The colorful tilefish, known as the “clown of the sea,” may look like a tropical species, but it is found from Florida to as far north as Nova Scotia. Tilefish inhabit a narrow stretch of ocean floor in a band of warm water along the upper reaches of the continental slope. The major fishing grounds are off eastern Florida, southern New Jersey and the tip of Long Island, N.Y. Fishermen target tilefish with longlines; it is a selective fishery with little bycatch. Whether from Miami or Montauk, almost all tilefish is sold fresh, graded and priced by size: The bigger the fish, the higher the per-pound price. But just because smaller tilefish are less expensive than large ones, that doesn’t mean you’ve got a bargain. The smaller fish have a shorter shelf life, and their flesh tends to be softer. Tilefish can grow up to 4 feet and 80 pounds, although 5 to 10 pounds are average in the commercial catch. Fish from deeper waters dine primarily on crabs, giving them a firmer texture and sweeter flavor than those harvested in shallower waters.