Flying Fish, a fish having large fins with which it can glide through the air. Most flying fish live in tropical and subtropical areas of the ocean, but some range as far north as Maine. Flying fish are believed to take to the air to escape enemies. In the air, many become the prey of seabirds. The fish sometimes fall to the decks of ships, particularly when attracted by light at night.

Flying fishFlying fish have large fins with which it glides through the air.

Flying fish are referred to as two-winged or four-winged, the “wings” being the enlarged fins used for gliding. All have enlarged pectoral fins (side fins near the head), cylindrical bodies, and lobed tails; the fourwinged species have enlarged pelvic fins (bottom fins near the tail) as well. A flying fish gets its initial speed by swimming rapidly. It then begins to leap into the air, spreads its fins, and picks up additional speed by vibrating the long lower lobe of its tail in the water. After gaining sufficient speed, it rises completely out of the water.

Two-winged flying fish range from 7 to 12 inches (18 to 30 cm) in length. The common flying fish of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is 12 inches long. Four-winged flying fish are larger, averaging 15 inches (38 cm) in length. The California flying fish of the Pacific Ocean is the largest, growing to 19 inches (48 cm) in length.

Flying fish belong to the family Exocoetidae. The common flying fish is Exocoetus volitans; the California flying fish, Cypselurus californicus.