AL­BA­CORE

(Thun­nus alalunga)

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS -

Not to be con­fused with the lit­tle tunny, aka false al­ba­core, this al­ba­core is the real thing, dis­tin­guished from other tu­nas by its amaz­ingly long pec­toral fins. An im­por­tant com­mer­cial species world­wide, la­beled “white-meat tuna,” al­ba­core are tar­geted by recre­ational an­glers in tem­per­ate wa­ters of the Pa­cific Ocean (in­clud­ing off Cal­i­for­nia, Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Hawaii). The IGFA all-tackle world record al­ba­core of 88 pounds, 2 ounces came from the Ca­nary Is­lands in 1977.

FLAM­BOY­ANT FLATTIE

I pho­tographed this flat­fish in Bon­aire where I saw dozens of them, around the is­land, pick­ing off glass min­nows. None of them looked to be larger than a cou­ple of pounds. What is it? Ja­son Arnold Fort Laud­erdale, Florida

That’s a beau­ti­ful pho­to­graph of a pea­cock floun­der (some­times called a plate fish), Bothus lu­na­tus. The pea­cock floun­der reaches a max­i­mum length of around 18 inches and is ex­cel­lent ta­ble fare. Com­mon in many clear-water habi­tats at depths from a few inches to over 300 feet, the pea­cock is usu­ally found in shal­lower rather than deeper water. In the Western At­lantic, it ranges from Florida to Brazil, in­clud­ing Ber­muda, the Ba­hamas, and the Caribbean Sea; it’s also found off As­cen­sion Is­land and in the Gulf of Guinea in the East­ern At­lantic. This is the com­mon­est floun­der species around co­ral reefs, though so far no an­gler has claimed an IGFA all-tackle record for it. When I snorkeled a series of shal­low-water ar­ti­fi­cial reefs off south­west­ern Puerto Rico, good-size pea­cock floun­der oc­ca­sion­ally swam within a few of feet of me. I al­ways carry a knife when I’m snor­kel­ing or scuba div­ing and … let’s just say that I ate well on those evenings! Like many other floun­ders, the pea­cock has the abil­ity to un­dergo rapid changes in the dis­tri­bu­tion of pig­ment gran­ules in its chro­matophores (pig­ment-con­tain­ing cells) and is adept at blend­ing in with its sur­round­ings. You hap­pened to pho­to­graph a par­tic­u­larly vividly colored in­di­vid­ual. —Ray Wald­ner

NO STUMPER: IT’S A BUMPER

I caught this fish on the north coast of Puerto Rico while fish­ing in warm, dirty water. It mea­sured 12 inches and weighed no more than a pound be­cause it was re­ally skinny. I guess it’s from the jack fam­ily be­cause its pec­toral fin looks a lot like that of a jack. I re­ally want to know more about the fish be­cause no one at the tour­na­ment could iden­tify it. Ser­gio Mar­tinez Gurabo, Puerto Rico

You caught an At­lantic bumper, Chloroscom­brus chry­su­rus, a mem­ber of the jack fam­ily (Carangi­dae). In the western At­lantic re­gion, the At­lantic bumper ranges from Mas­sachusetts to Uruguay, in­clud­ing Ber­muda, the Gulf of Mex­ico, the Ba­hamas, and the Caribbean Sea. It oc­curs also in the east­ern At­lantic. Chloroscom­brus or­queta, the Pa­cific bumper, in­hab­its the west coast of Cen­tral

Amer­ica and ac­tu­ally might be the same species. The At­lantic bumper fre­quents shal­low ma­rine ar­eas, of­ten en­ter­ing bays, la­goons and other coastal sites with high salin­i­ties. Although this species has been re­ported to reach a max­i­mum length of around 2 feet, in­di­vid­u­als com­monly mea­sure no more than a foot. The bumper of­ten forms schools and is some­times com­mer­cially har­vested, although it is not highly re­garded as a food fish and is said to have dry flesh. —Ray Wald­ner

WHIP IT

I caught this tiny ray on a small baited hook in the Gulf of Thai­land near Koh Chang Is­land. I be­lieve it to be a dwarf whipray. Can you con­firm that ID, and tell me more about this in­ter­est­ing catch? Johnny Jensen Den­mark

Johnny, it’s a tough call. Even though your lit­tle Thai friend looks very much like a dwarf whipray (Hi­man­tura walga), and was caught right in the middle of the AsianPa­cific dis­tri­bu­tion for that species, at least one other mem­ber of the fam­ily Dasy­ati­dae (whip­tail st­ingrays) in that part of the world could fit the bill. In the dwarf whipray, the width of its disc roughly equals its body length; its tail is shorter than the body length; and its snout is pro­ject­ing (pointed), which cer­tainly de­scribes what you have in your hand. But the scaly whipray (Hi­man­tura im­bri­cata) has the same fea­tures just de­scribed. The scaly whipray oc­curs mainly in the In­dian Ocean, but has also been recorded from the Gulf of Thai­land. The dwarf whipray re­port­edly grows to about 8½ inches across the disc, which places it among the small­est of st­ingrays. How­ever, rays in the fam­ily Dasy­ati­dae give birth to live young, which makes it dif­fi­cult to rule out ju­ve­niles of sev­eral other species in the fam­ily. So un­for­tu­nately I can’t say with any cer­tainty which species of whip­tail stingray it is with­out hav­ing the spec­i­men in hand. —Ben Dig­gles

DARK SE­CRET

Dur­ing a re­cent visit to the At­lantic coast of Panama, this jack was brought

aboard. It looks a lot like a blue run­ner, but it seems far too dark to be that species. Can you en­lighten? Dave Lewis Dave Lewis World­wide Fish­ing Wales, United King­dom

Although it bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to younger, lighter-hued in­di­vid­u­als, your catch is a blue run­ner, Caranx

crysos. Blue run­ners change color as they age. The sides of ju­ve­niles are banded, while ma­ture in­di­vid­u­als have sil­very to gray­ish sides and darker dor­sal sur­faces. Older males, such as the fish you caught, turn black­ish when it comes time for them to spawn. Blue run­ners are pop­u­lar as live baits in many ar­eas, and while many in­di­vid­u­als con­sider them to be too strong-fla­vored to be good ta­ble fare, run­ners are com­mer­cially har­vested for food in some ar­eas. The species ranges from Nova Sco­tia to Brazil, in­clud­ing the Gulf of Mex­ico and Caribbean in the Western At­lantic as well as in the East­ern At­lantic. Caranx

ca­bal­lus, the green jack of the East­ern Pa­cific Ocean, might be the same species. Blue run­ners grow to a max­i­mum length of around 2 feet and in­habit depths to about 350 feet. Spir­ited fight­ers on light tackle, blue run­ners can ex­ceed 10 pounds: The IGFA all-tackle world record is an 11-pound, 2-ounce be­he­moth taken off Alabama in 1997. —Ray Wald­ner

GRUNT WORK

An af­ter­noon fish­ing trip for some guys off the cliff in Bar­ba­dos turned up this catch that we can’t iden­tify. We caught the fish — just over a foot in length — in 15 feet of water over a mixed sand-and-rock bot­tom, us­ing live bait sim­i­lar in size to a pilchard. Can you please help us iden­tify what species it is? Thomas Atwell Bar­ba­dos

While it’s a bit atyp­i­cal as grunts go, your catch is a mem­ber of the grunt fam­ily Haemul­i­dae. Specif­i­cally, it’s a barred grunt, Con­odon no­bilis. The species ranges from south­ern Florida to Brazil, in­clud­ing por­tions of the Gulf of Mex­ico as well as Ja­maica, Puerto Rico and the Lesser An­tilles, with a re­port from Ar­gentina. In­ter­est­ingly, un­like most grunts, the barred grunt isn’t a reef dweller but lives in bays

and other ar­eas with sandy or muddy bot­toms. It’s found at depths from the shal­lows to over 300 feet and reaches a max­i­mum length of slightly more than 12 inches. Barred grunts are re­ported to be ed­i­ble but quite bony. —Ray Wald­ner

BANDTAIL BLOWFISH

I have fished the In­dian River area at Jensen Beach, Florida, sev­eral times a week for 66 years and thought I had caught about ev­ery species in the river. This puffer is one I’ve never seen. The puffers we catch on al­most ev­ery trip have a check­ered pat­tern. I think they’re south­ern puffers. Can your ex­perts iden­tify this species, and give a de­scrip­tion of where it is com­monly en­coun­tered and other de­tails? Capt. Bob Pelosi Palm City, Florida

You caught an aptly named bandtail puffer, Spho­eroides spen­g­leri, Bob. This lit­tle guy reaches a max­i­mum length of about a foot but is usu­ally less than half that size. It ranges from Mas­sachusetts through Brazil, com­monly in­hab­it­ing in­shore ar­eas with abun­dant cover, such as sea-grass beds. The pig­men­ta­tion of the bandtail puffer’s cau­dal fin is sim­i­lar to that of the mar­bled puffer, S. dor­salis, but the dis­tinc­tive black spots on a bandtail puffer’s sides and belly can be used to quickly dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween these two species. Like other puffers, the bandtail can be danger­ous to con­sume; its vis­cera con­tain tetrodotoxin, a very pow­er­ful neu­ro­toxin that is named af­ter the puffer’s fam­ily: Te­traodon­ti­dae. In­ter­est­ingly, tetrodotoxin — which is thought to be pro­duced by bac­te­ria — is found in a wide va­ri­ety of in­ver­te­brates and ver­te­brates, which of­ten use it to de­ter preda­tors and/or to im­mo­bi­lize prey. —Ray Wald­ner

Blue run­ner

Dwarf whipray

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At­lantic bumper

Barred grunt

Bandtail puffer

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