Local fisherman and friend Trey Pugh, with fishing partner Greg Keen, were grouper fishing 80 miles out of Freeport, Texas, when they hauled up this fish from 450 feet of water on conventional hand-crank tackle. Pugh says he has caught a lot of grouper but never one quite like this. He assumes it’s a warsaw, but the color left him questioning himself. Can you confirm the ID?
Brett, I’m with you: I’ve seen hundreds of warsaws, but none this lightly colored. They do display lots of various shadings, from light tan to nearly black or smoky gray. As juveniles, they’re jet black with a pattern of white spots, so I’d rate this warsaw as an extreme light phase of the species. I should note, though, that many members of this family of fishes — the sea basses (which include the groupers) — have an uncanny
ability to change color nearly instantly. Most of these chameleons are reefassociated, and are smaller members of the family. Perhaps warsaws maintain at least some ability to control their pigment.
I can’t pass up an opportunity to relate a little warsaw trivia. These are giants, approaching goliath grouper as one of our planet’s largest bony fishes. Some years ago, when I was judging a fishing tournament in Alabama, a 385-pound warsaw was entered. Upon close examination, I counted 13 hooks buried in this specimen’s jaws, evidence of many successful encounters with hapless anglers.