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What fish is not bottom feeders?

Jul 5, 2024 | by N Johansson

bottom feeder

What Fish Are Not Bottom Feeders? A Beginner's Guide

Not all fish scavenge the ocean floor for their meals. Many fascinating species thrive well above the seabed, employing unique feeding strategies that beginners and enthusiasts alike may find intriguing. Understanding non-bottom feeder fish can add a whole new dimension to your aquatic knowledge and fishing adventures. This guide introduces you to various types of non-bottom feeder fish, their feeding habits, habitats, and the best techniques to fish for them.

fish at different depths

Types of Non-Bottom Feeder Fish

  1. Surface Feeders

    • Surface feeders hunt for food at or near the water's surface. They have specialized feeding mechanisms to catch prey such as insects, plankton, or smaller fish that dwell close to the surface.
    • Example Species: Bluefin Tuna, Mullet
    • Bluefin Tuna: Known for their speed and power, these fish can be found near the water surface chasing schools of smaller fish.
    • Mullet: Often seen leaping out of the water, these fish feed on detritus and algae floating on the surface.
  2. Pelagic Fish

    • Pelagic fish inhabit the open water, living neither close to the bottom nor near the shore. They are often strong swimmers thriving in the open ocean.
    • Example Species: Skipjack Tuna, Mahi-Mahi
    • Skipjack Tuna: Commonly found in tropical and subtropical waters, these fast swimmers form large schools.
    • Mahi-Mahi: Also known as Dolphinfish, they are known for their vibrant colors and are found near the ocean surface in warm waters.
  3. Mid-Water Feeders

    • Mid-water feeders inhabit the middle depths of the ocean, feeding on plankton, small fish, and other marine organisms found in the open water column.
    • Example Species: Herring, Sardines
    • Herring: These small, schooling fish are found in the middle of the water column and are a vital part of the marine food chain.
    • Sardines: Known for their schooling behavior, they play a significant role in the diet of larger predatory fish.
  • Tuna

    • Habitat: Tuna are typically found in both temperate and tropical waters. They are highly migratory, often tracked for sport and commercial fishing.
    • Feeding Mechanism: Tuna are swift apex predators that hunt smaller fish like sardines and anchovies near the surface or mid-water.
  • Salmon

    • Typical Habitat: Salmon migrate from the ocean to freshwater to spawn, making them accessible in both marine and riverine environments.
    • Diet: They feed on a variety of marine life, including smaller fish, squid, and crustaceans.
  • Mackerel

    • Description: These fish are known for their distinctive striped bodies and iridescent scales, inhabiting both coastal and offshore waters.
    • Fishing Tips: Mackerel can be caught using techniques like trolling and bait fishing during their spawning season.
  • Sardines and Herring

    • Behavior: These small, schooling fish migrate in complex patterns and are known for their synchronized swimming.
    • Ecological Impact: As primary food sources for many larger marine species, they are crucial for maintaining balance in marine ecosystems.

Feeding Habits

Non-bottom feeder fish have evolved diverse and fascinating strategies to obtain food from the water column or surface. Depending on the season and availability of prey, these fish adapt their feeding habits to ensure survival. For instance, surface feeders like Bluefin Tuna rely heavily on schools of fish that stay near the surface, while mid-water feeders like Sardines filter plankton from the water.


Understanding the habitats of non-bottom feeders is crucial for both conservation and fishing purposes:

  • Oceanic: Pelagic fish, such as Mahi-Mahi and Skipjack Tuna, thrive in the open ocean.
  • Riverine: Species like Salmon highlight the interplay between freshwater and marine environments.
  • Coastal Waters: Fish like Mackerel can often be found in coastal waters, accessible to shore-based anglers.

Fishing Techniques

Effective fishing techniques for catching non-bottom feeders:

  • Trolling
    • Technique: Drag baited lines through the water from a moving boat.
    • Tips: Use colorful lures and vary your speed to attract fish like Tuna and Mahi-Mahi.
  • Fly Fishing
    • Technique: Uses lightweight lures to mimic the movement of insects on the water surface.
    • Tips: Best for surface feeders like Mullet, especially in rivers and lakes.
  • Netting
    • Technique: Captures fish using various types of nets.
    • Tips: Best suited for schooling fish like Sardines and Herring; ensure sustainable practices to avoid overfishing.

Ecological Role

Non-bottom feeders play a significant role in marine ecosystems, occupying various levels within the food chain. They serve as prey for larger predators and help control the population of smaller marine organisms, contributing to the health of marine habitats and biodiversity.


Non-bottom feeder fish offer a diverse and fascinating look into the aquatic world. From the surface-skimming Mullet to the open-water Mahi-Mahi, these fish bring vibrancy and balance to marine ecosystems. Understanding their habits and knowing how to fish for them can lead to more rewarding fishing experiences and contribute to conservation efforts. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a curious beginner, there's always more to explore in the world of non-bottom feeder fish. So grab your gear, head to the water, and happy fishing!