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Discovering the Taste of Kahawai: What to Expect

Kahawai is a delicious fish found in Australia and New Zealand. If you’ve ever fished for Kahawai, you’ve probably considered keeping your catch for dinner. But does Kahawai taste good? What does Kahawai taste like

The short answer is that Kahawai tastes great! The meat is fatty with an intense taste similar to Coho salmon or Chinook. 

Kahawai is also referred to as the Australian salmon or even sea trout. The easiest way to prepare Kahawai is to wrap it in foil with your favorite herbs. The foil locks in the moisture and also helps to keep things clean. Let’s dig into more about what does Kahawai taste like.

Is Kahawai an Oily Fish?

Kahawai has a chunky fillet and a high oil content. Because they are typically oily fish, smoking the fillets is one of the best ways to prepare the meat. It’s much oilier than other ocean-going fish, like Cubera Snapper or Tripletail.

Why Do You Bleed Kahawai?

Blood in the flesh gives off a pungent, unpleasant taste. Bleeding the fish removes the strong taste in the flesh from the bloodline. 

Can You Eat Kahawai Raw?

Kahawai can be enjoyed raw long as you eat the fish as fresh as possible. When Kahawai is freshly caught (and bled, of course), it is perfect for ceviche dishes, sashimi, or kokoda (a traditional Fijian dish). These types of dishes are perfect for preparing on the boat or on the beach as it comes out of the sea. This is important to consider when wondering what does Kahawai taste like.

Where to Find Kahawai

Kahawai fish cut and prepared with salt and sugar for wood smoking

The New Zealand coast has an abundance of Kahawai. They can be caught off the shore and can be seen in large schools passing just beyond the surf. Kahawai is a migratory fish species and will travel along the coastline. 

Author Note: But Kahawai is not only found in New Zealand. The Australian coast is also lush with this tasty species. In Australia, you might not have heard it by the name of Kahawai, but you might have heard it referred to as Australian salmon.

The kahawai is found mainly along the West Coast and can travel as far south as the Banks Peninsula in the summertime. The Kahawai is an inshore pelagic species, and with their streamlined bodies, they are perfect for cruising the coastlines in schools. Large boil-ups can often be seen from the shore. 

The kahawai do not only stay along the coast. They will roam into the deep open ocean but will also head into river mouths and estuaries. Kahawai are not shy of strong currents, and anglers should target areas with strong currents. Anglers enjoy targeting this species as the Kahawai are not fussy about their geographical location and enjoy a variety of habitats. They are easy to target and an ideal species for recreational fishermen. 

Physical Attributes

The Kahawai is a beautiful fish with a green-blue upper body that can sometimes shade into a purple or dark blue. The fish will have different markings that are often irregular. The lower belly part is generally silver or white color. As for the body shape, it is a streamlined fish that flattens out at the tail. The dorsal fin is relatively high at the front and is joined at a notch to the soft dorsal fin. They look similar to striped sea bass.

Kahawai Family

The Kahawai are part of the Arripdae family and are related to the Northern kahawai. It was only in the 90s that the two species were identified as being separate. The Northern kahawai are a larger species and make the New Zealand coastline their home, but can also be found in the Kermadec Islands’ waters. 


Kahawai will spawn as much as 100m deep. Their breeding season is in the late summer, and the young juveniles are found in the early autumn in estuaries or in sheltered bays. 

Are Kahawai Good Eating?

Two fillets of freshly home-smoked New Zealand kahawai fish

The flesh of the kahawai fillet can go off fast. For this reason, it is best to bleed to fish as quickly as you can after catching. The bloodlines are distinctive and can be easily identified. The fish is considered an excellent fillet to eat and can be the perfect type of fish to use for a pie, curry, or simply a smoked fillet.

Author Note: Females typically grow larger than males. The average male will be between 1 and 2 kgs, and the average female can weigh around 3 kg. The length of the males will be between 40 and 50 cm, while the females will grow to 60cm. 

Need a simple Kahawai recipe? Here is an easy recipe to make the catch of the day into the meal of the week!

Our Favorite Kahawai Recipe

  1. Before you begin, make sure your oven is preheated to 425 F
  2. Mix your olive oil, garlic, herbs, and spices in a bowl. The best herbs are dills and parsley and use salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Lay out foil; a separate piece of foil for each fillet. Place the fillets on the foil. Brush the olive oil mixture onto each fillet, flipping the fillets and brushing each side. 
  4. Place your lemon and onion on each fillet. 
  5. Fold the foil to create a foil packet for each fillet. Make sure you crimp the edges so that each package is tightly sealed. 
  6. Place the packets side by side on a baking tray and put them in the oven. Leave them to bake for approximately 15 minutes. You’ll know they are ready once the flakes come off easily. 


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 x minced garlic cloves
  • 1x tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 x teaspoon parsley (dried)
  • 1 x teaspoon dill (dried) 
  • 1 x teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried dill
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 x fillets 
  • Foil 
  • 1 x onion, sliced
  • 1 x lemon sliced

Serve your fillets with rice and vegetables (steamed broccoli is best) for a healthy meal, or make some potato chips for something more indulgent. 

Although Kajawai is a great fish to eat raw, it is not as popular as flounder, snapper, gurnard, or tarakihi. However, if you manage to prepare this fish correctly, then it could taste delicious and make a great meal. There are a variety of ways to cook this feather, whether you bake, grill, or fry it.

Kahawai is a great fish to create fish cakes, fish pies, or even a soup. One of the best ways to eat this species is to brine it using a soy sauce mixture. The soy sauce mixture can be made using soy sauce, brown sugar, and salt. After that, you should smoke the prepared fish after it has brined. 

Kahawai Nutritional Value

The Kahawai fish is rich in oil, and as such, the omega-3 levels are high. It would be best if you bled the fish as soon as possible to ensure it tastes good. Next, you should remove the head, the body gutted, and then it should be put onto the ice to preserve it. If you are keen to have a snack, cut thin slivers of the fish and dip them in soy sauce. Add some wasabi to it if you want an extra little kick. 

Fishing Kahawai

Anglers can have fun fishing for the kahawai. It is an exciting fish to hook and can give up a fuss. It is an aggressive species that give up a good fight when hooked. 

They are easy to fish to hook because they mainly feed on small fish, so they will often lunge for lures

How to Catch Kahawai 

Fillet of sea white cod fish

The Kahawai is a carnivorous hunter that targets smaller species and can travel in schools, either large or small. One this is for sure, whether they are in a school of 10 or 10,000, they are prolific and successful hunters. If you are a seasoned angler that knows how to target Kingfish, then you will find that the Kahawai is similar in many ways.

However, there are several differences between the two species. Pole Spear fishermen often target the Kingfish, but the Kahawai often travels too fast for a spearfisherman. We recommend surfcasting for Kahawai.

Author Note: The Kahawai can travel as fast as 100 miles per hour, and, therefore, they are too fast for a speargun. If you are a spearfish man looking to target a Kahawau, there are a few things to look out for.

Most spearfishermen will know that to hunt a fast-moving fish successfully. It would be best if you led instead of track. One trick is to aim for where you predict the Kahawai will swim instead of aiming it at the rapid swimming fish itself. You should also make sure you have a proper spearfishing wetsuit.

Spearfishing for Kahawai 

If you are aiming at spearing a Kahawai, then you should be prepared for a fight. If you are not careful, you could end up with tangled gear. The flesh itself is soft and can rip if you do not get them close as fast as possible. The trick is to avoid putting excess strain on them and get them close to you as fast as possible. Dive down to the fish instead of pulling them closer to you. This will help to avoid tearing the fish’s flesh. 

Kahawai can be targeted off the rocks or out in the open ocean. Smaller juveniles can be found in estuaries. Kahawai can also be caught with surface poppers or even off of the shore. They are great fish to target and are the ideal species for a novice to target. Just make sure you get a good pair of freediving fins!


A family fishing trip is perfect for targeting this species as young children can enjoy the fight of the Kahawai as well. Some have even caught this species with drag nets on beaches when schools of Kahawai come rushing past the shore. If you are keen on using a net, then target tidal channels or even a beach seining in an estuary.

They are easy to find as long as you target saltwater. We hope you enjoyed this article on what does Kahawai taste like. 

Happy Hunting!


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