Fish ID Guide

New Zealand fish guide.

This guide to identification of New Zealand fishes is intended for field use by non-specialists − fishers, fisheries observers, and others. Technical terms are kept to a minimum, and identification features are mostly those that can be readily observed on freshly caught specimens without dissection or microscopic examination. The guide covers 252 species from 97 families, including hagfishes, cartilaginous (chimaeras, sharks, skates, and rays) and bony teleost fishes. It includes species that are also not commonly caught. For each species there is an annotated colour image or line drawing of the fish to illustrate distinguishing features, a New Zealand distribution map, and text covering distinguishing features, colour, size, distribution, depth, similar species, biology and ecology, and references. This is the first edition of this field guide. Further editions will be published as new information accumulates.


The guide has four main sections.

  1. External features of fishes. Illustrations of some of the technical terms used to identify fishes are provided as an introduction to the main identification sections.
  2. Guide to families. Recognising the family to which a species belongs is often the first step in identification. The family guide provides distinguishing features for each of the families covered here, plus a small image of an example species from each family.
  3. Guide to species. This section makes up most of the guide, and consists of detailed species accounts. Each species is described by common and scientific names and includes Distinguishing features, natural colour, maximum size, distribution, depth range biology and ecology with references to similar species.
  4. References, and indexes for species common and scientific names, Ministry of Fisheries three-letter reporting and research codes, and family common and scientific names.

Click below for Volume 1: Common bottom and mid water fish species

McMillan NZ fishes Vol 1

Click below for Volume 2: Less common bottom and mid water fish species

McMillan NZ fishes Vol 2

Click below for Volume 3: Common surface dwelling fish species

McMillan NZ fishes Vol 3

This  New Zealand Fish ID poster includes the common names of fish found around our coastline and has been compiled from fish tagged and released in the TMRCT inshore fish tagging program.

If you would like a copy for yourself these A2 posters are available from the trust website. Go to the order tagging gear page from the tagging program drop down box at the top of the page or follow the link

Join the cause and Donate today

As we are a Charitable Trust, your donations are 100% tax deductable.
A donation receipt will be provided for tax purposes