Starry Flounder       Platichthys stellatus

The Starry Flounder is one of the larger flatfish species in Puget Sound growing to 3 ft in length and up to 20 lbs over two to three years.  The Starry Flounder is named for the stellate (which is latin for starry) scales seen on its upper side as small round bumps. It is easily distinguished from other flatfish by the orange and black strips on the fins. While not of major commercial importance, recreational fishers often catch this flatfish. The Starry Flounder ranges from Southern California up to Alaska and over to Japan and Korea and from shallow waters to a depth of around 1000 ft.

There are some 23 different local flatfish including halibut. Flatfish derive their name from their habit of lying flat on the bottom on either their left or right side. They begin life as a normal fish swimming upright. Then the juveniles make a extraordinary anatomical change by moving one of their eyes from one side of their head to the other. This allows them to swim on their side while on the bottom yet continue to retain binocular vision for hunting. In addition the upper side remains colored to serve as camouflage while the bottom side is  pale. Flatfish usually lie still on the bottom throwing sediment over them to provide additional camouflage while they wait from crab, small fish or shrimp to pass by.  In addition they may move slowly along the bottom picking up worms, clams or nipping off clam siphons.

Starry Flounder are unusual among flatfish in that they tolerate low salinity marine water allowing them to penetrate the mouths of rivers and streams. In addition while other flatfish species are either right or left sided, Starry Flounder can be either with around 60% being left sided in our area (in Japan they are all left sided). The pictured individual has the eyes on the left side as indicated by the direction of the mouth opening.