What is a Sablefish?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

The sablefish is a fish that goes by many different names. It has a different name in almost every country in which it is consumed. In the English-speaking countries alone, the sablefish has eight different names.

Sablefish are known to feed on squid.
Sablefish are known to feed on squid.

In the United States, sablefish is referred to as butterfish or simply sable. Australians also refer to the fish as butterfish. In the United Kingdom, sablefish is called black cod, blue cod, bluefish, coal cod, and candlefish. In Canda, sablefish is called coalfish. To confuse the matter a bit further, the names listed above are also sometimes used to refer to other species of fish. The fish is also eaten in Japan and Thailand where, of course, it has other names.

Sablefish has a texture similar to sea bass.
Sablefish has a texture similar to sea bass.

To be quite specific, sablefish is one of only two members of the fish family Anoplopomatidae. Furthermore, it is the only species in the Anoplopoma genus. Its full Latin name is Anoplopoma fimbria.

Sablefish generally reside in muddy sea beds in the North Pacific. They are found at depths of 1000 to 9000 ft (300 to 2,700 m). They are preying fish which means that they consume other, smaller fish. They feed on walleye pollock, capelin, eulachon, sandlance, herring, among others. They are also known to feed on jellyfish and squid.

Sablefish may have so many names because it is very popular. In fact, it is a delicacy in many countries. One of the reasons that the white, oily meat of the fish is prized is that it has both a sweet taste and a flaky texture. When it is cooked, it is quite similar to the texture of sea bass. In fact, sablefish is sometimes used to replace sea bass and vice versa.

This fish, when prepared without too much oil or butter, is considered to be a very healthy food. It contains omega 3 fatty acids which are considered to be very valuable to overall health and are believed by many to improve the symptoms of peope with circulatory and cardiovascular problems. While salmon, especially wild salmon, is generally thought of as one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids, sablefish has almost as much. Furthermore, they have been found to be low in mercury. This is an important note as many people who consume fish are concerned about the levels of mercury that they may be consuming.

The sablefish can live for an incredible amount of time. In fact, there have been some found to be over 75 years old.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


I love eating just about any kind of seafood, and enjoy ordering it when we go out to eat. I like tasting different kinds of fish and how they are prepared.

I once had some fresh Alaskan salmon that was probably the best fish I have ever tasted. When I had the chance to try some sablefish, I was pretty excited about it.

For some reason, I didn't care for the taste and think it was more the way it was prepared than the fish itself.

This was poached with a cream sauce and included tomatoes, garlic and basil. It all sounded pretty good, but I didn't care for the combination of ingredients.

I wouldn't mind trying this fish again, but think I would prefer it grilled or broiled, and with a different kind of sauce.


I am not usually much of a fish eater. I know it is good for you, but just don't care much for the taste of seafood. The levels of mercury in some seafood like the bluefin tuna also concern me.

My husband, on the other hand, loves seafood and encouraged me to try some of this sablefish. This fish was broiled with a very good glaze on the top.

The glaze had honey, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, orange zest and ginger. I don't know whether it was the glaze, the way the fish was prepared or if it was the type of fish, but it was pretty good.

It didn't have much of a fishy taste, and the glaze really made it good. This was served with rice and broccoli that also had a little bit of orange flavor to it.

You can use this glaze on any kind of fish, and I even plan to try it on some chicken.


I went to a friend's party recently where they were serving smoked sablefish. It was used in a spread similar to what you would see laid out with smoked salmon. I have to say, it was a revelation. I had never had sablefish before but it was one of the most delicious fish I have ever eaten.

My friend did not smoke the sablefish herself, she bought it from a company off of the internet that ships it out in vacuum sealed bags. I looked in to buying some and it is pretty expensive but I think for the right occasion it will be worth it.


I have heard many people compare sablefish to sea bass but I have never been able to taste the similarity. In fact, I much prefer sablefish and usually try to avoid sea bass which I have never particularly liked.

I have several great sablefish recipes that I think really compliment the natural flavors of the meat. I love to grill it but it also tastes great poached. I have also used sablefish to make certain Asian dishes that call for fish meat. It is really a versatile and delicious fish.

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