The dab is one of Britain and Ireland’s commonest flatfish. It is particularly commonplace in the North Sea. It thrives over sandy bottoms and is more often found in water between 20 and 40m deep, but smaller and younger dab will be found in really shallow areas, in less than 1m of water.
Most dabs measure around 25cm on average, but some individuals to 40cm-plus have been found.
Although small, dabs are great to eat as they are full of flavour.
Dabs are a light brown colour, oval, their eyes are situated on the right side of the body and their tail fin is rounded at the end. The pectoral fin can sometimes be orange, but not always.
The flesh on their backs is quite rough to the touch and you will find a very distinct lateral line that curves its way around the pectoral fin.
You may well encounter dab that have very small orange spots. These are no where near as pronounced and as visual as the plaice.
The dab has a very distinct method of feeding. It will lay on the sea bed, raise its head and wait patiently for the siphon tubes of worms or shellfish to emerge through the sand, silt or mud. Once it spots the siphon, the dab will lurch downwards in a flash to bite it off.
Dab also feed upon many other bottom dwelling creatures such as worms, fish, brittle stars, smaller urchins, crustaceans and molluscs.
Dab feed best at night, where they come in closer to the breakwater. Here a carefully cast worm or crab bait will tempt them to bite.
In Britain the dab breeds during the spring, when water temperatures have risen slightly. The females lay around 100,000 eggs in water between 20-40m deep.
These eggs float to the surface and drift towards shallower water, hatching after about a week depending upon water temperature.
Once they reach around 1.5cm the dab will have completed their transformation into the typical flatfish shape and will then drop to the seabed to continue their lives.
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