My wife and I were fishing a reef off Taha’a in French Polynesia and caught this fish on a white bucktail in about 20 feet of water. Our guide, a local, knew the name in Polynesian (which I can’t remember) but not in English. Can you help me identify it? Tim Huyck Amherst, New Hampshire Hi, Tim. The English name for that fish is longnose emperor (Lethrinus olivaceus). This species is occasionally encountered by anglers fishing on coral reefs throughout the Indo-West Pacific region. Also known as longface emperor, it’s the largest member of the family Lethrinidae, growing to more than 40 inches long and weighing up to 30 pounds or so. The IGFA all-tackle record is 22 pounds, 13 ounces, caught off Japan.
Longnose emperors are easily distinguished from all other emperors by their distinctive head, with its long, pointed “nose.” Coloration is olive-green dorsally, with mottled blotches fading to creamy white ventrally. Juveniles, such as the one you caught, are found over sandy areas and patch reefs in shallow lagoons less than 30 feet deep, often in large schools. However, adults are usually solitary and are found in deeper waters on offshore reefs and along deep coral drop-offs to depths of 500 feet. Like other lethrinids, longnose emperors feed mainly on crustaceans, mollusks (including squid) and smaller fish. Sexes appear to be separate throughout their lives, and both males and females mature at 15 to 16 inches long (4 to 5 years old). In equatorial regions, these fish spawn monthly on new-moon periods, but in more temperate parts of their range — such as along the Great Barrier Reef — spawning is restricted to the spring months. This is a long-lived species, and because of this, the largest longnose emperors have gained a reputation for being ciguatoxic in places like New Caledonia.