St. Lawrence species

Winter skate

Leucoraja ocellata

Type of resource

  • Bottom fish
  • Fish

Status of the resource

  • Endangered

SIZE : Up to 109 cm.
LIFE EXPECTANCY : Jusqu’à 30 ans

LIFE CYCLE : Sexual maturity between 11 and 13 years.

Males are equipped with erectile hooks, used during mating to transfer sperm. After fertilisation, females can produce up to 52 eggs a year. These are rectangular in shape, brown-green in color and called egg capsules. They are about 8 cm long and have long, horny spikes at the four corners. The incubation period can last up to 22 months. Newborns resemble adults and measure between 11.2 cm and 12.7 cm.

Researchers believe that reproduction may occur throughout the year, with peaks in summer and autumn.

Winter skate have their reproductive organs on their ventral side.
Credit : Robert Baronet, photo taken in Exploramer's aquariums, 2010.

The Winter skate has a flat diamond-shaped body, a long thin tail, and a rounded snout. Its back is rough, with spines that decrease in number with age. It is pale to dark brown in color with small round spots and one to four white spots bordered in black. The ventral side is whitish with irregular beige markings.

On the bottom, usually at depths inferior to 111 m, but can reach depths of over 700 m.

The Winter skate prefers a sandy or gravelly bottom and water temperatures ranging between -1.2 °C and 15 °C.

The winter skate usually stands on the bottom. But isn't it graceful when it swims?
Credit : Robert Baronet, photo taken in Exploramer's aquariums, 2010.




Sand lances




Barndoor skates

Grey seals



MACHINES : No commercial fishing. Incidental catch (dredging and trawling).

Fishing for winter skate is banned in Canada. Unfortunately, it is an incidental catch in trawl, dredge, and longline fishing.


Winter skate is rich in protein, vitamin B12, and selenium. It is low in fat.


The pectoral fins are known as “skate wings”. White, delicate, and lean, the flesh requires only a short cooking time, offering an exceptional texture that is delicate, yet firm. The wings are delicious pan-fried, poached, or baked. They have a fine, slightly sweet flavour.

Despite this advice, Winter skate is an endangered species. We need to find ways to help it replenish itself.