WAR­SAW GROUPER

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS - Capt. Brett Holden Freeport, Texas

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.

War­saw grouper

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