmon, rainbow yellowtail, or Spanish jack, is a marine fish of the family Carangidae. It is the only member of the Elagatis genus. The rainbow runner, native to tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, is both a game fish and table fish.

The rainbow runner is most closely related to amberjack fish, of the genus Seriola. The fish was first described in 1825, when it was thought to be a member of the Seriola genus. The Elagatis genus was created by English zoologist Edward Bennett in 1840. The rainbow runner gets its common name from its striking colors, dark blue or green on top, fading to white underneath, with two light blue horizontal stripes flanking a yellow or light green stripe on each side. The largest rainbow runner on record weighed 101.85 pounds (46.2 kg), but the largest possible length of the species is disputed.

The rainbow runner is a carnivorous fish feeding mostly on small fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. They are also one of the few fish species to eat insects that land on the surface of the open ocean. Rainbow runners live in schools that can contain up to several hundred fish. Like salmon, they are very migratory.

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Rainbow runners are usually caught as bycatch in other fishing operations, such as tuna and shark fishing, and then sold. They are not typically the target of commercial fishing. Though rainbow runners are said to have a fair to excellent flavor, they do not usually sell well because the species is not as well known as other edible fish. They may be sold fresh, frozen, or salted.

Rainbow runners are sometimes recreationally fished, and the species is also sometimes used as bait for larger fish including tuna and billfish. Archeological evidence suggests that some prehistoric groups living in Micronesia fished for rainbow runners as food. They most likely trolled, or pulled, bait behind canoes.

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