Creature Feature: Cape Knifejaw

Over the past few weeks, we’ve come across a number of juvenile knifejaw hiding in small caves and under ledges at Steenbras River Mouth and Pinnacle.  Here’s some information about these beautiful and inquisitive fish:


Cape knifejaw, kraaibek galjoen, black parrotfish, cuckoo bass

Scientific Name:

Oplegnathus conwayi (Richardson, 1840)




Bony fish


51-100 cm


The Cape knifejaw is endemic to the area of coastline between False Bay and KwaZulu Natal in shallow water rocky reefs where the adults form territorial pairs.

The Cape knifejaw is a slow-growing species and has teeth fused in such a way as to form a beak, which resembles that of a parrot. This beak allows it to easily pull sponges and algae from the rocks.

Juvenile Knifejaw at Pinnacle, Gordons Bay

The juveniles are distinguished by having a yellow body with black stripes and tend to seek shelter next to floating objects, in small caves or overhangs.  Adult Cape Knifejaws are silver with black spots / black over silver on their bodies.

SASSI Information:

ColourRed (No Sale Species)

The Cape knifejaw is a Red-listed no-sale species, this means that it is illegal to sell or buy these species anywhere in South Africa. This species is specifically reserved for recreational fishers and may only be caught by fishers in possession of a recreational permit.



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