WHAT LURKS BEHIND BARS
An angler fishing with my business partner, Capt. Matt Tusa, caught this funny-looking thing while fishing around some structure in Chandeleur Sound, about 20 miles south of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The water depth was 10 to 12 feet, and they were fishing with live shrimp on bottom rigs. Over the years, we’ve seen some strange critters come out of these waters, but this one takes the cake. We think it might be some sort of grunt or pigfish. They released the fish unharmed, not knowing the species and not wanting to break any laws. Any ideas?
Capt. Sonny Schindler Shore Thing Fishing Charters Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Well, Sonny, you had us stumped for a while, and in our defense, for good reason. The fish you nailed is a barred grunt, Conodon nobilis. I didn’t suspect this at first because these guys tend to be more tropical, and aren’t known from the northern Gulf. Also, your specimen was unusually vivid in its markings. But a little digging, and some photos of similarly marked specimens
from Texas, confirmed the ID. Grunts get their name from the sound they make by grinding the teeth on bones located in the back of the throat called pharyngeal bones. Most grunts are small, topping off at about a foot or so, as with your barred grunt. Although grunts are extremely abundant along most temperate and tropical areas, they are not a prized food fish. Barred grunts are known as far north as Texas, but are most common in the Caribbean and south to Brazil.