KING OF STING

Sport Fishing - - FISH FACTS -

This fish was caught in the Gulf of Siam near Koh Kut Is­land. In Thai, its name is pla baey kanoon. These fish are ex­perts at clean­ing a piece of squid from our hooks with­out get­ting caught. Once in a while we catch one, though. They’re feared by lo­cals be­cause of the pain they can de­liver; their spines con­tain some bad venom. I’d like to know more about this species. Fran­cois Helias Bangkok, Thai­land

That, Fran­cois, is a cracker of a streaked spine­foot (Si­ganus javus). This species is one of the larger species of the rab­bit­fishes group, grow­ing to around 20 inches long. They are found in shal­low wa­ters (mostly less than 60 feet) over coral and rocky reefs through­out the trop­i­cal Indo-Pa­cific from the Per­sian Gulf and East Africa through­out Asia to north­ern Aus­tralia and New Cale­do­nia. Streaked spine­foots are rel­a­tively easy to iden­tify with their dis­tinc­tive gray back­ground col­oration over­laid with yel­low high­lights on the cheek and mouth, and the nu­mer­ous white spots on the dor­sal part of the body that grad­u­ate into ir­reg­u­lar wavy stripes on the mid to lower sides. Like other rab­bit­fishes, streaked spine­foots have sharp ven­omous spines on the dor­sal and anal fins, so they need to be han­dled very care­fully if cap­tured. If you should get spiked, use water as hot as you can tol­er­ate on the wound to quickly neu­tral­ize the toxin. Many au­thor­i­ties con­sider them pri­mar­ily her­biv­o­rous, feed­ing mainly on ben­thic or float­ing al­gae. How­ever, you point out they’re known bait steal­ers, sug­gest­ing the fish are ac­tu­ally fac­ul­ta­tive om­ni­vores that won’t turn down an easy meal. The species was named Java spine­foot when first sci­en­tif­i­cally de­scribed in 1766 (by the pre-em­i­nent nat­u­ral­ist Lin­naeus, no less, in his first vol­ume of the fa­mous Sys­tema Nat­u­rae) from spec­i­mens col­lected near Java, In­done­sia. —Ben Dig­gles

Streaked spine­foot

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