Going Fishing? Learn These 20 Types of Fish in Spanish
Whether you’re an avid pescador (fisher) or you just want to expand your Spanish know-how, learning about fish in Spanish is a surefire way to catch more vocabulary.
So, let’s “go fish” in Spanish? ¡Pesquemos!
El pez if in el mar, el pescado if on el menú!
When it comes to talking fish in Spanish, you’ll first want to discern your pez from your pescado.
A fish in Spanish that swims around freely in the water is called el pez—or los peces for more than one fish. You have tipos de peces (types of fish) and las especies de peces (species of fish).
A school of many fish of the same species is una escuela de peces or un banco de peces. If a group of various species, it’s un cardumen (a shoal).
Once fished for food, whether just out of the water, appearing on the menu, or cooked on the plate, a fish in Spanish changes from el pez to el pescado.
With the suffix -ado, the noun pescado (fished) is like the past participle of the verb pescar (to fish). So once el pez is literally “fished” from the water, it has become el pescado.
On el menú (the menu) and en las pescaderías (fish markets), you’ll find tipos de pescados (types of fish), pescado del dia (fish of the day) and tipos de mariscos (types of seafood), but you’ll never find un pez anywhere—if it’s not swimming!
Viva el pez in la paz of the water!
Today, we are focusing on fish in Spanish that are alive in the rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans of the world, as opposed to what’s served up with garlic and lemon.
Fish live in either agua dulce (fresh water) or agua salada (salt water).
Before we get into fish in Spanish, what about the bodies of water the fish live within?
|Bodies of Water in Spanish|
Fish in Spanish: More than the sum of their parts?
Fish are most obviously differentiated by their size and physical appearance, so let’s also consider the features of fish.
|Physical Features of Fish in Spanish|
|los radios de las aletas||fin rays|
|la aleta caudal||tail fin|
|la aleta dorsal||dorsal fin|
|la aleta pectoral||pectoral fin|
|la aleta pélvica||pelvic fin|
|las cubiertas branquiales||gill covers|
A Fish By Any Other Name is Still a Fish, in Spanish!
These are some of the most common types of fish we know, only in Spanish!
1. El atún – tuna
El atún is a saltwater migratory fish found throughout the oceans of the world. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the waters of Panama, and the Revillagigedo Archipelago are tops spots for sport-fishing atún aleta amarilla (yellowfin tuna). Curiously, bluefin tuna are called atún rojo.
2. La trucha, la trucha de mar – trout, trout of the sea
La trucha is mostly a freshwater river fish, though some are able to live in salt water, especially where the rivers spill out into the ocean. Trucha arco iris (rainbow trout) mostly spend their lives in freshwater. The Rio Grande in Argentina is considered one of the best trout fishing hotspots in the world.
3. El salmón – salmon
El salmón lives in both fresh and salt water, while both birthing and spawning in fresh water. This fish is native to tributaries of the Pacific Ocean and North Atlantic, and are not naturally present in Latin America. The waters of Asturias are most famous for salmon fishing in Spain.
4. La anchoa – anchovy
La anchoa is a baitfish that is most commonly found in salt water, but also exists in fresh water. Now, when turned into an olive oil and vinegar drenched tapas in Spain, this pez specifically becomes boquerón.
5. El mero – grouper
El mero is a plump saltwater fish who abundantly inhabits seaweed and corals and are often caught by bottom-fishing. The English word “grouper” derives from the Portuguese name, garoupa.
6. El pargo – snapper
El pargo ia a saltwater fish, including the popular pargo rojo—this time red means red! These fish are commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of Central America and northern South America.
7. El bagre – catfish
El bagre lives in fresh water, salt water and brackish water. Outside river bends and at the mouth of tributaries are two common places to find los bagres. They are diverse in South America and the silver dorado catfish of the Amazon river is the world-champion of freshwater fish migration, swimming 7,200 miles.
8. La macarela – mackerel
La macarela lives in tropical and temperate seas, off the coast and offshore across major oceans – and serves in schools as baitfish for the clever strategies of larger fish, sharks, dolphins, whales, and birds. Las macarelas are a common game fish in Central America.
9. El eglefino – haddock
El eglefino is a saltwater ray-finned fish found in the North Atlantic ocean, which is part of the same family as el bacalao (cod), only fishier tasting when pescado.
10. El pez espada – swordfish
El pez espada is among the open ocean’s strongest and fastest marine depredadores (predators). It can increase its bodyweight one million times across its lifespan! These sword fighters live in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, from surface level to depths of over 2,200 meters.
11. El arenque – herring
Most species of los arenques are saltwater fish, with some returning to freshwater to spawn. This forage fish can be found not only in the shallow waters of the North Pacific and North Atlantic, but also resides off the west coast of South America.
Los arenques are often used as bait for freshwater fishing. When canned, you will know them as las sardinas (sardines).
12. La lubina – seabass
La lubina is a marine fish that swims the shallow waters of warm and tropical seas, while bass in general can be saltwater or freshwater. The giant seabass (called mero gigante in Mexico) primarily lives around the North Channel Islands of California, the Pacific Coast of Baja California, and the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
13. La merluza – hake
La merluza is a saltwater fish and part of the cod family, like haddock, who live 200 to 350 meters deep in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. The Spanish eat more merluzas than anyone else in Europe. In South America, la merluza is found off the Atlantic coast of Uruguay and Argentina and off the Pacific coast of Chile and Peru.
14. La barracuda – barracuda
Okay, some fish in Spanish go by the same name as in English, though you will have to roll that rr! La barracuda is a razor-toothed marine fish that swims close to shore in tropical and subtropical seas, though some freshwater fish carry this name too. Great barracudas can swim up to 36mph and are found in the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
15. La platija – flounder
La platija quite literally has a roving eye. Born with bilateral symmetry, la platija begins to lean to one side after a few days, while one eye moves to what will be the top side of the fish to protect from predators. These flatfish become bottom dwellers in shallow areas of oceans and other bodies of water.
16. El lenguado – sole
El lenguado is another flatfish with a roving eye that ends up on the same side as the other, but unlike la platija, los lenguados venture more to the depths—mostly in European seas—and lean particularly towards being right-eyed.
17. La perca – perch
La perca is a freshwater fish found in ponds, creeks, lakes, and rivers—most often near vegetation—associated with North America.
18. El dorado or la llampuga – mahi mahi
El dorado is a saltwater dolphin fish that swims close to the surface in warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean.
19. El piraña – piranha
El piraña is a fish with an unfairly savage reputation for flesh munching, exclusive to the tropical freshwater of the Amazon basin. These little sharp-tooths enjoy murky rivers and streams.
20. El tiburón – shark
No fish in Spanish list would be complete with el tiburón! The English used this same word for this infamous big fish, after borrowing it from the Carib Indians like the Spaniards did. They then borrowed xoc from the Mayans in the 16th century, and the word became “shark.” Central America boasts four of the top 10 places to see the endangered tiburón ballena (whale shark).
Fish in Spanish: Vamos pescando! (Let’s go fishing)
Now that you know the names of some fish in Spanish, you might want to go fishing (um, we don’t recommend going for the shark) to practice remembering the words. Then you will want to know the Spanish names of some of your fishing gear, too!
|Common Fishing Gear in Spanish|
|atrapar un pez||to catch a fish|
|capturar y soltar||catch and release|
|ajustar el anzuelo||to set the hook|
|la vara de pescar, la caña de pescar||fishing rod|
|la carnada para pescar||fishing bait|
|los anzuelos / los señuelos||hooks|
|equipo de pesca||tackle|
|la caja para equipo de pesca||tacklebox|
|el bote/la barca||boat|
|el bote de pescado||fishing boat|
|los mejores sitios para pescar||best fishing spots|
|licencia de pesca||fishing license|
|el pescador/a||fisherman, fisherwoman, fisher|
If you want to dive even deeper into the Spanish vocabulary of el pescador, check out this Spanish translation guide from takemefishing.org.
Fish in Spanish in Practice!
Las mejores horas para pescar son temprano por la mañana y por la tarde durante el verano.
The best hours to fish are the early morning and late afternoon in summer.
La hora del anochecer es el mejor tiempo para pescar durante la primavera y el otoño.
Dusk is the best time to fish during spring and fall.
Los arenques son una buena carnada para atrapar los atunes.
Herring is a good bait for catching tuna.
No comeremos el pez espada, solo lo estaremos capturando y soltando.
We won’t eat the swordfish, we just are going to capture and release it.
Translating “Fishy” English Phrases into Spanish
As we’re playing with words related to fish in Spanish, let’s play with some non-literal translations of “fishy” English expressions in Spanish.
Hay mucho más donde elegir.
There are plenty more fish in the sea.
Ella es como un pez fuera del agua.
She’s like a fish out of water.
Tengo cosas más importantes que hacer.
I have bigger fish to fry.
A él le gusta ser un pez gordo en un lugar pequeño.
He likes to be a big fish in a small pond.
A él no le gusta ser uno de tantos.
He doesn’t like to be a small fish in a big pond (one of many).
Esa atleta nada como un pez.
That athlete swims like a fish.
Hooked Yet? Fishing To Bring Home More Spanish?
Well, that was quite a deep-dive into the language seas of fish in Spanish! You might want to make flashcards with some of the new vocabulary presented here.
Going deep into specific themes, such as fishing and fish in Spanish, is a strategic and savvy way to expand your vocabulary in no time, topic by topic!
If you want to truly stretch the sails of your Spanish practice, practice your conversation about fish in Spanish with a native Spanish speaker. Sign up for a free class!
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