CONEY, NO BALONEY

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS - — Bob Shipp

We caught this fish in Septem­ber, out of Venice, Louisiana, at an oil rig in 900 feet of water. We found a mas­sive school of them in the up­per 80 feet or so, around the rig legs. From my re­search, they ap­pear to be coneys. All had two black spots just be­fore the tail on their up­per sides and two black spots on their lower jaw.

Charles “Chip” White Pineville, Louisiana

Chip, your species ID is right on. These are def­i­nitely coneys, Cephalopho­lis fulva, mem­bers of the huge fam­ily Ser­ranidae, which in­cludes sea basses, groupers and oth­ers. Those black spots on the lower jaw and on the area be­hind the dor­sal (the cau­dal pe­dun­cle) are key iden­ti­fiers. Us­ing color pat­terns to iden­tify mem­bers of this fam­ily is pre­car­i­ous be­cause so many species have vari­able pat­terns that can change al­most in­stan­ta­neously. For ex­am­ple, coneys

have three ba­sic pat­terns: a bril­liant lemon yel­low; a two-toned pat­tern with a rich dark-brown­ish tan above and lighter be­low; and the third phase, as in your fish, brown­ish over­all. All phases may have mul­ti­ple small, usu­ally bluish spots. Other fam­ily mem­bers have com­pa­ra­ble tal­ents for color vari­a­tions.

Coneys are small — nor­mally less than a foot — com­pared to other reefd­welling sea basses and groupers. Wide­spread, coneys range from about South Carolina and through­out the Gulf south to south­ern Brazil. Any­one for­tu­nate enough to cap­ture a small live coney could find it to be a most fas­ci­nat­ing and col­or­ful res­i­dent of a marine aquar­ium.

Coneys

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